Sunday, February 2, 2003

Judge unseals records in First Amendment dispute over priests

The Associated Press

LEXINGTON, Ky. - A judge has unsealed allegations of sexual misconduct by priests in Lexington's Catholic diocese, ending a court battle with a newspaper that reached the Kentucky Supreme Court.

The diocese and the Lexington Herald-Leader - which sued last year for access to the records - agreed to the order by Fayette County Circuit Judge Mary Noble.

The Courier-Journal of Louisville published the contents of the sealed material on Aug. 24.

Noble's order said that the Lexington Diocese and the Herald-Leader have agreed to have sealed material open to the public after they resolved the dispute through mediation. The Courier-Journal and Herald-Leader had both argued to unseal the material; the diocese had argued it should be kept secret.

The Courier-Journal was not part of the mediation.

Last summer, Noble temporarily sealed a sex-abuse lawsuit against the dioceses of Lexington and Covington, including the allegations. But appellate courts took up the case before Noble could issue a final decision. All of the case records eventually were opened except for the allegations.

The diocese and the Herald-Leader agreed there was no point in further withholding the records from public view, Noble wrote.

John Famularo, lawyer for the diocese, said church officials agreed to go along with Noble's order. However, they still believe the allegations are irrelevant to the suit's claims, so the public is not served in releasing them.

The Courier-Journal reported that the sealed material included allegations that the Rev. Greg Schuler, former rector at Christ the King Cathedral - Lexington's largest parish and its center of Catholic worship - was removed in March for having a sexual relationship with a married parishioner instead of for job burnout, the reason he had cited publicly.

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