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  Plaintiff in Priest Sex Abuse Suit Sanctioned

By Kathleen A. Shaw
Worcester Telegram & Gazette
April 29, 2004

Worcester — Timothy P. Staney, who is suing the Roman Catholic Diocese of Worcester and the Rev. Jean-Paul Gagnon, alleging he was sexually abused by the priest, was sanctioned yesterday by Judge Jeffrey A. Locke for posting a psychological report from the former House of Affirmation on his Web site.

Joanne L. Goulka of Stoneham, lawyer for the diocese, told Judge Locke that the report, which involved Rev. Gagnon and the former House of Affirmation in Whitinsville, was to be kept private by agreement with the court.The judge denied her request that Mr. Staney be required to provide the names and addresses of anyone who had visited his Web site and information regarding other Web sites where the report might have been linked.

Mr. Staney has been ordered to pay a monetary penalty to be determined by the court. Ms. Goulka was asked by the judge to submit an appropriate figure. Mr. Staney, formerly of Worcester, has since moved to Florida and was not in court yesterday. His Web site, which contained personal information about himself and his suit, has since been dismantled and is no longer in operation.

Ms. Goulka told the judge she feared that potential jurors would have read the report and it would result in prejudicial pretrial publicity.

The judge called posting the report by a party to the suit "a cheap shot on his part."

He ordered Mr. Staney to "cease and desist."

Lawyer Daniel J. Shea of Houston, who represents Mr. Staney, said he had no prior knowledge that Mr. Staney intended to post the material. He said some material from that report first appeared in a news story in June 2003 in the Woonsocket Call, in Rhode Island. A reporter for that newspaper alerted Mr. Staney that the report was found in the public case file at Worcester Superior Court, Mr. Shea said.

He said the judge had ordered parts of the report to be redacted, meaning blacked out, and submitted to the case file while the original unredacted version would be sealed.

Mr. Shea said his client went to the courthouse, got the case file, found the report and copied it. It was then posted on his Web site. Judge Locke asked Mr. Shea whether he would relay his judgment to Mr. Staney or would he have to have him brought into the court. Mr. Shea said he would inform his client.

The judge also sanctioned Mary T. Jean of the Worcester Voice when it was discovered that she was tape-recording yesterday's court proceeding. The judge at first ordered her to surrender to a court officer not only the tape but the tape recorder. He was given the tape and did not further ask for the recorder.

The judge asked Mrs. Jean who she was and why she was recording the session. She described herself as a "Web publisher" who was covering the court session for her site, and that she did not know she could not record the proceedings. She apologized; the judge accepted her apology and told her not to do it again.

Mrs. Jean, of Leominster, has started writing some of her own stories on the sexual abuse scandal in the Worcester Diocese; her most recent entries have involved the former House of Affirmation.

Judge Locke cautioned her that it is standard practice not to use a tape recorder in court without specific permission of the judge.

The judge also took under advisement arguments for and against inclusion of the Archdiocese of Boston in at least one of the suits, and whether a Vatican document called Crimen Sollicitationis can be admitted into the lawsuits. He further took under advisement a request by Mr. Shea that all personnel records of accused priests in at least one of the lawsuits be turned over to him.

Mr. Shea, who is representing several people who say they were abused by clergy, said that after filing the suits he discovered two documents that he believes show an ongoing conspiracy by the Catholic Church to hush up sexual abuse by priests. He believes that Crimen and a so-called Ratzinger memo, which he found on the Vatican Web site, are crucial to proving a conspiracy. He argued that he needs to see the personnel records to see how these issues were handled in the past.

Ms. Goulka argued that there is no good reason for admission of these documents and that they are a ploy by Mr. Shea to garner national publicity. Mr. Shea said the records are necessary for his cases. He said he has had difficulty validating the document because it states it is to remain secret and not be published or commented on.

Judge Locke asked Mr. Shea whether the Crimen document had been validated as an official church document. Ms. Goulka said that no one in the Diocese of Worcester had heard of it, and noted any official church document would be written in Latin. Mr. Shea said he has both the Latin version and the English translation.

Mr. Shea said a Vatican memo of 2001, called the Ratzinger memo because it was issued by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, indicated that clergy committed sexual abuse with a minor and not against a minor. The Crimen document, which was issued in 1962, was footnoted in that memo, which is how he first learned of its existence, he said.

The judge asked Mr. Shea how he got the document. He said he had asked for and received it from the Rev. Thomas Doyle, a canon lawyer who formerly worked at the Vatican embassy in Washington, D.C., who wrote one of the first reports that described the extent of clergy sexual abuse with the Catholic Church. He has asked him to come to Massachusetts to testify.

 
 

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