Diocese Is Told to Give Lawyer Data on Priests
Sex Abuse Cases in Lawsuit

By Kathleen A. Shaw
Telegram & Gazette
May 11, 2004

WORCESTER — Judge Jeffrey A. Locke has ordered the Diocese of Worcester and its lawyers to turn over information on all Roman Catholic priests accused of sexual abuse during the years 1970 to 1985.

The judge said that lawyer Daniel J. Shea "demonstrated the relevance" of the information he requested and is entitled to know how each case was handled.

On the other hand, Judge Locke said there were "significant privacy issues" about priests not associated with this particular lawsuit and suggested the "likelihood that ecclesiastical issues, ordinarily outside the scope of appropriate inquiry by the state, may be intertwined with matters of personnel supervision and assignment."

James Gavin Reardon Jr., lawyer for the diocese, said the diocese is satisfied with the judge's ruling and will not appeal. He said he understands that the diocese does not have to turn over actual files, but has to present statistical information.

"We will comply with the order in due course," Mr. Reardon said.

The names of the priests will be blacked out, but according to Judge Locke's order the diocese must provide information on how each allegation was handled and whether law enforcement or the state Department of Social Services were notified. The judge has authorized the diocese to identify the priests "in some other manner" such as by number or initials.

The diocese must provide to Mr. Shea information about whether each allegation against a specific priest was investigated and by whom. The position and title of the investigator must be noted. The diocese must divulge the result of that investigation and whether any clinical assessment was made or any treatment was provided to the alleged perpetrator.

The judge has ordered the diocese to detail the type and extent of treatment and whether any personnel actions were taken against each accused priest and whether subsequent allegations were made.

This action comes in the civil suit that Joseph P. Cote, 40, of New Hampshire and Kevin Donnelly, 38, a California architect, are bringing against the diocese and the Rev. Lee F. Bartlett. The men allege they were sexually abused by Rev. Bartlett when he was assigned to St. Leo's parish during the 1970s.

Mr. Shea, who represents the alleged victims, said he was pleased with the judge's ruling, which he said essentially tells the diocese to give him a report on each accused priest. The judge is ordering release of the records for 1970 to 1985 because those were the key years involved in this particular suit.

The judge also ordered the diocese to give Mr. Shea a complete copy of Bishop Daniel P. Reilly's Feb. 17 pastoral report on the extent of sexual abuse in the diocese from 1950 to 2002.

Arguments on whether to release these records were made by Mr. Shea and Joanne L. Goulka, a lawyer for the diocese, before Judge Locke on April 28. His decision, dated April 30, was mailed to the lawyers on May 4.

Ms. Goulka argued against providing Mr. Shea the names of the accused priests since they are not related to this particular lawsuit.

Mr. Shea told the judge he believes there has been a widespread conspiracy within the church, including this diocese, to cover up alleged sexual abuse by priests. He said he needs the information to make his case.

Ms. Goulka accused Mr. Shea of grandstanding and making the arguments to get national publicity. Mr. Shea denied the allegations.

Judge Locke, a former commissioner of the state Department of Social Services, recently was assigned to handle all civil suits filed in Worcester Superior Court alleging sexual abuse by priests.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.
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