Church Calls for Sealing of Vital Documents

Nov 25, 2002 03:00 AM EST

BOSTON Ma. -- The Archdiocese of Boston's suggestion to keep documents on 65 priests from the public outraged the attorneys for alleged victims of clergy sex abuse. On Friday, the Roman Catholic archdiocese filed the court motion just minutes before turning the documents over to the victims' lawyers, one of whom called the strategy a "parlor trick" designed to keep damaging files about clergy behavior from the public.

"We're very, very upset that this happened, and the way it happened prevents people from going to court to oppose this motion," attorney Roderick MacLeish Jr. said. "It freezes us. We did want to review this with our clients, and we can't do that now."

At about 5:15 p.m., the archdiocese delivered 11,000 pages of the priests' files to MacLeish, the representative of alleged victims of the Rev. Paul Shanley and other priests.

The documents were delivered after the delivery of an emergency motion for a protective order that, if granted, would forbid MacLeish from filing the documents with the court, giving them to the media, or showing them to clients.

A Suffolk Superior Court judge must hear the motion, but MacLeish said the request seals the documents until there is a ruling, blocking him from sharing any information from the documents.

Archdiocese spokesman Donna Morrissey said the motion was filed "to withhold the documents from public domain" until a motion to dismiss the Shanley lawsuit is heard Jan. 17.

MacLeish said a cursory glance at the documents indicates more evidence that the church knew about abuse before the accusations.

The archdiocese and MacLeish's office have been wrangling for months over the release of the documents. On Nov. 13, Superior Court Judge Constance Sweeney ordered the archdiocese to turn over the documents by Nov. 22 or face sanctions from the court.

MacLeish asked for the documents as part of a suit filed by six men who claimed Shanley abused them. Shanley, 71, was indicted in June on 10 counts of child rape and six counts of indecent assault and battery for allegedly sexually abusing boys from 1979 to 1989 while he was at St. Jean's Parish in Newton.

By Pauline J.
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