US Prelates Rally Around Bridgeport Court Case

Supreme Court Rejects Connecticut Bishop’s Appeal

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WASHINGTON, D.C., OCT. 5, 2009 ( The U.S. prelates are expressing support for the bishop of Bridgeport, Connecticut, whose Supreme Court case was turned down today, and are calling for «fair treatment» for the Church.

Bishop William Lori found his diocese involved in lawsuits since 2002. At that time, several newspapers requested to publicize documents from sexual abuse lawsuits against Catholic priests in the diocese, and he expressed his desire to keep these proceedings private.

The Connecticut courts ruled that the documents should be released to the public.

Thus, last month, the diocese brought the appeal higher, and today the U.S. Supreme Court announced its decision to reject the request to keep the documents under seal.

A diocesan statement, posted on its Web page, noted, «We are disappointed that the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to extend the stay.»

It reported that «the content of the sealed documents soon to be released has already been extensively reported on.»

The statement continued: «For more than a decade, the Catholic Church in Bridgeport has addressed the issue of clergy sexual abuse compassionately and comprehensively.

«For now, however, the serious threat to the First Amendment rights of all churches and the rightful privacy of all litigants remain in jeopardy because of the decision of the Connecticut Supreme Court. This, indeed, is regrettable.»

Important implications

Earlier today, before the court’s decision was released, the bishops’ conference issued a statement in support of Bishop Lori, noting that this issue «implicates important principles.»

The conference reported: «The bishops of the United States have taken sustained, concrete steps to fulfill our pledge to ensure a safe environment for children and young people in the Church, and to promote healing and reconciliation of victims and survivors of sexual abuse. The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People (2002) was a prominent milestone in that longstanding commitment.»

However, it continued, «when a claim of sexual abuse results in litigation, we must remain vigilant against the risk that court-enforced avenues for the legitimate disclosure of documents are not abused in particular cases, resulting in the excessive entanglement of the state in the affairs of the Church.»

«Also in the litigation context,» the bishops pointed out, «we must insist upon fair treatment for the Church in accordance with the rule of law, so that the intense emotions surrounding sexual abuse cases do not result in decisions that would deny the Church the same legal protections — including those regarding disclosure of documents — that any other party would enjoy.»

They concluded by expressing «fraternal support for our brother Bishop Lori.»

The prelates affirmed, «We understand and are grateful for his strong defense of the diocese in this case, and especially for the balance he has tried to strike among the principles of compassion, transparency, religious freedom, fundamental fairness, and the rule of law.»

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