Back to Boston.com homepage Arts | Entertainment Boston Globe Online Cars.com BostonWorks Real Estate Boston.com Sports digitalMass Travel The Boston Globe Spotlight Investigation Boston.com Abuse in the Catholic Church
HomePredator priestsScandal and coverupThe victimsThe financial costOpinion
Cardinal Law and the laityThe church's responseThe clergyInvestigations and lawsuits
Interactive2002 scandal overviewParish mapExtrasArchivesDocumentsAbout this site
2014 update

Crux, a Catholic news site

A new site from the Boston Globe includes news updates on clergy abuse and other Catholic issues.
 Latest coverage

March 11
Victims' lawyer to sue Dupre

March 6
Suit accuses insurer of fraud

March 5
Charges against bishop eyed

March 1
Activists seek sex abuse panel

February 26
Alleged victim to aid probe

February 13
Springfield probe is sought

January 7, 2004
Agents faced reluctant aides

December 3
Church settles with victim

November 15
Settlement fuels money advice

November 12
Claims set aside until 2004

October 30
Hard line set on abuse trials

October 21
Most plaintiffs accept deal

October 19
Therapy sought in abuse suit

October 17
Lawyer says settlement near

October 8
Victims agonize over deal

September 12
Victims seen taking settlement

September 11
Church deal a boon for lawyers

September 10
Church in $85 million accord
Archdiocese facing new strains
Most plaintiffs to accept deal
O'Malley makes an appeal

September 9
Negotiations resume in cases

Earlier stories

Spotlight Report

Easy-print versionEasy-print

A door opens on abuse cases

Release of notes on 87 priests is set in motion

By Ralph Ranalli, Globe Staff, 5/21/2003

The judge presiding over hundreds of lawsuits charging sexual abuse by clergy has taken the first step toward forcing the Archdiocese of Boston to release to alleged victims church files containing psychiatric assessments of 87 priests.

In a one-paragraph decision made public yesterday, Superior Court Judge Constance M. Sweeney ruled that the archdiocese had failed to prove ''in any way'' the existence of a medical or psychiatric privilege that would allow church officials to keep the documents secret.

Sweeney ordered the archdiocese to notify all the priests in question that their records are about to be turned over and that they have 15 days to file an objection if they do not want their records revealed.

So far, plaintiffs have received psychiatric records for a handful of priests but Sweeney's order potentially paves the way for the release of thousands of pages of new documents to lawyers for alleged abuse victims.

Lawyers for the archdiocese had withheld more than 13,000 individual pieces of information from attorneys for the plaintiffs under the claim of doctor-patient or therapist-patient privilege.

The information in question comes from mental health specialists who examined allegedly abusive priests at church retreats, mental health institutions, and other facilities.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs had urged Sweeney to find that it was not privileged information, arguing that the psychiatric and medical examinations of the 87 priests were obtained by the archdiocese not for the purpose of treating the alleged abuser, but to determine whether the men were fit to continue serving as priests. The records could provide information on whether church officials reassigned priests to active ministry over the objections of psychiatric specialists.

The priests in question include:

* The Rev. Paul Shanley, who was kept in active ministry despite his public advocacy of sex between men and boys. He is facing criminal charges in Middlesex County for allegedly raping four boys at a now-defunct parish in Newton.

* The Rev. Ronald A. Paquin of Haverhill, who pleaded guilty to three counts of child rape and was sentenced to 12 to 15 years in state prison earlier this year.

* The Rev. Bernard J. Lane, who faces claims that he molested at least 17 boys, including when he was director of Alpha-Omega House, a now-closed Littleton home for troubled adolescents.

''One of the critical issues in this case is whether the archdiocese actually listened to the experts that the archdiocese was consulting,'' said Roderick MacLeish, an attorney with the Boston firm Greenberg Traurig, which represents 260 alleged victims of clergy sexual abuse suing the archdiocese. ''These documents will provide us with obviously relevant and important information.''

A spokesman for the archdiocese did not return a call yesterday seeking comment.

The release of Sweeney's order came the day after a 90-day voluntary moratorium on pretrial discovery in nearly 400 of the 500 lawsuits ended without a settlement.

As the moratorium was expiring, lawyers for the plaintiffs said they saw no alternative to years of difficult litigation against the church. ''Everything is in high gear now,'' one attorney said.

This story ran on page B5 of the Boston Globe on 5/21/2003.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.


© Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
Advertise | Contact us | Privacy policy