Wednesday, September 28, 2005

 

Judge to review church's priest abuse records


CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa --- The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Dubuque has agreed to turn over to a federal magistrate judge more than 200 church documents pertaining to priests accused in three civil suits of sexually abusing young people in Waterloo and elsewhere from the early 1940s through the late 1970s, according to a court order issued late last week.

Federal magistrate John Jarvey will then review the documents in chambers to determine if any of them can be used in the civil suits, according to the order.

Waterloo attorneys Chad Swanson and Tom Staack had asked the court in September to compel the archdiocese to turn over documents pertaining to the three federal civil suits.

The archdiocese objected to the documents being used in court, citing protections under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the Iowa Constitution and victim-privacy and third-party privileges. But the archdiocese agreed to the in-chambers inspection, according to Jarvey's order, issued Thursday.

The archdiocese must turn over the documents by Wednesday, according to Jarvey's order. Any documents Jarvey rules as admissible in court would not become public unless entered as evidence in court proceedings. In court motions, Swanson and Staack said that names of other victims or individuals not named in the suits could be stricken from those documents to protect them.

Two of the three suits in question involve former Waterloo residents and priests, alleging abuse here in the 1960s and '70s.

In one suit, former Waterloo resident Kathleen Wach Guertin alleges she was abused by the late Rev. Patrick McElliott in the early 1960s when McElliott was pastor at St. John's Catholic Church and she was a student at the parish school.

In a separate suit, former Waterloo resident Joseph Faucher alleges he was sexually abused by the Rev. William T. Schwartz in the late 1970s when Schwartz was spiritual director at Columbus High School and Faucher was a student there.

Both McElliott and Schwartz each are named in other similar civil suits, most of which were filed this year. McElliott died in 1987. Archdiocesan officials have said Schwartz was removed from priestly duties years ago, received treatment at a facility in Arizona and can no longer represent himself in public as a priest.

In the third suit pertaining to Jarvey's order, former Cedar Rapids resident James Cummins, a correspondent for NBC News, filed federal suit in 2003 against the archdiocese, alleging he was abused by the late Rev. William Roach, a former archdiocese vicar general, when Roach was assigned to Immaculate Conception parish in Cedar Rapids in 1962.

The archdiocese has asked for a summary judgment dismissing the Cummins case. Jarvey has yet to rule on that motion.

At issue in Jarvey's order are 164 church documents pertaining to Schwartz, 49 regarding McElliott and 20 documents in Cummins' case regarding sexual abuse complaints concerning the Rev. Irwin Patnode in 1940 and 1941 --- complaints predating those involving Roach by 20 years.

Legal briefs filed in the Cummins case indicate his attorneys have raised the Patnode complaints in an attempting to establish the archdiocese's decades-long knowledge of and failure to adequately deal with sexual abuse allegations involving its priests.


See also, the never-ending chronicle of church-related crime.

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