Beliefnet News

The U.S. Supreme Court has decided not to hear the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport’s appeal of a state court decision to make public more than 12,000 pages of clergy sexual abuse files.
“We were disappointed to learn that the United States Supreme Court has decided not to hear our case. The Court reviews only about 80 cases out of more than 10,000 cases presented, and regularly reminds the public that it must decline to review many cases that were wrongly decided by the lower courts. Unfortunately, ours was one of those cases,” Diocese spokesman Joseph McAleer said in a statement released Monday morning.
The appeal to the nation’s highest court was the diocese’s likely last legal effort to keep secret documents from 23 clergy sexual abuse cases that were settled in 2001. Four newspapers — The New York Times, Boston Globe, Washington Post and The Courant — have been fighting for eight years to get the documents unsealed.
The high court’s ruling wasn’t a surprise given their decision last month not to issue a stay keeping the documents sealed while they decided whether to take up the full appeal.
Among the court documents are three depositions by former Bishop Edward Egan, who was in charge of the Bridgeport diocese when most of the lawsuits against priests under his control were filed and adjudicated. Egan retired last year as the archbishop of New York.
The Courant obtained copies of Egan’s depositions, which show that he knowingly transferred priests who had been accused of sexually molesting boys to different parishes and rarely removed an alleged pedophile priest from service.
Church officials believe that the church has been treated unfairly by the courts and the media in this case.
They point to the fact that judicial officials didn’t destroy the documents in question, leaving open the chance for the newspapers to appeal. They also note that the state judge who initially ruled that the documents should be unsealed was also a member of a committee that was exploring making judicial records more accessible to the public.
A status conference on how the documents might be made public will be held Nov. 9 at Superior Court in Waterbury.
“We continue to believe that the constitutional issues presented, including the First Amendment rights of religious organizations and the privacy rights of all citizens, are significant and important for the Court to consider,” McAleer said.
Copyright (c) 2009, The Hartford Courant, Conn.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
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