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Supreme Court Rejects Conn. Abuse Case, Calif. Property Fight

posted by mconsoli

WASHINGTON (RNS) The Supreme Court announced Monday (Oct. 5) that it will not intervene in two prominent church-state cases, one involving a Catholic diocese in Connecticut and the other a former Episcopal parish in California.
The Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn. has fought since 2002 to block the release of more than 12,000 pages of depositions and court records related to sexually abusive clergy. Four newspapers sued for access to the documents, which Connecticut courts have agreed should be open to the public.
The diocese had specifically petitioned Justice Antonin Scalia, a Catholic, to keep the documents closed until the high court had heard its appeal on the constitutionality of the release order. That appeal is still pending, but legal analysts say it now appears unlikely that the Supreme Court will take it up.
The diocese said the court order poses a risk to all churches’ First Amendment rights and that “the content of the sealed documents soon to be released has already been extensively reported on.”
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops backed the Bridgeport diocese, saying that “we must remain vigilant against the risk that court-enforced avenues for the legitimate disclosure of documents are not abused…”
The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, however, said the “records will help parishioners and the public learn who helped to conceal clergy sex crimes, and which of those wrongdoers are still in positions of power.”
Separately, the Supreme Court also declined to hear an appeal from St. James Anglican Church, which split from the Episcopal Church in 2004 after an openly gay man was elected bishop of New Hampshire.
The Episcopal Church argues that local churches may leave, but under denominational laws they may not take church property with them. Last January, California’s Supreme Court ruled that St. James is bound by those church laws.
Representatives for St. James said they will continue their legal fight in the California courts. Similar proceedings between conservative dissidents and the Episcopal Church are ongoing in several more states.
By Daniel Burke
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.



  • Sister Maureen Paul Turlish

    This is good news for all victims of sexual abuse by anyone in that it sets a precedent that can be used to compel other public and private institutions to unseal records regarding the sexual abuse of minors.
    It is particularly heartening for those of us in the Roman Catholic Church who have long pressed for the accountability and transparency that was promised by the USCCB in 2002 but which leadership has been slow to delivery.
    The release of these files, records, testimony etc., will provide a window into this secret world, protected and enabled by Clericalism, and will help expose the how and why of a religious denomination’s gross failures in protecting the bodies and souls of untold numbers of vulnerable children from narcissistic, sociopathic sexual predators.
    The expectation is that the release of these documents will show just who the bishops were who made the decisions to protect errant priests from discovery, these known sexual predators who were transferred from place to place without one ounce of pastoral concern for the children who were victimized.
    This is a step in the right direction and I applaud the U.S. Supreme Court for this decision.
    Perhaps now the consciences of the American bishops will be touched enough that they will as a group support the removal of all criminal and civil statutes of limitation in regard to childhood sexual abuse.
    I appreciate the role newspapers have played in exposing the depth and breadth of one major church’s sexual abuse problems, especially the well documented conspiracy, collusion and cover-up by that church’s own leadership.
    The expectation is that the release of these documents will show just who the bishops were who made the decisions to protect errant priests from discovery, these known sexual predators who were transferred from place to place without one ounce of pastoral concern for the children who were victimized.
    This is a step in the right direction and I applaud the U.S. Supreme Court for this decision.
    Perhaps now the consciences of the bishops will be touched enough that they will as a group support the removal of all criminal and civil statutes of limitation in regard to childhood sexual abuse and direct their state Catholic Conferences to do the same.
    Most appalling are the reactions of leadership; the very real absence of justified anger and outrage and what has been done to tens of thousands of innocent children.
    Now, adding insult to the injury inflicted on victim/survivors of clerical sexual abuse, those who did not survive and the People of God in general, was the public statement of support for “Bishop Lori In His Diocese’s Appeal to U.S. Supreme Court,” by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops at the meeting of the Administrative Committee of the USCCB on September 15 and 16 in Washington, D.C.
    This announcement of support by the USCCB appears to indicate a backsliding on the bishops’ promises of Accountability & Transparency which were made in 2002 but it does seem to follow the lead of the Holy See which recently spoke out in response to charges of gross violations of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.
    Particularly distressing is this paragraph:
    “The Bishops of the United States have taken sustained, concrete steps to fulfill our pledge to ensure safe environment for children and young people in the Church, and to promote healing and reconciliation of victims and survivors of sexual abuse. the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People (2002) was a prominent milestone in that longstanding commitment.”
    While it is acknowledged that programs have been put in place but it must be remembered that the actions of the bishops in 2002 were not of their choosing but largely a response to public outrage. It is sincerely to be hoped that these programs will have been shown to have been successful when they are evaluated around 2017.
    Moreover, while the bishops mention the promotion of “healing and reconciliation” they do not mention that justice is a right that all victims and survivors of sexual abuse have a right to.
    The bishops do not profess their belief in that right for victims and survivors of sexual abuse nor do they indicate any commitment to remove archaic statutes of limitation which give more protection to sexual predators of any stripe along with their enablers then they do to the very real victims of clergy sexual abuse.
    There should be no accommodation in law that gives more protection to sexual predators of children, young women, men or vulnerable adults by any denomination’s representative’s, be they minister, priest, bishop, rabbi, imam, sister, nun or any other individual.
    What still appears to be missing in the bishops’ recent statement is a strong pastoral response and concern for the horrific violations of body and soul that victims of childhood sexual abuse have endured by these trusted representatives of God, followed by their betrayal by the bishops who first duty was to protect “the least of the Lord’s little ones.”
    Not something that one expects from those who life is supposed to be a profession of God’s love and care for those suffering the most among us, it is?
    Sister Maureen Paul Turlish
    Victims’ Advocate
    New Castle, Delaware
    maureenpaulturlish@yahoo.com

  • Hilarious

    Cults of superstition are protected by the US Constitution. Pederasty societies are not protected.

  • nnmns

    Sister Turlish, thank you for a view from inside the organization that allowed these horrors to go on and on. Your anger is highly justified. Good luck to you.

  • Confessoressa

    Well said, Sister.

  • Husband

    Amen. I second all the agreement with Sister Maureen.

  • pagansister

    Yes, I too thank you, Sister Maureen, for your words. Well stated.

  • nnmns

    The comment by Sister Maureen Turlish is the important thing to read here. It’s the first comment. To see it click on “Comments” right under the article.

  • nnmns

    Here’s a fascinating article about the Vatican as a “state” which it patently is not but gets to claim it is when it’s useful, like to keep the Pope out of US courts on charges of harboring child abusers by claiming he’s head of a foreign state.
    This article is about the Vatican’s status in the UN which, again, is clearly much higher than it should be given the definition of a “state”.

    The 1933 Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States defined the four criteria of statehood — permanent population, defined territory, government and the ability to enter into diplomatic relations. On the first count, the Vatican fails miserably. There is no permanent population at all. There are fewer than 1,000 residents and “citizenship” is temporary. One holds it only so long as one has a job or function related to the Vatican. Its territory is defined, though it occupies less than half a square kilometer in the center of Rome, but its governing capacity is minimal. The Vatican depends on the Italian government for most civic services, from garbage collection to healthcare and policing. And while the U.N. has no requirement that governments be democratic, the idea of a government run by an infallible head of state elected for life by a small group of men is a bit strange.

  • pagansister

    Thanks, nnmns. That is indeed interesting!

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