Archdiocese to release records related to accusations of abuse

The Missouri Supreme Court has ruled that the Archdiocese of St. Louis must release the names of alleged victims and priests who have been accused of sexual abuse of minors.

In its Feb. 5 ruling, the court denied a writ of prohibition requested by the archdiocese in response to a recent court order by Judge Robert Dierker granting a plaintiff’s attorney’s request for the release of contact information of alleged victims of clergy sexual abuse and of priests who have been accused of abuse. The ruling covers abuse allegations first made within the time frame of July 1, 1983 and June 30, 2003.

All information to be released is subject to a protective order, entered by Dierker, to prohibit public disclosure.

A statement from the archdiocese said that it will comply with the order. The statement also noted that although some allegations date back as far as the 1940s, all were reported within a 20-year window from 1983-2003. Most of the allegations predate the Catholic Church’s Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which was passed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002.

Dierker’s order stemmed from a 2011 lawsuit filed by a woman who said she was sexually abused by the former Father Joseph Ross, who has since been removed from the priesthood and from the clerical state.

In its statement, the archdiocese said it litigated to protect the privacy rights of all involved, including victims who had no connection to current litigation and who had come forth confidentially regarding their reported allegations. The request for information includes names, addresses and phone numbers.

“It is our fervent hope that today’s ruling will not deter victims from coming forward to report abuse,” according to the statement. “Sexual abuse is a sin and a crime. It remains the firm commitment of the Archdiocese of St. Louis to root out this evil whenever and wherever it presents itself within our ranks.

The archdiocesan Safe Environment Office works to keep children safe through background checks, training, and education for all clergy, archdiocesan employees and lay volunteers who work with minors. In a little more than 10 years, approximately 150,000 people have been trained in this program.

The archdiocese also encourages all persons with reports of misconduct with a minor involving a member of the clergy or other personnel to contact Deacon Phil Hengen, Director of Child and Youth Protection, at (314) 792-7704, the Missouri Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at (800) 392-3738 or law-enforcement officials.

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