Rochester, N.Y., Apr 22, 2021 / 18:00 pm (CNA).
A federal judge has said the names of priests accused of sexual abuse in the Diocese of Rochester cannot be kept confidential during the diocese’s bankruptcy proceedings.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Paul Warren on Thursday sided with Gannett Co., Inc., the parent company of the local Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.
Gannett had filed a motion to intervene in the diocese’s bankruptcy proceedings after the diocese asked in an earlier motion to have the identity of abused priests kept confidential.
The motions involve the diocese’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings, which were begun in September 2019 following a flood of lawsuits accusing priests in the diocese of sexual abuse.
Gannett argued that keeping the identities of accusers secret would “perpetuate the very secrecy that has allowed the scandal to continue for generations.”
However, the Diocese of Rochester said in court documents that it was not trying to conceal information but rather “reduce the risk of vigilantism or other breaches of the peace.”
A spokesperson for the Diocese of Rochester told CNA that the purpose of their motion was to protect survivors who had come forward and exposed sex abuse.
“The primary purpose of our recent court motion was to protect from public disclosure in required ‘Certificate of Service’ documents – which notify all interested parties of case filings – the identities of those persons who have come forward in this case as survivors of childhood sexual abuse, and who wish to remain anonymous,” the spokesperson said.
“It should be noted that the Committee of Creditors in our Chapter 11 case, which represent survivors, supported our motion,” the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson said the diocese wanted to “preserve public safety and avoid potential breaches of the peace that might possibly ensue with the publication of the names and addresses of those accused, as well as preserve the due process rights of individuals against whom allegations may not at this time be substantiated.”
The diocese maintains that Gannett’s objection did not force them to withdraw their previous motion.
Rather, the spokesperson said, they had determined that they did not have an immediate need to file Certificates of Service containing perpetrator information, so they withdrew their motion from the court prior to the court hearing and the judge’s decision.
The diocese said it will still be permitted “to protect the privacy of survivors and…to request redaction at a future time of those who are accused but whose cases have not as yet been proven or acknowledged.”
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