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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Nothing to See Here

WBAY in Green Bay, Wisconsin reports that the Green Bay Diocese is being accused of having destroyed files associated with pedophile priests. The authorities frown on the destruction of evidence.

Notice how the diocese denies the claim:

"In 2006 the diocese issued a 146-page document that covered all diocesan departments. All files of every department are covered in this 146-page document. This was not done just to deal with clergy files; this was a matter of good management," Reilly said.

"Our record retention policy clearly states that no documents are destroyed if there is pending litigation. That practice and policy has been completely adhered to," he said.

In court testimony, Deacon Reilly explained the diocese generally keeps a priest's file indefinitely but that documents can be destroyed in accordance with the record retention policy.

Yeah - nothing was destroyed when there was pending litigation.

But what if there wasn't pending litigation?

What if the charges were made privately up the chain of command in the Church and not reported to the police?

What if a private agreement was reached or the victim died or moved or... well, you get the idea.

If there was no pending litigation... well, we don't guarantee the sanctity of the files then.

Anyone who has worked in a chancery office, anyone who is ordained, knows that most bishops keep a set of files concerning very serious matters.
These files are held in very close confidence.
These files are seen only by the bishop and his right-hand man.
The files are generally destroyed shortly after a new bishop comes in or when the individuals concerned are no longer in a place where the relevant files would need to be kept.

On occasion, priests will talk amongst themselves about a few of the things that may be in those files. The occasional priest will occasionally quietly confide the fact of their existence to a lay person... but never the contents. No. After all, no one really knows the contents except the bishop. And priests are in the habit of keeping confidences.

So, while I'm quite sure no diocese destroys files when there is pending litigation, there are enough empty clauses in the diocesan statements. The diocesan reassurance is hardly going to be a comfort to SNAP.

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