PITTSFIELD, Mass.— A judge is weighing whether or not to order the release of thousands ofpages of Springfield Diocese documents in a dispute between the churchand seven of its insurance carriers over settlements with clergy sexabuse victims.
Thediocese sued the insurance companies to get them to cover the claims of57 people who allege they were sexually abused by priests.
Theinsurers argued in Berkshire Superior Court on Tuesday that the 7,500pages of documents will enable them to see how the diocese handledallegations of sexual abuse by priests and whether it fulfilled itsobligation to protect the public.
Joseph C. Tanski, a lawyer forthe Massachusetts Insurers Insolvency Fund, said the insurancecompanies have a right to some documents.
"The information we'reseeking bears on the issue of if the diocese reasonably expected harmwould come from putting priests in particular positions," he said. "Ifthe bishop wants coverage, he has to disclose the information."
ButJohn J. Egan, a lawyer for the Roman Catholic diocese, said thedocuments are protected by spiritual counseling privilege and freeexercise of religion laws.
Some documents involve people whohave not filed claims and priests who are not named in any lawsuits,diocese lawyer Kevin D. Withers said.
"They're simply not relevant in any way," he said.
MarkA. Darling, a lawyer for Interstate Fire and Casualty Co., said thediocese has failed to show that the documents have anything to do witha spiritual counseling privilege.
Judge John A. Agostini took the matter under advisement and did not immediately issue a ruling.
The diocese settled claims from 46 other claimants for more than $7 million in 2004.
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