Church Sexual Abuse
4:09 pm
Thu February 6, 2014

St. Louis Archdiocese Must Release Abusers' Names

Latest development, Feb 5, 2014:

Missouri's Supreme Court has ordered the Archdiocese of St. Louis to give the names of priests and other church employees credibly accused of sexually abusing minors to a plaintiff in a lawsuit.

Shortly after the court's two-line order yesterday, the Archdiocese turned over the list of 240 complaints made against 115 priests and employees since 1986. A court order keeps the names of the accused and the victims sealed to the public.

In a statement, the Archdiocese said it had fought the case to "protect the privacy rights of all involved, including victims who had no connection to current litigation and who had come forth confidentially regarding their reported allegation.

"We appreciate the concern given this case throughout the appellate process," the statement continued, "and although we share the disappointment of the many innocent individuals who will be affected by it, the Archdiocese of St. Louis will comply with the order."

The underlying case is scheduled to go to trial on Feb. 24. It involves a 19-year-old girl who is suing the Archdiocese for failing to properly supervise priests in its parishes.

AT ISSUE:

For years, the Catholic Church has been fighting allegations that it covered up the sexual abuse of minors by priests, nuns and other employees. Priests were moved from parish to parish, and alleged abuse was never reported to the police or other law enforcement.

Many of the alleged cases happened decades ago, making civil and criminal cases impossible. But dioceses and archdioceses around the country have paid millions in settlements for claims that happened within the statute of limitations. Eleven dioceses have filed for bankruptcy. Advocates for victims say those filings are less about a lack of assets and more about halting litigation

Most suits have been filed against both the individual and the diocese or archdiocese.

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child released a report Feb. 5, that blasted the Vatican for how it had handled the child sexual abuse scandal, saying in its conclusion:

"The Committee is gravely concerned that the Holy See has not acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed, has not taken the necessary measures to address cases of child sexual abuse and to protect children, and has adopted policies and practices which have led to the continuation of the abuse by and the impunity of the perpetrators."

The committee report specifically referenced the transfer of abusive priests from parish to parish. 

HISTORY OF THE CASE:

  • OCTOBER 2011: A 19-year-old, identified as Jane Doe 92, sues, claiming that Joseph Ross abused her while he was the priest at St. Cronan Church in south St. Louis. Ross, who was later defrocked, had been convicted of abusing an 11-year-old boy while a priest at a church in University City. The suit claims the Archdiocese of St. Louis failed to properly supervise its priests.
  • MAY 15, 2013: Judge Robert Dierker first orders the archdiocese to turn over to Jane Doe's attorneys a list of church employees — both clerical and lay — who faced credible accusations of sexual assault. The archdiocese makes several requests to narrow the scope of the list, to which Dierker agrees.
  • DECEMBER 31 2013: Dierker orders the church to release the list to Jane Doe's attorneys by Jan. 3, 2014. The judge also takes away the ability of the archdiocese to argue that it did not know that placing Ross at St. Cronan would cause Jane Doe harm. Essentially, if Ross is found guilty, the archdiocese is partially to blame for the harm he caused. 
  • JANUARY 2, 2014: The archdiocese appeals Dierker's order. A stay is granted on January 3.
  • JANUARY 9:  Saying that the Archdiocese, "while deserving due respect, must be treated the same as any litigant," appeals court judge Glenn Norton upholds Dierker's order. The next day, Dierker sets a new deadline — Jan 13.
  • JANUARY 13: The Archdiocese asks the Missouri Supreme Court to halt the release of the names to Jane Doe. A stay is granted the same day.
  • JANUARY 30: The case is assigned to Circuit Judge Edward Sweeney for a trial on Feb. 24.
  • FEBRUARY 5: In a two-line order, Missouri's high court dissolves its earlier stay. The Archdiocese says it will comply with Dierker's order, though there's been no deadline set. It's not clear what impact the release of the names will have on the trial date.