St. Louis suit follows push toward transparency …

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

St. Louis suit follows push toward transparency in church sexual abuse claims

By Jennifer S. Mann 314-621-58040

ST. LOUIS • The lawsuit filed by an anonymous Jane Doe against a now-defrocked St. Louis priest echoes thousands of others nationwide that have forced more than $3 billion in legal awards and settlements from the Roman Catholic Church.

But it has particular relevance here because of an added promise: unprecedented disclosure.

Experts on the Catholic Church abuse scandal say Doe’s suit fits with a trend of the last decade or so, in which victims are increasingly pushing for transparency, and not just big payouts.

Timothy Lytton, author of “Holding Bishops Accountable: How Lawsuits Helped the Catholic Church Confront Clergy Sexual Abuse,” said that when plaintiff’s attorneys began filing suits against the church in the mid-1980s, they were motivated primarily by settlements and limited by judges who were disinclined to grant large discovery requests.

But gradually, over time, he said, three things began happening: The crisis was framed in terms of institutional failure, versus a few “bad apple” priests; lawsuits forced the Catholic Church to divulge information that prosecutors had been politically afraid of demanding; and the scandal gained the focus of major institutions — the church, law enforcement, legislatures and the press.

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