1 Nov 2010

Abuse Files Shouldn't Be Secret

The Hartford Courant - Connecticut July 9, 2009

Abuse Files Shouldn't Be Secret

BRIDGEPORT DIOCESE • Church Losing Battle Over Clergy Sex Scandal


If only the Catholic Church had been open and honest much earlier about complaints that a few of its priests had sexually abused children, it clearly would have been better for the victims — and perhaps the scandal would have more easily receded into history.

But the church too often chose the tactics of stonewalling and cover-up.

The Diocese of Bridgeport will continue that failed policy if it decides to fight the state Supreme Court's insistence on unsealing 12,600 pages of court files from 23 lawsuits alleging sexual abuse on the part of at least seven priests.

The lawsuits were settled in 2001, and news organizations, including The Courant, have been fighting to obtain the sealed files ever since. The diocese has stoutly resisted in court.

On Monday, the state Supreme Court refused to reconsider a previous ruling that would make the documents public, perhaps as early as July 20. A lawyer for the diocese said it is considering its options, which could include an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the spirit of healing, the diocese ought to drop its opposition, even though public release of the records could prove painful, embarrassing and damaging to the reputations of current and former church officials. Those might include the recently retired Cardinal Edward Egan, who ran the Bridgeport Diocese as a bishop when many of the abuses were alleged to have occurred.

The diocese has taken important steps by training more than 90,000 adults and children about the warning signs of abuse; ,conducting criminal background checks on anyone who works or volunteers for the diocese, including priests; and hiring full-time victim coordinators.

But it also needs to come clean about the past.

A network of abuse survivors said it well in a May letter to the current leader of the Bridgeport Diocese, Bishop William Lori: "Please allow the court ruling to go forward so that light and truth can be shed on these cases."

That will go a long way toward restoring faith.

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