Missouri appeals court: Archdiocese doesn't have to release names

Friday, January 3, 2014 | 10:54 p.m. CST

ST. LOUIS — A Missouri appeals court ruled Friday that the Archdiocese of St. Louis did not have to release the names of priests accused of sexual abuse in the past 20 years as part of a lawsuit against the archdiocese.

A St. Louis judge had given the archdiocese a Friday deadline to turn over the names to a woman who sued, alleging that she was molested by a priest when she was a child, and to the woman's attorney. Otherwise, the names were to be kept under seal.

The Eastern District of the Missouri Court of Appeals ruling did not say if release of the names would eventually be required, nor did it set a new deadline.

Messages seeking comment from the archdiocese were not returned.

The woman's attorney, Kenneth M. Chackes, called the ruling disappointing.

"We're disappointed that the archdiocese chose to continue to fight to keep all this information secret," Chackes said.

The woman, who was 19 when the lawsuit was filed in 2011, claimed abuse by a priest began when she was 5 years old and attended St. Cronan's parish in the city. The priest, who was later defrocked, 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.

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

St. Louis Circuit Judge Robert Dierker's ruling on Tuesday said the archdiocese's refusal to comply with the court order requiring release of the names "has inflicted unnecessary trouble and expense on plaintiff, manifestly interfered with trial preparation, and borders on if not actually amounting to contempt."

David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, said the names should have been released years ago by Archbishop Robert Carlson.

The archdiocese's appeal included a list of 115 complaints made against archdiocese employees since 1986. Clohessy said the number is more than double the number of previously known alleged abusers. The accusers and employees are not identified by name, and it wasn't known how many of the accused were priests.

"For the safety of kids, the healing of victims and the benefit of his flock, he should publicly release these names right now — like 30 of his colleagues have done — and post them on parish and archdiocesan websites," Clohessy said.

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