KANSAS CITY • A group that supports victims of sexual abuse will have to turn over decades of records to lawyers representing priests in the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, but the type of information that must be released will be limited, a Jackson County judge has decided.
Attorneys for the diocese sought records stretching back more than 20 years from the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests in an effort to determine whether SNAP has been coaching victims and plaintiffs to say they repressed memories of abuse for years.
SNAP has strongly denied coaching victims.
If defense lawyers can prove that the plaintiffs did not actually suppress memories of sexual abuse for decades, judges would have to throw out the lawsuits under a five-year statute of limitations that the Missouri Supreme Court reaffirmed in 2006, The Kansas City Star reported.
The order is related to a lawsuit against the Rev. Michael Tierney and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. The plaintiff, identified only by the initials B.P., said he was 13 when Tierney attacked and molested him in the 1970s. Tierney, who was removed from his last assignment in June, has denied any wrongdoing.
"I believe they (lawyers for Tierney and the diocese) are entitled to have information on repressed memory," Jackson County Circuit Judge Ann Mesle said Friday.
The SNAP material also would be available for use in four other cases pending against Tierney, and possibly for lawyers defending other priests in the Kansas City area and in Clinton County, Mo., Mesle said.
The judge said she expects to issue a written order, perhaps by Monday, that would limit the original document request to several broad categories related to sexual misconduct by priests in the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese. She said she expects that her orders will be appealed.
Lawyers representing priests and the diocese also agreed that the names of third parties who contacted SNAP with information about clerical sexual abuse could be removed from documents before they received them.
"One of the allegations in the press is that the lawyers and the diocese is trying to 'out' the alleged victims," said lawyer Brian Madden, who represents Tierney. "Nothing could be further from the truth."
Attorney Brendan J. Donelon, who recently joined SNAP's legal defense team, said he would keep his appeals options open.
Madden said five lawsuits against Tierney allege repressed memory, and most lawsuits against the diocese contain similar allegations.
Rebecca Randles, the attorney for B.P., said he never had contact with SNAP, and his psychiatrist swore he legitimately repressed his memories of abuse.
In 2006, the Missouri Supreme Court upheld a five-year statute of limitations on civil sexual abuse allegations, unless the victim could prove that he or she had repressed the memory. In such cases, the statute of limitations would begin whenever the victim recovered the memory and was "capable of ascertainment" that damage had been done.