After Law

 

It is not easy to read newspaper accounts or watch TV news stories concerning the release of more than two thousand pages of internal Boston archdiocesan documents dealing with sexual abuse and other crimes by priests. Some of the incidents described read like the feverish imaginings found in Maria Monk’s The Awful Disclosures and other notorious anti-Catholic propaganda. However, the documents are not fiction, and they were not penned by the church’s enemies but by its consecrated overseers. It will be a long time before the word "bishop" will not be met with a smirk and a shake of the head. However ghastly the revelations contained in the documents, which have been selectively released by attorneys for the plaintiffs, they still show only one aspect of the story. The decision of a Massachusetts judge to allow the release to the public of the documents, provided by the church to the court and the plaintiffs as part of a civil suit, is not beyond criticism. It is not clear that justice for victims required overruling the church’s claim to confidentiality and privacy under the First Amendment. What organization could function if it faced the prospect that its internal personnel files would be read in the newspapers? Arguably, of course, the church has forfeited its right to privacy in this case. Still, the plaintiffs’ lawyers’ strategy may be to try the cases in the media, thus exerting maximum leverage on the church...

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