STATEMENT OF FRANCIS CARDINAL GEORGE, O.M.I.
Archbishop of Chicago
Re: Response to media reports about current litigation in the Diocese of Belleville
Chicago (May 7, 2004)
News media provided coverage this week of interim court action in the Diocese of Belleville in a case involving allegations of sexual misconduct with a minor by a Diocesan priest. The coverage included strong criticism of the local Bishop, Wilton Gregory, for using so-called anti-victim legal tactics to defend his Diocese in a lawsuit.
Bishop Gregory has provided critically important leadership in addressing the issue of sexual misconduct with minors by priests, both as bishop of Belleville and in his service as President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
I am advised that the Diocese of Belleville provided substantial information in response to discovery requests from the plaintiff in the case. The Diocese did not produce materials related to mental health and substance abuse treatment, since it was precluded from doing so under the law. The trial judge in the case affirmed that the Mental Health Confidentiality Act and the Alcoholism, Drug and Dependency Act preclude the production of records without the patient's consent; but he held that the Acts only apply to records created after the enactment of the laws. The Diocese of Belleville is concerned that this ruling is incorrect and would negatively impact the rights to confidentiality afforded mental health and chemical dependency patients. The Diocese sought to create a process by which the judge's ruling could be reviewed by an appellate court before important rights are irrevocably affected.
The case is before the Court. I think that we should respect the process as it goes forward and the rights of those involved to advocate their positions. In contrast to what was reported in some news pieces this week, special care should be taken not to engage in inflammatory or inaccurate public commentary.