St. Louis Post-Dispatch
June 22, 1994

A judge's decision to keep open legal documents in a sexual abuse case against the Rev. Robert Vonnahmen, a Catholic priest in the Belleville Diocese, was praised Tuesday by the man who filed the suit against the priest.

The man, Stephen H. McCaffrey of Albuquerque, N.M., said in a statement that keeping the documents unsealed would help "inspire other survivors (of abuse) to get help and to protect other potential victims. Neither of these goals will be met if church leaders are able to maintain secrecy about this crime."

McCaffrey, now 25, sued Vonnahmen last year, alleging that the priest abused him in 1981 while McCaffrey attended a summer camp in Southern Illinois that was directed by Vonnahmen. The case is pending before U.S. District Judge J. Phil Gilbert at Benton, Ill.

Gilbert ruled last week that all documents filed in the case must remain open, despite motions by Vonnahmen and the diocese to seal the files. "The public possesses both First Amendment and common law rights of access to civil proceedings," Gilbert wrote.

Vonnahmen is one of eight priests in the diocese who have been removed from parish work because of allegations of sexual abuse.


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