By WILLIAM McCALL
The Associated Press
10/25/2007, 4:20 p.m. PDT
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Six months after a historic bankruptcy settlement between the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Portland and plaintiffs who said priests abused them, the legal battle has taken a new twist — whether a new plaintiff should be publicly identified.
The archdiocese has challenged a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court by a man identified as "John Doe 120," arguing the release of copies of the complaint to journalists in advance of the filing undermines his argument for privacy.
"This calculated, public disclosure, timed to maximize its effectiveness in generating a news story before the Archdiocese could respond to a lawsuit filing, deprives plaintiff of any valid claim about a need for privacy," the archdiocese argued.
Attorneys for the plaintiff said the church was trying to "intimidate, embarrass, or discourage" others who might sue.
The archdiocese was the first in the nation to declare bankruptcy in July 2004 under the weight of priest sex abuse claims. A settlement approved in April provided more than $50 million for about 175 claims but set aside another $20 million for future claims — which have begun to trickle in.
Kelly Clark, one of the attorneys, said Thursday the church has never asked for disclosure of victim names in the past and that courts have protected their identities.
"We’ve been through, how many, about 200 lawsuits? And now they’re going to ‘out’ the victims?" Clark said.
A spokesman for the archdiocese, Bud Bunce, said attorneys for the church were simply following federal court rules requiring disclosure of plaintiff names and that Archbishop John Vlazny would continue efforts to promote reconciliation.
Clark, however, said he warned attorneys for the archdiocese the challenge would only portray Vlazny as lacking compassion.
A spokesman for a victims’ rights group said it shows that Vlazny is taking a step backward from his promise in April to use the settlement to promote healing and reconciliation.
"Archbishop Vlazny just doesn’t get it," said Bill Crane of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP.
"And now the church is going to re-victimize these individuals, playing hardball tactics to get them not to come forward," Crane said.
Mary Grant, the Western regional director of SNAP, said Vlazny was attempting to shield priests whom the church should expose for abuse.
"Church officials have acted above the law and put the protection of known and credibly accused and admitted child molesters above the protection of children," Grant said.