More church officials ordered to provide documents about alleged clergy abuse
A judge has ordered the New Ulm and Duluth Dioceses and a Catholic order to turn over documents about alleged clergy sex abuse.
The two dioceses have refused to disclose some information that has been made public by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolisand other Catholic dioceses facing clergy abuse lawsuits. The Diocese of New Ulm is the only Minnesota diocese that hasn’t released a list of credibly accused priests. The Diocese of Duluth has released the names of credibly accused priests, but hasn’t released all documents related to those accusations, said attorney Jeff Anderson, who has led the charge of suits against the Catholic church.
An order issued Tuesday by Ramsey County District Judge John Guthmann compels the dioceses and the Oblates of Mary Immaculate to produce information about alleged abuse, priests’ names and “any document” about clergy abuse committed before 1978.
Guthmann wrote that “any and all” information about alleged priest abuse is “directly relevant to what defendants knew or should have known prior to the abuse experienced by plaintiff.”
The suit, filed against the two dioceses and Oblates on behalf of a former altar boy dubbed “Doe 30,” alleges that the Rev. James Vincent Fitzgerald sexually abused him in the 1970s when the boy was 13. Fitzgerald, now deceased, was employed by the three defendants.
Guthmann’s order is not limited to Fitzgerald.
“Only through full, public disclosure will there be transparency, justice and healing for survivors,” said Anderson, Doe 30’s attorney, in a written statement.
The dioceses must produce their documents by Feb. 17. The Oblates have until March 27 to produce documents.
Attorney Susan Gaertner, representing the Diocese of Duluth, said that Guthmann’s “carefully tailored” order helped whittle down a larger request made by Anderson.
“The judge’s order did not permit the kind of wide-ranging, voluminous fishing expedition that the plaintiff was trying to engage in,” Gaertner said.
The documents will be provided under seal due to a protective order in the case.