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  Release of Priest's Records Ordered - Accuser Can See Parts of Evaluation

By Kathleen A. Shaw
Worcester Telegram & Gazette
June 13, 2003

Worcester — Worcester Superior Court Judge Jeffrey A. Locke has ordered that at least a portion of the psychological records of the Rev. Jean-Paul Gagnon be opened to the man who is suing him for alleged sexual abuse when the man was a teenager.

An assessment done at the now-defunct House of Affirmation in Whitinsville will be turned over to Timothy P. Staney of Worcester and his lawyer, Daniel J. Shea of Houston.Judge Locke ruled last week that Rev. Gagnon forfeited his right to privacy when he signed a release authorizing that the assessment be given to the Worcester Catholic Diocese and placed in his personnel file. The judge ruled Mr. Staney can have material that is relevant to his case, but is not entitled to the whole report.

Mr. Staney alleges in his lawsuit that he was sexually abused by Rev. Gagnon from 1984 to 1987, beginning when he was 14 years old at Holy Name of Jesus parish. Rev. Gagnon is now on personal leave from his pastorate at St. Augustine parish, Millville.

Edward P. Ryan Jr. of Fitchburg, lawyer for Rev. Gagnon, said that Rev. Gagnon maintains he is innocent of all the charges brought in the suit and that the events described by Mr. Staney never occurred.

The assessment has several references to Rev. Gagnon's psychosexual development that are relevant to the suit because they were noted in 1981, "four years before the sexual activities began as alleged in the complaint and resulted in a recommendation for further counseling," the judge said. The record also contained no indication that such counseling occurred between 1981 and 1984.

Judge Locke also said Rev. Gagnon had reasonable expectation that contents of that assessment would remain confidential.

Mr. Ryan sought to have all treatment records shielded from review by Mr. Staney and Mr. Shea.

Judge Locke said the issue arose when Mr. Staney sought Rev. Gagnon's personnel records from the Worcester Catholic Diocese. "In response, the bishop agreed to produce Gagnon's personnel file, including any psychological or treatment records (subject to a confidentiality agreement between the parties)," the judge said.

Mr. Ryan filed an instant motion on April 25 for a protective order on the records, asserting that the treatment records of Rev. Gagnon were protected by patient-psychotherapist privilege "and therefore nondiscoverable."

A hearing was held in Worcester Superior Court and the judge ordered that the records in question be produced for his inspection.

Rev. Gagnon on May 19 submitted a 10-page report called "Psychotheological Candidate Testing Report" done Aug. 20, 1981, and prepared by the House of Affirmation. The judge said the reason for the evaluation in Whitinsville was to assess him for diocesan priesthood.

Mr. Staney said he was pleased with the judge's decision and called it a victory for himself and other victims of clergy sexual abuse.

 
 

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