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Judge hears arguments on subpoena compliance

Attorneys for the Archdiocese of Omaha and the Diocese of Lincoln, along with Nebraska Assistant Attorney General Ryan Post, appeared before Lancaster County District Judge Lori Maret May 2 to present arguments concerning the dioceses’ compliance with subpoenas from the attorney general’s office.

The subpoenas were issued Feb. 26 to more than 400 Catholic parishes, schools and other institutions throughout the state, asking for records going back 22 years that relate to the sexual abuse of children.

Although coverage of the hearing in the Omaha World-Herald and the Lincoln Journal Star attributes to Post the implication of a lack of cooperation by the dioceses, the Omaha archdiocese has been complying with the request to the greatest extent possible, said Deacon Tim McNeil, chancellor for the archdiocese.

Since the subpoenas were issued, the Omaha archdiocese has delivered about 5,000 pages of requested documents to the attorney general, he said, in addition to the 11,500 pages presented last November in response to an earlier request for 40 years of records.

“We have more than cooperated with the attorney general’s office,” Deacon McNeil said, and the archdiocese, parishes and institutions have been complying with the request.

Documents not provided are limited to those protected by federal privacy law, such as private medical records, psychiatric evaluations and confidential settlement agreements. Release of these records would require a court order, he said.

“Not including those things protected by privacy law, we have given them everything we have,” Deacon McNeil said.

“We have cooperated with the attorney general’s requests from the very beginning and will continue to cooperate with this investigation,” he said. “And we remain committed to transparency and the protection of all children.”

The two dioceses challenged the original March 1 compliance deadline in Lancaster County District Court as impossible to meet, saying the requests were overly broad.

A hearing, originally planned for March 12 to determine when the Archdiocese of Omaha and its parishes, schools and institutions would be required to respond to the subpoenas was postponed.

At the rescheduled May 2 hearing, Judge Maret declined to rule on the compliance issue and took arguments under advisement, Deacon McNeil said.

Late last year, the Omaha archdiocese turned over records and investigative documentation requested by the attorney general’s office.

It also released to the public and the attorney general a list of 38 clergy members with substantiated claims of clergy sexual abuse or sexual misconduct with a minor since 1978. That information is available at report.archomaha.org.

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