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Judge: Courts Aid Church Cover-Up

Jun 14, 2002 | AP

Saying a cover-up is the heart of the Roman Catholic church's sex abuse scandal, a judge accused Connecticut courts of helping church officials maintain the secrecy of files.

The Connecticut Appellate Court delayed Waterbury Superior Court Judge Robert F. McWeeny's order to unseal secret documents from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport.

"Courageous victims and enterprising investigators have circumvented a judicial model of cooperation with the diocese in endlessly delaying litigation, sealing files and coercing victims into nondisclosure settlements," he wrote to the court to explain his legal reasoning for unsealing the records.

In May, McWeeny ordered records unsealed from nearly two dozen lawsuits involving priests in the Bridgeport diocese. Lawyers for The Hartford Courant and The New York Times have sought the release of the documents, which were sealed in March 2001 after lawsuits against six priests were settled for an undisclosed amount.

The claims involved allegations beginning in the late 1960s and continuing until the early 1990s. Most of the victims were altar boys or belonged to church youth organizations.

The diocese appealed, freezing release of the records until the appeal is decided. The appeals court heard arguments, but gave no indication of when it would decide whether it has jurisdiction to hear the appeal.

"We believe it serves no healing purpose to revisit this painful subject for the victims and their families, and it will disrupt the healing process," Joseph McAleer, spokesman for the Bridgeport Diocese, said.

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