Priest fights witness subpoena in child sex abuse trial: Clergy member claims alleged victim’s confession is confidential

WKMG News 6

January 22, 2018

By Mike DeForest

Uncomfortable discussing a sensitive matter with her family, a teenage girl made an appointment with a priest to reveal a dark secret she had been carrying for years, according to prosecutors.

While taking part in the Catholic Church’s Sacrament of Reconciliation, commonly known as confession, prosecutors claim the girl disclosed to Rev. Vincenzo Ronchi that a relative had sexually abused her on several occasions beginning when she was 7 years old.

During that November 2014 confession, the girl reportedly urged the priest to keep their conversation private because she did not want her family or authorities to know about the molestation, court records state.

Two years later, however, the girl reported the sexual abuse to law enforcement officials.

As Loren Tim Burton now awaits trial on charges of sexual battery and child molestation, prosecutors say they need the priest’s testimony to put the defendant in prison for the rest of his life.

“As in the vast majority of child sexual abuses cases, there were no witnesses to the abuse,” prosecutors wrote in court papers. “The only evidence the State has to corroborate the victim’s testimony at trial is her ‘outcry’ statement (to Ronchi).”

The alleged victim, now an adult, has signed a waiver granting Ronchi permission to testify about their confidential conversation, court records show. But attorneys representing the clergy member are fighting to keep the priest off the witness stand, arguing that he is forbidden from disclosing anything discussed during confession.

Note: This is an Abuse Tracker excerpt. Click the title to view the full text of the original article. If the original article is no longer available, see our News Archive.