Legal experts cite privacy, church privilege as concerns
The Roman Catholic Church has spent hundreds of millions of dollars settling lawsuits in accusations of priest sex abuse across the country. But a Wisconsin family's suit filed last week doesn't seek money. They want names.
That just may pose a tougher fight, legal experts say. The lawsuit seeking the names of priests accused of child molestation — filed by the family of a Hudson funeral home director believed slain by a priest suspected of such a crime — faces an uphill battle. Not only has the Catholic Church been reluctant to divulge the names, there is no precedent.
"This will be a classic battle. … It will be fascinating. If successful, it will create new law," said Marci Hamilton, who teaches constitutional law at Yeshiva University's Cardozo Law School in New York City.
Filed two weeks ago in St. Croix County Circuit Court against the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the lawsuit asks for the names and whereabouts of 5,000 clergy the bishops say have been accused of child molestation.
Jeff Anderson, the St. Paul attorney representing Dan O'Connell's family in the suit, contends the names should be released as a matter of public safety.
Monsignor Frank Maniscalco, a spokesman for the conference, said the bishops have policies for — among others things — removal of abusive priests and requiring that allegations of abuse be reported to police.
But that doesn't matter if the public doesn't know who the alleged abusers are, Anderson maintains. [snip] PioneerPress