Catholic church releases sexual abuse files, relieves cardinal of duties

The archdiocese of Los Angeles releases thousands of pages of personnel records, revealing a "sad and shameful chapter in the history of our local church."

Eric Gay / AP / File
Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, seen here on Ash Wednesday 2005, announced tonight that he had relieved retired Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony of his remaining duties. Earlier this evening, the church released thousands of files documenting priest sexual abuse.

The Catholic archdiocese of Los Angeles is releasing thousands of pages of personnel files relating to child molestation by priests, part of a 2007 civil court settlement.

The archbishop also announced that he has relieved retired Cardinal Roger Mahony of his remaining duties, and a former top aide to Mahony has stepped down from his current post as auxiliary bishop of Santa Barbara.

"I find these files to be brutal and painful reading," Archbishop Jose Gomez said in a statement, referring to the documents made public by the church Thursday night. "The behavior described in these files is terribly sad and evil. There is no excuse, no explaining away what happened to these children." Gomez said that he has "informed Cardinal Mahony that he will no longer have any administrative or public duties."

Mahony, who retired in 2011 after more than a quarter-century at the helm of the archdiocese, has publicly apologized for mistakes he made in dealing with priests who molested children.

Gomez also said Thomas Curry, former vicar of the clergy under Mahony who was the cardinal's point person in dealing with priests accused of molestation, has stepped down from his Santa Barbara post. Curry also issued an apology earlier this month.

Earlier Thursday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Emilie Elias ordered the diocese to turn over thousands of pages from the confidential files of priests accused of child molestation without blacking out the names of top church officials who were responsible for handling priests accused of abuse.

The judge gave the archdiocese until Feb. 22 to turn over the files to attorneys for the alleged victims, but they were released almost immediately.

The church said in a statement that the files' release "concludes a sad and shameful chapter in the history of our local church."

The archdiocese, the nation's largest, had planned to black out the names of members of the church hierarchy who were responsible for the priests, and instead provide a cover sheet for each priest's file, listing the names of top officials who handled that case. The church reversed course Wednesday after The Associated Press, the Los Angeles Times and plaintiff attorneys objected in court.

A record-breaking $660 million settlement in 2007 with more than 500 alleged victims paved the way for the ultimate disclosure of the tens of thousands of pages, but the archdiocese and individual priests fought to keep them secret for more than five years.

A first round of 14 priest files made public in Los Angeles nearly two weeks ago showed that Mahony and other top officials maneuvered behind the scenes to shield molester priests, provide damage control for the church, and keep parishioners in the dark about sexual abuse in their parishes. Those documents, released as part of an unrelated civil lawsuit, were not redacted and provided a glimpse of what could be contained in the larger release.

The files, some of them dating back decades, contain letters among top church officials, accused priests and archdiocese attorneys, complaints from parents, medical and psychological records and — in some cases — correspondence with the Vatican.

Similar document releases in other dioceses, including Boston, have shown top church officials shuffled molesting priests from parish to parish, failed to call police, and kept parishioners in the dark.

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