In litigating against church dioceses in sexual abuse cases for over 30 years, attorney Jeff Anderson, of Jeff Anderson and Associates in St. Paul Minnesota, has found that every diocese keeps secret files that demonstrate known histories of offenders in almost every instance. Anderson began to reveal this through litigation.
In 2005, he negotiated a case in Chicago that every case that had an offender, the church would agree to release the file, however, the settlement grew quite complicated, which led to a review of all those files. After 30 files were reviewed, an agreement was made to have those files released to the public both for the healing of the survivors and to protect public safety. Unfortunately, Anderson says, it became so controversial with the arch dioceses, it was difficult to extract the files and make them public. They began mediating, arbitrating and fighting for several years which ultimately led to a release of the files on January 15. At that time, Anderson was finally able to publicly disclose the files of those 30 offenders and under the agreement there's still another 35.
The secret files are profiles and portraits of the same pattern he's seen across the country for 29 years, Anderson says. This pattern was the same choices made by top officials, to include making sure they protect the offender from prosecution or public exposure, to make sure that the reputation of the dioceses is preserved and to get help for the offender and move them to another location, treated or untreated and mislead those where he had been known to be abused.
More often, the practice to move the offender initially to another location occurred, Anderson says, and then out of loyalty to get them help. They were sent to facilities run by them internally and then recycled back into ministry.
Anderson has hope that with the new Pope Francis, there will be a new kind of dialogue and one that's more open and candid. More important than dialogue, however, is action and Anderson can only hope that more action will come from the top.
Jeff Anderson, an attorney who has represented many survivors of sexual abuse cases within the church, practices in St. Paul, Minnesota with Jeff Anderson and Associates. He spoke with The Legal Broadcast Network, providing online, on-demand legal video content. The Legal Broadcast Network is a featured network of the Sequence Media Group.