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Spotlight Report

Record of Jesuit's care at issue in abuse case

By Wendy Davis, Globe Correspondent, 4/16/2003

Lawyers defending the Rev. James F. Talbot on criminal sex abuse charges asked a judge yesterday to quash a subpoena to turn over treatment records from the St. Luke Institute in Maryland. They contended that the records contain confidential statements made to therapists and priests.

Defense lawyer Timothy O'Neill argued to Superior Court Judge Carol S. Ball that the laws of Massachusetts and Maryland require that statements made to counselors or religious leaders be kept secret.

But prosecutor Audrey C. Mark argued that confidentiality laws do not apply because, she said, Talbot's primary reason for speaking to counselors and religious officials was for his employer, the Society of Jesus, to determine his fitness to work, rather than to receive treatment.

Ball reserved a decision.

Talbot is facing criminal charges that he molested high school students at Boston College High School, where he taught and coached sports between 1972 and 1980. Earlier this year, 14 male former students, 10 from BC High, agreed to settle claims against him for $5.2 million. Additional civil lawsuits against Talbot are pending.

Talbot was sent by his superiors to St. Luke's in 1998 and spent approximately 26 months at the Maryland center.

While there, he signed a limited release allowing his religious superior, the Rev. John P. Murray, SJ, to receive treatment reports, according to papers filed by the Society of Jesus.

Mark argued that Talbot waived his right to confidentiality because he agreed from the beginning that his therapy sessions would be shared with a third person.

But Paul B. Galvani, a lawyer representing the Society of Jesus, argued that the release Talbot signed did not waive confidentiality because the release specifically provided that the reports would be disclosed only to Murray.

O'Neill said statements made to a therapist should be kept confidential, arguing that otherwise people might not agree to seek help. Allowing the records to be subpoenaed, said O'Neill, would ''destroy the ability of an order such as the Society of Jesus to treat men.''

He argued that Talbot's ''openness in the treatment was predicated on the understanding that this would be released only to his superior.''

O'Neill also argued that the 26-month period Talbot spent at St. Luke's shows that he went there for treatment, not evaluation.

This story ran on page B4 of the Boston Globe on 4/16/2003.
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