The Psychological Records Are Part of a Diocese of Scranton Molesation Suit

By Terrie Morgan-Besecker
Times-Leader [Scranton PA]
Downloaded March 24, 2004

SCRANTON - A federal judge has ordered psychological reports of two priests within the Diocese of Scranton to be turned over to an attorney representing a man who claims he was sexually abused by the men.

An attorney for the Rev. Eric Ensey and the Rev. Carlos Urrutigoity had argued the reports were protected by doctor/patient and attorney/client privilege. But U.S. District Judge John E. Jones on Tuesday ruled the priests waived that protection by releasing information in the reports to an outside party, then-Bishop James Timlin.

Jones' order allows James Bendell, who represents the alleged victim in a federal lawsuit, to review the reports as part of his pretrial information gathering. Jones held off on ruling whether that information could be used at a trial.

Ensey and Urrutigoity were priests within the Society of St. John, a religious community founded in 1997 by Urrutigoity in Shohola, Pike County. They were removed from duty in the Scranton Diocese in January 2002, after the molestation allegations emerged.

The lawsuit was filed in March 2002 in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania by a man identified only as John Doe. It claims Ensey sexually abused the man in 1997 while he was a junior at St. Gregory's Academy, a boys school in Elmhurst. The man claims he was molested by Urrutigoity in 2000, when the man attended the Society of St. John to study to become a priest.

Under state and federal law, psychological reports generally are considered confidential. But there are exceptions if the subject of a report agrees to release the information to others.

In the Doe case, the priests' attorney, Sal Cognetti, argued he had sought the reports in anticipation that criminal charges might be filed by Scranton police, who were investigating the molestation allegations. Cognetti also argued the priests never consented to releasing the records to the diocese, and that the diocese never received the written reports.

In his ruling, Jones said his review showed the reports, which were done in 2001 and 2002, were requested by Timlin as part of the diocese's investigation into the molestation allegations. Jones found that Timlin might not have seen the reports, but he was verbally apprised of at least part of the content. Jones also found that Ensey and Urrutigoity knew the information would be shared with Timlin.

Jones noted a letter Timlin wrote to a Vatican cardinal in July 2002 in which Timlin said he had not decided whether the two priests were guilty or innocent, but noted concerns about Ensey.

"A psychological report about Fr. Ensey, however, indicated problems with pornography and other characteristics which concerned me given the allegations against him," the letter said.

Jones' order directs that the reports remain under seal, and that anyone who reveals the reports to people not associated with the litigation will face "severe contempt sanctions."


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