For Now, Archdiocese of St. Louis Doesn't Have to Release Names of Accused Priests, Court Says
By Doug Moore
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
January 13, 2014
The Archdiocese of St. Louis does not have to, for now, turn over the names of priests accused of sexual abuse.
On Monday, the Missouri Supreme Court issued a stay, allowing the names to remain a secret "until further notice from the court."
The archdiocese sought the ruling after an appellate court ordered Thursday that two decades worth of sexual abuse allegations against archdiocese priests must be released. The deadline to do so had been set for 2 p.m. Monday.
The information is being sought as part of civil suit, filed in 2011 on behalf of a then-19-year old woman. The woman, listed in court filings as Jane Doe, said she was sexually abused from 1997 to 2001 by Joseph Ross, a now-defrocked priest.
Ross had previously been convicted of sexually abusing an 11-year-old boy at a University City parish and was sent away for treatment. He was then re-assigned to St. Cronan's Church in the city's Forest Park Southeast neighborhood, where Doe said she was repeatedly abused.
The woman wants to show in her case that there was a pattern by the archdiocese of covering up abuse claims and that church leaders knew that failing to disclose past problems could cause new ones.
At issue are 234 complaints made against 115 archdiocese employees since 1986.
The number of employees was revealed in a court filing by the archdiocese earlier this month but the church has argued repeatedly that the details, including the names of the employees and victims are "confidential material." The archdiocese also has argued that the order by the lower court would be harmful to the victims.
The appellate court order upheld a ruling by St. Louis Circuit Judge Robert Dierker, who said the information would be under seal, given only to the woman and her attorneys to proceed with their case, set for trial next month.
Kenneth Chackes, one of the attorneys for the woman, said the ruling by the Supreme Court is not a surprise and he remains hopeful that after careful review, the information ultimately will be released.
"We fully understand their desire to consider the issues carefully," Chackes said of the high court.
But a victims advocacy group criticized the archdiocese and Archbishop Robert Carlson, also defendants in the suit.
“Carlson is giving this brave young woman and her attorney little time to really prepare their case," said Judy Jones of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "And he’s trying to intimidate other victims in to keeping silent by showing them ‘If you seek justice against us, we’ll fight tooth and nail.'"