|Abbey Requests Schulte's Files Remain Private
By David Unze
St. Cloud Times
September 18, 2011
The attorneys representing St. John's Abbey, St. John's Prep School, the Order of St. Benedict and the Rev. Francisco Schulte are asking a Stearns County judge to keep secret any documents, information or evidence that they turn over in a clergy sex-abuse lawsuit.
The motion for a protective order is pending with Stearns County District Court Judge Frederick Grunke. He heard arguments earlier this month about whether documents such as Abbot John Klassen's file on Schulte and Schulte's personnel file should be confidential if turned over by the abbey to attorney Jeff Anderson.
The abbey isn't opposing the request for the documents. It is seeking an order that would bar Anderson from releasing the information to the public.
Anderson, whose firm represents two men accusing Schulte of sexual abuse, argued that an order like the one requested by abbey attorney Michael Ford suppresses information about credible sex abuse claims that the public needs to know. He took that argument one step further by saying that Schulte was able to abuse the victims involved in the current lawsuit because St. John's concealed information about Schulte's behavior that could have prevented his clients from being abused.
The hearing and request for Grunke to sign a protective order came after Anderson refused to sign a proposed confidentiality stipulation provided by Ford as a condition of turning over the Schulte documents.
"A primary reason that plaintiffs were unable to sign a confidentiality stipulation and are unable to agree to a protective order in this case is because the protective order seeks the exact type of secrecy and nondisclosure that caused John Doe SS and John Doe CS to be abused as children," Anderson wrote to Grunke, referring to the two men who sued Schulte.
Ford argued that unfiled, pretrial discovery documents generated in a civil case are not public records. The documents being turned over would not be considered judicial records, Ford argued, and as such "the disclosure of these documents and the information contained in them to the general public and the press should not occur."
The documents "deal with very personal aspects of Father Schulte's life, containing personal correspondence exchanged between the Abbot and Father Schulte, medical records and performance evaluations," Ford wrote.
Medical records are subject to confidentiality protections and Schulte hasn't waived his medical privilege, Ford wrote. And there's no reason why personnel records and personal correspondence should be released to anyone outside of the litigation, he wrote.
"To disclose these documents to the general public would result in not only personal privacy violations, but also embarrassment to Father Schulte," Ford wrote.
Schulte, who is known by the names Father Ray and Father Francisco, is accused of abusing an altar boy in North Carolina in the 1980s when he was serving a parish there as a liaison to the Hispanic community. The lawsuit accuses Schulte of abusing the boy during a trip to Mexico and recruiting the boy to enroll at St. John's Prep. The boy and his brother enrolled at the prep school but left before graduating.
The lawsuit also accuses Schulte of abusing three boys at a boarding school in Puerto Rico, where he was assigned as a priest and teacher. It accuses Schulte of recruiting at least one of the boys to attend St. John's Prep when Schulte returned to teaching there.
Schulte was the chaplain at the prep school from 1980-1983 and 1986-1988.
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