|'Truly Scary' That Franciscans Want to Continue Secrecy Re Sex Offending Friars, Says Tim Hale
City of Angels
October 7, 2010
Catholic Church handling of pedophile priests resulted in "at least 28 Franciscan perpetrators assigned in Santa Barbara without any warning to the community or report to law enforcement, and at least 64 children have been abused by such men since 1960," wrote Tim Hale Saturday.
City of Angels had asked the attorney about the four-year battle Nye Peabody Stirling & Hale is continuing to fight to get documents released about offending priests who served in the Franciscans of Santa Barbara. The state 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled for the plaintiffs Sept. 30th as City of Angels reported here and here and with video here last week.
The Church argues that memos between psychiatrists and Franciscans about friars who were perpetrators have the same privacy protection as communications between a patient and a psychiatrist.
Hale writes the Franciscan claims are, "all about secrecy to allow them to continue to make confidential decisions regarding the assignments and duties of these men."
In an email Hale continued: "This is the approach the Franciscans have followed for decades: Handle reports of abuse internally, tell no one, and repeat the process when the perpetrator reoffends."
We asked Tim Hale what the legal battle has been like so far, and he wrote back:
"Ok, here we go:
"On a per capita basis based on population, thanks to the Franciscans, the clergy abuse scandals in places like Los Angeles and Boston pale in comparison to the horrors that took place in Santa Barbara. Nevertheless, despite the complete and utter failure of this approach, the Franciscans not only seek to stay the course, but to expand the therapist-patient privilege far beyond its intended purpose in order to strengthen their ability to handle reports of abuse internally."
The Church argues that they and they only need access to records so the Church can find criminal conduct among their priests, which "is belied by the facts of these cases," writes Hale.
"There is no need for the Franciscans to pierce the therapist patient privilege to discover the perpetrators' criminal conduct. In most instances the Franciscans learned of the perpetrators propensities through repeated reports by victims, by other Franciscans observing the criminal conduct of their brethren, or by the perpetrators simply admitting to such conduct."
How much more information does a religious order need to know a pedophile priest should no longer work with children?
"They should try what for the Franciscans would be a novel approach: Report the perpetrators' crimes to law enforcement before the criminal statute of limitations expires, and let the criminal process run its course. That process will give them more than enough information to determine the threat posed by the perpetrators."
And for those who think the victims are rabble rousing because we're all in it for the money?
"The fight for disclosure of these records has nothing to do with retribution, and everything to do with transparency, and with these survivors doing everything they can to save today's children from suffering abuse like they did."
Franciscan attorneys repeated their arguments in dozens of motions and hearings before Judges Peter Lichtman and Emilie Elias in Los Angeles the last four years, before taking their case to the circuit court of appeals.
With the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals decision September 30th, plaintiffs got one step closer to the release of Franciscan personnel files from cases settled in Santa Barbara in 2006, now the Franciscans could ask for another review from the state supreme court, and they probably will since they have at least three law firms from the Church fighting one firm for the plaintiffs. The decision in the Franciscan Santa Barbara cases will set a precedent for personnel document release in thousands of lawsuits settled in California since the State Legislature opened a window in 2003 to drop the statute of limitations in civil cases where institutions allowed child sex crimes, which allowed a cascade of lawsuits against the Catholic Church to begin in this state.
"It is truly scary that the Franciscan hierarchy continues to fight for secrecy. And make no mistake, their argument that they need exclusive access to perpetrator therapy records is all about secrecy that will allow them to continue to make confidential decisions regarding the assignments and duties of these men. This is the approach they have followed for decades: handle reports of abuse internally, tell no one, and repeat the process when the perpetrator reoffends."
Tim Hale continued:
"The result, to date, is that at least 28 Franciscan perpetrators have been assigned in Santa Barbara without any warning to the community or report to law enforcement, and at least 64 children have been abused by such men since 1960."
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