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R.I. Diocese Must Hand Over Evidence

Jul 1, 2002 | AP

A judge on Monday ordered the Diocese of Providence to turn over any evidence relating to alleged sexual abuse by clergy in Rhode Island.

In a nine-page ruling, Superior Court Judge Robert Krause said the diocese's claim that such information is protected under the "clergy-penitent" privilege is wrong.

"By no elastic stretch of the most fertile imagination can one rationally conclude that such information or any such communication deserves or merits confidentiality as expressions of religious freedom," Krause wrote.

Attorney Tim Conlon, who represents many of the 38 alleged victims, said the plaintiffs want evidence concerning what information diocese officials may have had about accused abusive priests and when they obtained it. Conlon said diocese attorneys have 10 days to supply the information.

Diocese attorney James Murphy said he had not seen the judge's order and would not comment.

The diocese had claimed the evidence requested by the alleged victims was irrelevant.

Krause disagreed and ruled that in cases where a potential clergy-penitent privilege overlaps with secular functions, "the balance must tip in favor of disclosure, not secrecy."

"It is simply wrong to conclude that the information and documentation that plaintiffs seek are privileged and should somehow be insulated from disclosure, when that information relates in any way to a pedophile priest who has engaged in criminal sexual assaults upon children," he said.

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