Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Names of Accused Priests to Remain Secret

A judge has halted an unprecedented attempt by the family of a slain Hudson, Wis., mortician to force the Catholic Church to release the names of clergy accused of child molestation.

The family of Dan O'Connell, one of two men shot to death by a priest at his family's Hudson funeral home in 2002, sued the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in August 2006, asking for the names and locations of some 5,000 clergy members "credibly accused" of sexually assaulting children. The family said the lawsuit, which sought no monetary reward, was an attempt to make the information public to protect children and families.

But on Friday, Judge Eugene Harrington dismissed the lawsuit, which he termed an "ambitious request," and said the court cannot legally make the church release such information.
It may have been an "ambitious request" as the judge pointed out, and it would be nice to know the names of the accused but there is just one little thing people seem to forget. The issue of identifying those who have been accused of a crime - doesn't mean they did it. How many school teachers have been accused of inappropriately touching a student, then lost their job, only to be exonerated later? While accused their name was released and they became a pariah. How many divorced fathers have had their pyschotic ex-wife accuse them of molesting their child(ern) as a way to get an upper hand in a court battle only to find out later that dad did nothing? Still his name was ruined.

Don't get me wrong. I'd love to see the names of every Catholic priest who sexually molested anyone, and I'd like to see that information yesterday. But until they are convicted their name shouldn't be released. We used to live in a land where you are innocent until proven guilty and until the Bush Abomination, a land where we lived by the rule of law. Its time to continue that legal tradition. The judge in this case did the right thing.

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