Abuse Victims Advocate Is Subpoenaed by St. Louis Archdiocese

By Tim Townsend
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
January 6, 2012

[link to court documents via SNAP]

Lawyers for the Archdiocese of St. Louis subpoenaed an official with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests this week in what the organization called a pattern by Missouri bishops intended to cripple its ability to help victims of clergy abuse.

The move follows a similar, and successful, one by attorneys across the state in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph that forced the group's director, David Clohessy, to sit for a deposition Monday in an ongoing abuse case in that diocese.

But attorneys for the St. Louis archdiocese said Thursday that the subpoena it sent to Barbara Dorris, the group's St. Louis-based outreach director, was "particular to the case involved," and "not a new way of doing things."

The subpoena "is intended to be narrow and only applicable to this case and it's not a fishing expedition," said Bernard Huger, an attorney for the archdiocese. He said the subpoena came so soon after the Kansas City case only to protect the information the archdiocese seeks in its case from being destroyed.

Dorris' deposition would take place Feb. 15 in the case of a former St. Louis priest, Joseph Ross, accused of abusing a young girl at St. Cronan's Church in St. Louis from 1997 to 2001.

Dorris said the two Missouri subpoenas marked the only times attorneys for the Catholic Church have requested a deposition from someone in her organization.

Clohessy unsuccessfully fought the Kansas City subpoena through a succession of state courts in late December, and the Missouri Supreme Court refused his request to intervene.

Dorris said Thursday that she had not yet hired an attorney. She said attorney fees in the two cases could put her nonprofit organization out of business.

The documents and correspondence included in the St. Louis archdiocese's subpoena handed to Dorris this week was identical to what attorneys for the Kansas City diocese requested from Clohessy, with only the names changed. Huger said that while the archdiocese had originally simply copied the Kansas City subpoena, the archdiocese had filed an amended version of the subpoena Thursday. That subpoena is also similar to the Kansas City document, though it does not seek documents related to repressed memory, a key factor in the Kansas City case.

Clohessy had said he fought the Kansas City subpoena in order to keep information from victims of clergy sexual abuse confidential, and later said that during his deposition, he refused to answer many questions or to turn over any documentation that would breach that confidentiality.



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