Bridgeport Diocese Weighs Next Step After Court Ruling On Priest Sex Documents

The Hartford Courant

HARTFORD – The Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport is considering a dwindling number of legal options, including a U.S. Supreme Court appeal, after the state’s high court refused to reconsider a ruling that would make public thousands of pages of documents detailing alleged sexual abuse by priests.

The state Supreme Court released an order Monday denying a diocese request for an opportunity to restate its arguments against unsealing more than 12,000 pages of the legal records. The state high court had ruled against the diocese in May and ordered the records opened.

“The diocese has received the order and is considering its options,” Ralph W. Johnson III, the lawyer representing the diocese said Monday.

The state Supreme Court’s denial of the diocese’s request for reconsideration means there is a possibility that depositions, exhibits and legal arguments involving 23 lawsuits against seven priests could become public later this month.

Johnson declined to say what options the diocese is considering to keep the files sealed. But other lawyers said the church might be limited to an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Such an appeal might not keep the files sealed and the likelihood of the U.S. Supreme Court taking an appeal is remote.

The documents in question have been sealed since the diocese settled the lawsuits against the priests for undisclosed amounts in 2001, with an agreement that the records would remain sealed forever. Several newspapers, including The Courant, are seeking to make the material public.

Unless the diocese succeeds in a new effort to keep the materials sealed, they could become public as early as July 20, according to the legal rules in force in state appellate courts.

“We appreciate the court’s decision to let the truth about coverups of clergy sex crimes to finally surface,” said Barbara Dorris of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “We hope Connecticut citizens and Catholics will lean on Bridgeport‘s bishop to stop wasting time and money protecting predator priests and their corrupt colleagues. It’s sad to think of generous parishioner donations being used to finance expensive lawyers and dangerous secrecy.”