Tuesday. July 26, 2005
C.A. Upholds Subpoenas for Archdiocese Documents in Priest Abuse Investigation
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Grand jury subpoenas for records of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese regarding possible child molestation by two of its priests were upheld yesterday by the Court of Appeal for this district.
Div. Three, in an opinion by Presiding Justice Joan Dempsey Klein, rejected challenges by the Archdiocese and the two priests, identified as Doe 1 and Doe 2, except that one document, in which Doe 2’s psychological treatment was discussed, was held to be protected by the psychotherapist-patient privilege.
As to the remaining documents, the appellate court agreed with the discovery referee, retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Thomas Nuss, that the documents were not protected by the constitutional guarantee of religious freedom, nor by the psychotherapist-patient and priest-penitent privileges.
Klein noted that appellate courts in Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts have previously rejected the claim that the First Amendment protects communications between a priest and his bishop.
“While it is true the right to religious freedom holds a special place in our history and culture, there also must be an accommodation by religious believers and institutions to the rules of civil society, particularly when the state’s compelling interest in protecting children is in question,” Klein wrote.
While the right to one’s religious beliefs is absolute, she explained, the right to act on them is sometimes limited by the government’s obligation to protect society.
The case is Roman Catholic Archdiocese v. Superior Court (People), B177852.
Copyright 2005, Metropolitan News Company