ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) – “There have been real wrongs of clergy at the highest levels.” Those words today from St. Louis Circuit Judge Robert Dierker as he upheld his own order in a sex abuse suit involving a now defrocked Archdiocese of St. Louis priest.
The civil suit surrounds allegations that Father Joseph Ross abused a then five year old girl from 1997 to 2001 at a south city parish.
SNAP, or the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, demonstrated outside the Carnahan Courthouse before the hearing. They held pictures of members who say they were abused in other cases.
Judge Dierker ruled in May that the Archdiocese must produce 20 years worth of records for any of its employees who had complaints of sexual abuse against them.
Attorneys for the Archdiocese argued that was too long. On Friday, Dierker stood by 20 years for clergy but reduced the timeframe for non-clergy employees to five years.
SNAP members spoke out against the archdiocese.
“I think what it shows is church officials are still very committed to secrecy in these cases and to disclosing virtually nothing unless they`re ordered to,” said ‘SNAP’ director David Clohessy.
The Archdiocese released a statement reading in part, “The breadth of this order appears to include allegations against lay employees and clergy that were not found to be credible. The archdiocese will consult with its attorneys in this lawsuit regarding next steps based on the court`s ruling.”
For ‘SNAP,’ the Archdiocese`s efforts in this case point tolarger problem of how the church treats victims.
“Church officials are willing to try almost any legal tactic they can dream up to intimidate victims and witnesses and whistle blowers into staying silent,” said Clohessy.
Archdiocese attorneys are also trying to get emails that the victim sent to both SNAP and a rape crisis center.
The victim is now in her early 20’s.
Judge Dierker has not ruled on that yet.
The archdiocese has 30 days to produce the other records. This would be the first time ever that records like these would ever be produced. They would be given to the victim’s attorneys.
The trial is set for February.
In a separate case, Ross was convicted of sexually assaulting an 11 year old boy at a St. Louis church during confession back in 1988.