The Supreme Court is expected to announce a decision Tuesday or Wednesday on whether to continue a stay of the release of documents previously ordered unsealed in the cases of about two dozen victims of sex abuse whose claims against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport were settled in 2001.
The case, Rosado v. Bridgeport Roman Catholic Diocese Corp. et.al., has attracted national attention. Diocesan officials have argued that the pre-trial documents should remain under seal, as was provided by the trial court’s protective order. A year after the settlement, a Connecticut Superior Court judge allowed a group of newspapers to intervene in the cases and granted them access to thousands of pages of documents.
The diocese has fought that ruling ever since, winning in the state’s Appellate Court and then losing in the Connecticut Supreme Court. The case has now gone to the U.S. Supreme Court, where Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in August denied the diocese’s request to continue a stay on the release of the papers, prompting the church to appeal to the full court.
Advocates for the release of the documents say that they could provide important information about how the church handled the abuse allegations, which date back to the 1960s and ‘70s, and, in particular, the role played by former Bishop Edward Egan. And, they say, a full airing of the documents will bring closure to a shameful episode that traumatized victims, their family and the greater church community.
Diocese officials dispute that, contending that the Connecticut Supreme Court ruling trammels on the religion-protection clause of the First Amendment protections and could have negative implications for privacy rights in general. Furthermore, the diocese maintains, the cases already have received widespread coverage in the news media; the documents were previously shared with victims and their attorneys; the church acted to remove any priests implicated in the allegations; and the diocese has created a groundbreaking program to ensure a safe environment for all who worship in the faith.
Bishop William E. Lori and the diocese aggressively have made their case to the public, publishing a lengthy backgrounder and a history detailing news coverage of the case on the diocesan Web site. On behalf of the diocese, a principal with the Boston-based public relations firm, Rasky Baerlein, which has worked for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Boston, has contacted reporters covering the court action in Washington.