Archdiocese Ordered to Turn over Documents
By April Witt
July 24, 1998
A Broward County judge Thursday ordered the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Miami to surrender to prosecutors some documents regarding a priest accused of molesting a minor at St. David Catholic Church in Davie.
The church will comply with the judge's order, but will fight prosecutors' subpoenas for other "confidential" documents, said J. Patrick Fitzgerald, general counsel for the archdiocese.
"We've told the state attorney that under the attorney-client privilege or under the clergy privilege we cannot turn over these documents without a court order," Fitzgerald said.
The Broward state attorney's office has issued several subpoenas to the archdiocese and four of its churches, seeking extensive information about the Rev. Jan Malicki and two women who have accused him of sexual misconduct, sources said. One woman was a teenager at the time of the alleged sexual contact with the priest, according to sources familiar with the investigation.
Late Thursday, Judge Joel Lazarus ordered the archdiocese to give prosecutors some of the requested statements and documents, including Malicki's personnel file.
"They voluntarily turned over a small number of records," Assistant State Attorney Robert Nichols said Thursday. "In addition, the judge ordered them to turn over more records, which I expect in the near future."
Malicki, 49, a native of Poland, denies any wrongdoing, said his attorney, David Bogenschutz of Fort Lauderdale. Malicki has not been charged with any crime, although church officials held a news conference Wednesday to say they expect him to be arrested.
The court wrangle over subpoenaed information has left church officials -- who pledged publicly to cooperate with criminal investigators -- appearing recalcitrant. The case is breaking at a time when national Catholic leaders say the institution has learned from past mistakes, when priests who molested children were protected and shuffled from parish to parish.
"We're trying to cooperate to the extent that we can with the state attorney," Fitzgerald said. "There are some things they have asked for that, under church law, we need to continue to treat as confidential information. And under civil law anything I'm involved in is attorney-client privilege."
Fitzgerald declined to detail what information the church refuses to give prosecutors other than to say that it includes documents people gave the church expecting they would remain confidential.
"To my knowledge, there is nothing of an incriminating nature in there," Fitzgerald said.
The prosecutor declined to specify what records he wants from the church or has received. "I can't comment on the specifics of a pending investigation," Nichols said.
Public accusations decried
Malicki's attorney said Wednesday that his client is being abused, publicly accused before anyone has presented evidence of wrongdoing. "The presumption of innocence applies whether you are a priest or an outlaw," Bogenschutz said. "It seems like outlaws get more breaks than priests do these days."
Malicki was associate pastor of St. David from 1994 to 1997, when he was transferred to St. Epiphany Catholic Church in Miami. Since coming to South Florida in 1989, he's also been associate pastor at St. Elizabeth of Hungary in Pompano Beach and St. Bartholomew in Miramar.
Shocked former parishioners describe the priest as gentle and introverted, even shy. "He was a wonderful priest," Terry Santini, a member of St. David and former vice mayor of Davie, said. "He's very spiritual. He never did anything to make me suspect these allegations against him could be true."
"The Catholic Church needs to come to terms with why they have so many allegations like this," said Santini, a Certified Public Accountant. "We need to change our stupid ways and say priests can get married. Let them have a family. Let them have sex lives. They are lonely men."
Other victims sought
During Masses this weekend, priests in the parishes Malicki served will read a letter from the archdiocese inviting any victims of priestly sexual misconduct to come forward.
"We all have to keep the proper perspective," Msgr. Jude O'Doherty, pastor of Epiphany said. "The man has denied any wrongdoing. There is an investigation. If there are victims, there is a responsibility to them. The church also has a responsibility to Father Jan, to be faithful and loyal to him in his hour of trial. We don't all cut bait and run in a situation like this. If he has done wrong I'm sure he will try to make it right and so will the church."
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