- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 12, 2005

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Newly released records of sex-abuse claims against 126 priests that are at the core of hundreds of lawsuits against the Archdiocese of Los Angeles show that church officials for decades moved accused priests between counseling and new assignments.

Attorneys for 500 purported victims and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles previously had agreed to release the information, but lawyers for accused clergymen succeeded in blocking publication, arguing it would violate priests’ privacy rights. An appellate court last month ordered the documents to be released after nearly three years of legal wrangling.

Church officials late Tuesday released summaries of their personnel records. In comparison, the files a judge unsealed in the Archdiocese of Boston, where the abuse crisis began in early 2002, contained doctors’ reports, memos from diocesan officials about meetings with distraught parents and other details that revealed an insensitivity to victims.

Raymond P. Boucher, the lead plaintiffs’ attorney in Los Angeles, said the newly released information was a first step, but that complete personnel files should be made public.

“The significance of these files is that they provide a little more information for the public about the church’s knowledge and frankly their participation in the molestation of children, but until the [entire] files are made public, we’re not going to be satisfied,” he said.

Archdiocese attorney J. Michael Hennigan called Mr. Boucher’s concerns that the summaries might be whitewashed “nonsense.”

“Ray has not seen the files themselves and has no basis to say that beyond speculation,” he said. “These are accurate descriptions of the content of the files, without disclosing confidential communication.”

The records cover priests who were ordained as far back as the 1920s. Cardinal Roger Mahony, who has led the archdiocese since 1985, had overseen many of the men. A spokesman for Cardinal Mahony repeatedly has insisted the cardinal wanted to reveal the information to promote reconciliation with victims, but was barred by confidentiality laws.

The documents offer details in numerous cases, including one priest who served as a teacher and administrator at numerous Southern California schools before being convicted of molesting two boys and given probation. The conviction later was expunged from his record. A subsequent report was made in 1994 of “boundary violations,” in which he purportedly patted the buttocks of a teenager. He entered alcohol treatment days later and eventually was placed on leave.

Another priest’s file shows the archdiocese received repeated complaints that he engaged in “inappropriate sexual conduct with children” beginning in 1959, but that it did not appear to take significant action against him until 1994 when he was relieved of his duties, according to the documents.

Many bishops have said they were misled by therapists to believe that a sexual attraction to young people could be cured. As church officials’ understanding of sex abuse deepened, accused priests generally were removed from the ministry altogether, Mr. Hennigan said.

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