Thursday, January 29, 2009

Archdiocese seeks to put lid on abuse-case documents before trial

In the only remaining civil suit filed by the family of a child abused by a former Catholic priest, lawyers for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago have asked a Cook County judge to keep witnesses' names and other documents confidential until the case goes to trial.

Church lawyers say the motion for a protective order, which will be reviewed by a judge Wednesday, is a routine measure to shield children from more harm or embarrassment. But lawyers for the victim argue the best way to protect children is to expose the truth before a jury.

"This case has a different value if it's before a jury," said William Martin, a lawyer for the boy who was abused by Daniel McCormack multiple times at St. Agatha Catholic Church and elsewhere. "We're going to get to the bottom of the half-truths, and a jury won't be impressed."

Lawyers for the archdiocese prefer to settle abuse cases out of court. In fact, the McCormack case is the first time in recent history that the archdiocese faces a trial in a civil suit involving a priest found guilty of molesting minors.

"This case involves highly sensitive subject matter and issues and that there are significant privacy interests not only for the plaintiff, but also for other non-party alleged victims of child sexual abuse, witnesses and non-parties alleged to have committed sexual abuse against minors," church lawyers said in the motion for a protective order. "These interests warrant the imposition of certain rules and safeguards on the conduct and use of discovery."

Martin said there was an attempt to mediate the dispute before a judge. Those negotiations ended after two meetings.

On Tuesday, representatives from five Catholic reform organizations called on Cardinal Francis George to withdraw the motion for the protective order.

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(Source: CTC)