Personnel files of Los Angeles Archdiocese Roman Catholic priests accused of sexual molestation will be released to the public within the next few months, an archdiocese lawyer said Wednesday.
The release follows a decision by the California Supreme Court on Wednesday to deny an attempt by individual priests to keep the records private.
J. Michael Hennigan, an attorney for the archdiocese, said the church agreed as part of a 2006 settlement to release the personnel files of several dozen accused priests. The archdiocese paid $660 million to settle more than 500 lawsuits filed by people who said they had been sexually abused by priests.
“We have already selected the documents that are going to be released, gone through a process of redacting innocent names and we need a court order” signing off on the release of the documents, Hennigan said.
Anthony DeMarco, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said that the court order already has been signed and that he hopes to have the records within days. He insisted that the archdiocese has tried to prevent the records’ release.
“They will show time and time again that complaints were raised to church leadership — to bishops and archbishops and everyone else in leadership — that given priests were sexually molesting kids, and time and time again the priests were shuffled elsewhere and the victims disregarded,” DeMarco said.
He said the records will show that persons still in power at the archdiocese or in other dioceses did not protect the victims and made it possible for the priests to molest again.
Although Wednesday’s court decision involved about 25 priests, the settlement calls for the release of records involving about 200 priests, DeMarco said. He said he expects all the records to be made public soon.
Elsewhere in the country, the release of personnel files of accused priests has produced damaging revelations.
In Orange County, where the files of 15 accused abusers were released five months after cases were settled in late 2004, records revealed that church officials dumped one serial molester in Tijuana, welcomed a convicted child abuser from another state and offered a repeat abuser up to $19,000 to leave the priesthood quietly.