State Seeks 2nd Delay in Issuing Clergy Abuse Report

By Gregory D. Kesich
Portland Press Herald [Maine]
May 21, 2003

Prosecutors have asked a judge for more time before issuing a report on their yearlong investigation into allegations of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergy in Maine.

In a document filed in Kennebec County Superior Court this week, Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin asked for a two-month delay of a court-ordered deadline for the release of information. The order resulted from a lawsuit filed by Blethen Maine Newspapers, the owner of the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram.

In September, Superior Court Justice Kirk Studstrup put off ruling on the newspaper's request for information for six months, giving prosecutors time to complete their investigations. In March the state requested and received a 60-day extension. This would be their second extension.

Robbin would not discuss the kind of information that would be released or why the delay was needed. She said in March that two counties still had open investigations into allegations. She said Tuesday that she did not know if those investigations had been closed.

No criminal charges have been filed against any clergy member as a result of the state investigation.

Robbin said a report would be drafted by the executive board of the Maine Prosecutors Association, which is made up of the eight elected district attorneys and the office of Attorney General.

In the suit filed last year, the newspaper requested the release of information that had been given to prosecutors by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland last May in the form of personnel records purported to contain sex abuse allegations against 51 diocesan priests, members of religious orders and other clergy. The records went back 75 years, and involved a reported 14 priests who were dead. Other allegations were too old to prosecute under the state's statute of limitations.

The newspaper filed suit against the state asking for release of the names of the deceased clergy members, since those records could not be part of an ongoing criminal investigation. The state argued that the clergy members and their families had a right to privacy which prevented the release of their names. The newspaper argued that dead people do not have a right to privacy, and that right is not typically extended to family and friends.

Studstrup put off ruling on the privacy issue, giving the state more time to finish its investigations. He gave the prosecutors six months to finish their work.

Advocates for victims of abuse have called for release of the names of living clergy members accused of abuse as well as those who are now dead. Paul Kendrick of Voice of the Faithful, a Catholic reform group, said that keeping names secret will make it easier for people who have abused children in the past to do it again. He said making the allegations public would help victims' heal.

"We need names," Kendrick said. "We believe that there are a lot of people who haven't come forward. Releasing the names, dates and parishes where the abuse is alleged to have occurred would be of great comfort to them."

Robbin said the state's report should be complete before July 1.


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