Confidentiality Issue
Pickets Assail Memo by Counselor

Boston Globe
February 12, 2003

NEWTON - A church office established to help people sexually abused by members of the clergy was picketed yesterday by demonstrators protesting a church social worker's disclosure of details of a conversation she had with a victim.

Eight alleged victims and advocates stood outside the Boston Archdiocese's Office of Healing and Assistance Ministry, carrying picket signs. One carried a sign decrying the "Office of Dealing and Sinistry."

The group members said they were upset that Barbara Thorp, who heads the office, had sent her notes on a conversation she had with a victim to the Rev. Sean Connor, the archdiocese's investigator of clergy sexual abuse claims.

The woman had told Thorp she was raped by convicted priest James R. Porter 35 years ago and later sought counseling from the Rev. Paul Shanley, who is now awaiting trial on child rape charges.

The memo, dated Oct. 14, 2002, was in one of nine priest personnel files released Monday by lawyers who have sued the Boston Archdiocese.

Although the woman's name was not made public, victims' advocates said they are angry that Thorp turned over her notes of what the victim believed would be a confidential conversation.

Donna M. Morrissey, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese, yesterday said that Thorp, like all church employees, is obligated to inform church and state officials of allegations against priests so the priests can be removed and/or prosecuted if necessary.

"The Archdiocese of Boston is committed to investigating, and reporting to proper authorities, each and every allegation of sexual misconduct made against any member of the clergy," Morrissey said. But, she added, the church has tried to protect the confidentiality of victims.

"Any information or details describing personal revelations or allegations of sexual abuse are always treated by representatives of the archdiocese as confidential and have not been released without being required to do so by court order," she said.

Morrissey called on the news media to avoid reporting details of cases that might allow readers to identify victims who do not want to be identified. She said simply withholding the names of victims is not enough in some cases.

"The media, and any person who gains access to files that were produced by court order, have a moral and ethical obligation to assure that the identities of victims/ survivors are protected, including identifying details," she said.

The Globe does not disclose the names or identifying details of victims without their consent.

Michael Paulson of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.

This story ran on page A8 of the Boston Globe on 2/12/2003.


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