THERE IS A CERTAIN RISK IN PUBLISHING THE NAMES OF PRIESTS “CREDIBLY ACCUSED OF PEDOPHLIA”. THE RISK IS THAT IF THE PUBLICATION CITES ‘FACTS’ THAT CANNOT BE PROVEN LIBEL LAWSUITS CAN RESULT

Corpus Christi Caller-Times

Judge: Bishop Michael Mulvey can be questioned in lawsuits over list of accused priests

Eleanor Dearman, Corpus Christi Caller TimesPublished 12:29 p.m. CT May 24, 2019 | Updated 6:30 p.m. CT May 24, 2019

A lawyer will be able to take the deposition of Bishop Michael Mulvey in lawsuits over a list of priests who had been “credibly accused” of sexual misconduct. 

However, that deposition will be limited in scope, 319th District Judge David Stith ordered. The judge said it must be restricted to “his statement that he made to the press and his state of mind.” 

In January, the Catholic Diocese of Corpus Christi released the names of priests and other clergy who have been “credibly” accused of sexual abuse of minors. The list included more than 20 Diocese of Corpus Christi clergy members. 

When the names were made public, Mulvey spoke to reporters about the list. 

Bishop Michael Mulvey answers questions from the media after Diocese of Corpus Christi released a list of names of priests accused of sexual abuse of minors on Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019.

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Bishop Michael Mulvey answers questions from the media after Diocese of Corpus Christi released a list of names of priests accused of sexual abuse of minors on Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019. (Photo: Courtney Sacco/Caller-Times)

In March, lawsuits, which also name Mulvey, were filed on behalf of Fr. John Feminelli and Msgr. Michael Heras, who were among those on the list. They claimed the diocese made “false” statements by including them.

“Defendants knew the statement was false and acted with reckless disregard for the truth,” both lawsuits state. “The publication of the statement was made with malice.”

Friday’s order comes after attorneys for the bishop and the diocese filed motions to dismiss the suits.

“The Bishop’s communication to the members of the Dioceses of Corpus Christi were made in good faith and the Bishop, as author, and the members of the Diocese, as recipients, had an interest sufficiently affected by that communication,” the document states. 

That request is scheduled to be heard in June. 

The deposition approved Friday must be done before then, as it was filed by Heras and Feminelli’s attorney in response to the dismissal motions.

“The diocese is trying to short circuit the lawsuit” by filling the motion to dismiss, said attorney Andrew Greenwell, who represents Heras and Feminelli. 

Greenwell also asked for the depositions of the diocese’s press liaison and the person who publishes to their web page, but that request was denied. 

He told the Caller-Times the deposition and discovery is needed to support his case against the dismissal request. 

Attorneys for the diocese declined to comment following the hearing.

Eleanor Dearman covers the justice system and Texas politics. Consider supporting local journalism with a digital subscription to the Caller-Times.

About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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