For immediate release: Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014
Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790, SNAPclohessy@aol.com)
In a rare move, yesterday a judge sanctioned St. Louis' archbishop and ordered to turn over possibly dozens and dozens of names of victims and child molesting clerics – over two decades - to a 20 year old woman and her attorney. Both parts of the ruling are unusual and significant.
Sadly, it’s not that unusual for Catholic officials to repeatedly break a judge’s orders and claim special status that allegedly exempts them from honoring the rules and responsibilities that govern other people’s behavior. But it IS unusual when Catholic officials so severely and repeatedly try a judge’s patience and violate a judge’s orders that a judge formally sanctions them for their egregious and arrogant wrongdoing.
That’s what’s happened here. St. Louis City Judge Robert Dierker harshly criticized that Archbishop Robert Carlson’s conduct in the case of “Jane Doe v. Fr. Joseph D. Ross and the St. Louis Archdiocese,” writing that “the archdiocese’s dogged refusal to comply with court orders has inflicted unnecessary trouble and expense on the plaintiff, manifestly interfered with trial preparations, and borders on if not actually (amounts) to contempt.”
He also criticized the archdiocese for “insisting that an archbishop does not have the control of records of the various parishes as an excuse” for not producing the required information.
Dierker went further and actually penalized the archdiocese by ruling that it cannot use a common defense tactic in clergy sex cases – the claim that Catholic officials did not know that a proven predator priest might re-offend if he’s quietly put back on the job (as happened in this case).
And Dierker again ordered the archbishop – this time, “forthwith” – to turn over names and contact information of perhaps dozens of proven, admitted or credibly accused child molesting clerics over a 20 year period. He scheduled a hearing for Friday to make sure Carlson will comply and threatened further sanctions if the archbishop does not.
Catholic officials can seek an emergency writ from a higher court. We hope they won’t. They have already caused, in Dierker’s words, “unnecessary and expensive delays” in this case.
We are grateful to concerned local Catholics who belong to three groups – the Voice of the Faithful, the Association for the Rights of Catholics, and the Faithful of Southern Illinois – who joined us today in thanking the brave young woman whose civil lawsuit led to this ruling. We are very grateful to her for having the strength to come forward and the wisdom to take action and the persistence to endure the archbishop’s hardball legal maneuvers and repeated legal delays.