A judge is weighing whether to order the release of thousands ofpages of Springfield (Mass.) Diocese documents in a dispute between thechurch and seven of its insurance carriers over settlements with clergysex abuse victims.
The diocese sued the insurance companies to get them to cover theclaims of 57 people who allege they were sexually abused by priests.
The insurers argued in Berkshire Superior Court this week that the7,500 pages of documents will enable them to see how the diocesehandled allegations of sexual abuse by priests and whether it fulfilledits obligation to protect the public.
Joseph C. Tanski, a lawyer for the Massachusetts Insurers InsolvencyFund, said the insurance companies have a right to some documents.
"The information we're seeking bears on the issue of if the diocesereasonably expected harm would come from putting priests in particularpositions,'' he said. "If the bishop wants coverage, he has to disclosethe information.''
But John 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 who have not filed claims and priestswho are not named in any lawsuits, diocese lawyer Kevin D. Withers said.
"They're simply not relevant in any way,'' he said.
Mark A. Darling, a lawyer for Interstate Fire and Casualty Co., saidthe diocese has failed to show that the documents have anything to dowith a 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.
Information from: The Springfield Republican,