Bishop Accountability
  Court: Diocese Must Yield Abuse Records

By Shirley Ragsdale
Des Moines Register
February 12, 2004

The Davenport Catholic Diocese must turn over 50 years of records about sexual misconduct to a lawyer suing it, according to an Iowa Supreme Court ruling.

The court this week upheld a Clinton County judge's decision ordering the diocese to turn over the records, perhaps only the second time in the nation Catholic officials have been required to provide so much information to litigants in sexual abuse cases.

Judge C.H. Pelton on Nov. 26 ruled that the diocese must provide attorney Craig Levien any church documents on sexual abuse of children by church officials over the past 50 years. Levien represents 10 of the 12 men who have sued the diocese and the priests they allege molested them.

In appealing that decision in December, the Davenport diocese argued the judge's order would force it to reveal the identities of victims and their families.

The diocese had asked Pelton to reconsider his ruling before it filed the application for appeal. Rand Wonio, attorney for the diocese, said Wednesday he was seeking a hearing date on that request, so the privacy issues of victims can be specifically addressed by the judge.

Roderick MacLeish, the lawyer credited with forcing the Boston archdiocese to disclose 40 years of secrecy and cover-up about abusive priests, said he believed Pelton's order was only the second in the nation requiring the Catholic Church to provide so much information to plaintiffs.

Pelton's order requires that the names of victims listed in diocese records remain shielded from the public.

The diocese will black out victims' names in documents provided to the plaintiff's attorney and issue each one a number. The attorney will be provided confidential index of the victims' identities in a document, Levien said.

Levien said he was pleased with the Supreme Court ruling, saying disclosure was necessary to "let everyone know the true nature and extent of the sexual misconduct problem in the Davenport diocese."


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