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UPDATE: Missouri judge orders archdiocese to release names in sex-abuse claims

Thursday, January 2, 2014 | 4:55 p.m. CST; updated 9:52 p.m. CST, Thursday, January 2, 2014

*This story has been updated to include a statement from an Archdiocese of St. Louis spokeswoman.

ST. LOUIS — A Missouri judge has ordered the Archdiocese of St. Louis to release by the end of the working day Friday the names of all priests accused of sexual abuse in the past 20 years.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports St. Louis Circuit Judge Robert Dierker's disclosure order also includes the names of those who made the complaints.

The judge said the archdiocese could withhold the names of those involved in cases the church determined were "unsubstantiated," leaving it unclear what the archdiocese will ultimately release from 234 complaints identified by the court.

Archdiocese spokeswoman Angie Shelton said in a statement on Thursday that Dierker's order "clearly shows that these are very complicated issues. The Archdiocese will continue to work within the judicial process toward a resolution to this lawsuit, which is rooted in the truth and fairness to all involved."

The action is part of a 2011 lawsuit filed by a woman who claimed she was abused as a child by the Rev. Joseph Ross, who was later defrocked. The suit also names the archdiocese and Archbishop Robert Carlson.

Dierker said the archdiocese's refusal to comply with the court order "has inflicted unnecessary trouble and expense on plaintiff, manifestly interfered with trial preparation, and borders on if not actually amounting to contempt."

The woman, 19 when the suit was filed, alleged that abuse by Ross began 16 years earlier at St. Cronan's Church in the city.

Names of those involved in the complaints will be kept under seal, available only to the victim and her attorneys.

"While the identities of persons involved in prior complaints might be irrelevant in the ordinary case, the special circumstances of the claim against defendant in this context compel the conclusion that plaintiff must be able to probe the facts of similar prior complaints to some extent, in order to be able to present a convincing case of intentional failure to supervise," Dierker wrote.

Ross had been convicted of sexually assaulting an 11-year-old boy at a parish in University City decades earlier. He received treatment and was reassigned to St. Cronan's. Years later, additional abuse allegations were made.

The lawsuit alleges a pattern by the archdiocese of covering up abuse claims.

The woman's attorney, Kenneth M. Chackes, said what is important "is to find a pattern of other incidents where priests have abused children that the archdiocese knew about and put the priests in a place where they could abuse children again."

The trial is scheduled to start late next month.


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