Friday, January 17, 2003

In Boston, church lawyers to question therapists

hree months after the Archdiocese of Boston publicly reached out to sexual abuse victims and promised to pay for their counseling, church lawyers this week began requiring therapists who have been treating the alleged victims to answer questions under oath about their patients' emotional condition.

That step, though it is standard practice for trial lawyers, provoked outrage yesterday from advocates for sexual abuse victims and the attorneys who have asked for jury trials for two of the more than 500 people who allege they were abused by priests in the archdiocese.

''This is the ultimate bait-and-switch strategy,'' said David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests. ''It's terribly disingenuous and hurtful to say to victims, `Come see us and we'll give you help,' and then turn around and use their private therapy sessions against them. It is every survivor's worst fear.''

The first of the pretrial depositions of the therapists, taken on Tuesday, appeared to catch some archdiocesan officials by surprise. Barbara Thorp, the official in charge of the church's victim outreach program, has expressed anger that the therapists are being questioned and forced to turn over notes of their counseling sessions, according to an adviser to the archdiocese.

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