Catholic leaders don’t want priest list released

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) âÄî A judge is considering whether the names of 15 Roman Catholic priests accused in church files of sexually abusing children should remain private for now, or be turned over to a lawyer who intends to make them public. Jeff Anderson, who has filed numerous lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by priests, is seeking lists containing 46 names of priests accused of sexually abusing children. Thirty-three of them served in the St. Paul-Minneapolis Archdiocese, while 13 served in the Winona Diocese, which covers the bottom tier of 20 counties across southern Minnesota. “These people are still in the community,” Anderson told the court Wednesday. And outside the courthouse, Anderson charged that some may still be molesting children. Ramsey County District Judge Gregg Johnson took the dioceses’ motion for a protective order under advisement and did not say when he would rule, but Anderson guessed it might take a couple weeks. The 46 priests were counted for a 2004 study commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and conducted by John Jay College on the number of victims of clerical sexual abuse over the previous 50 years. None of the 46 have been in active ministry since, at latest, 2002, and the names of all but 10 from the Twin Cities archdiocese and all but five from the Winona diocese have already been publicly disclosed, their attorneys told Johnson. Anderson told the judge he wants to make the complete lists public in the interests of public safety. He said it doesn’t matter if they’re no longer serving as priests. He said they may be working in positions such as day care or teaching where they still have ready access to children. The dioceses themselves said when they announced the numbers in 2004 that their internal investigations found these priests had been “credibly accused,” Anderson told the court. Tom Wieser, an attorney for the archdiocese, said it was “unfortunate” that that they used the term “credibly accused” back then. He told the court the archdiocese actually had used a “very low threshold” of proof when it identified the 33. Wieser and Anna Restovich, an attorney for the Winona Diocese, both told the court the information against those whose names have not been disclosed was scant or uncorroborated, and that it would be unfair to sully their names by making them public. Anderson wants to use the lists in a lawsuit scheduled to go to trial June 1 against the archdiocese and diocese. Anderson’s client, a man identified only as John Doe 76C, alleges he was abused by a priest at an Apple Valley church in the early 1980s who had worked in both dioceses. The court first ordered the release of the lists last December. Wieser and Restovich told the judge they’re willing to turn the lists over to Anderson, but they want Johnson to issue a protective order to keep the names confidential unless and until they’re admitted into evidence during the trial itself. The judge told Anderson that until he rules on that motion, Anderson is not to release a separate list of 28 priests Anderson has compiled that the archdiocese wants kept under seal before trial. Bob Schwiderski, Minnesota director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said he has no doubt that releasing the lists will lead more victims to come forward. Anne Barrett Doyle, a codirector of the information archive, said there’s “ample precedent” for bishops to release their lists of priests accused of abuse, and that releasing the lists hasn’t caused major problems. She said they include the dioceses of Baltimore, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, and several others. And she said bishops in Boston and New Hampshire have recently said they’re considering releasing their lists. “The only way to protect the public and validate the victims is to release the names of the accused,” she said. The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis issued a statement after the hearing saying it would be wrong to make the lists public until the court decides whether they’re admissible at trial. It said the 10 priests whose names have not been previously disclosed were never charged criminally or named in any lawsuits, and that at least one is believed to be dead. “We believe it is grossly unfair and highly inaccurate to characterize this as an attempt to keep this information secret,” the statement said. “We have consistently communicated the intent to disclose this information, subject to appropriate safeguards for the people against whom the allegations may have been made and for those who made allegations to the Archdiocese in confidence.” ___ On the Net: Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests: Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis: Diocese of Winona: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops child and youth protection page: