After a years-long legal battle, the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles today released personnel files of more than 100 clergy members as part of a 2007 settlement of a lawsuit alleging sexual abuse by priests.
In conjunction with the release, Archbishop Jose Gomez announced that former Archbishop Roger Mahony will “no longer have any administrative or public duties,” and Mahony’s former top adviser on sex-abuse issues, Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Curry, has stepped down as regional bishop of Santa Barbara.
The clergy files include the names of priests, culminating years of legal wrangling over whether names should be redacted from the paperwork.
“The 2013 public release of the files of clergy who were subject of the 2007 global settlement concludes a sad and shameful chapter in the history of our local church,” according to a diocese statement announcing the release of the files. “In the 2004 Report to the People of God and elsewhere, the archdiocese acknowledged and apologized for failing to treat victims of abuse with compassion, as well as for employing what we now know to be inadequate standards for treatment and supervision of priests who were found to have abused children and young people.”
According to the diocese’s website, 124 files were released, with 82 containing information on allegations of childhood sexual abuse. The remaining files contain “proffers,” which are summaries compiled in anticipation of litigation.
The files contain roughly 12,000 pages.
The files were made available online at http://clergyfiles.la-archdiocese.org.
A Los Angeles judge had originally ruled that the diocese could redact the name of priests and church leaders from the personnel files, but that decision was later reversed by a different judge. Despite some last-minute legal jockeying, the diocese agreed to include names in the files. Earlier today, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Emilie H. Elias ordered the release of the documents by Feb. 22.
The diocese released them within hours of that decision.
The diocese reached a $660 million settlement in 2007 with about 500 alleged victims. As part of that settlement, the diocese agreed to release the personnel files of clergy accused of abuse.
Some of the files were released last week in connection with a separate civil case. That paperwork showed evidence of Mahony and Curry discussing ways to prevent law enforcement from learning about molestations of children more than a decade before the abuses became public knowledge.
Gomez, the current Archbishop, issued a statement saying that while the files document abuses that occurred decades ago, “that does not make them less serious.”
“I find these files to be brutal and painful reading,” he said. “The behavior described in these files is terribly sad and evil. There is no excuse, no explaining away what happened to these children. The priests involved had the duty to be their spiritual fathers and they failed.
“We need to acknowledge that terrible failure today,” he said. “We need to pray for everyone who has ever been hurt by members of the church. And we need to continue to support the long and painful process of healing their wounds and restoring the trust that was broken.”
Many of the files include letters from members of the diocese detailing acts of abuse and demanding a response. In one case, the alleged victim reacts angrily to a suggestion by Mahony that he seek comfort from the church.
“You expect me to go and receive the sacrament of reconciliation and then that of Holy Communion at the hands of a priest??” the letter states.
“… I am sure I wasn’t the only S.O.B. he molested. I could’ve sued, I could’ve told my parents, I could’ve ??? Instead, I did what I was told to do .. `Leave it to God’ and lived with the pain, in silence.”
In his statement, Gomez continued to offer the church’s support for victims.
“To every victim of child sexual abuse by a member of our church: I want to help you in your healing. I am profoundly sorry for these sins against you,” Gomez said. “To every Catholic in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, I want you to know: We will continue, as we have for many years now, to immediately report every credible allegation of abuse to law enforcement authorities and to remove those credibly accused from ministry. We will continue to work, every day, to make sure that our children are safe and loved and cared for in our parishes, schools and in every ministry in the archdiocese.”