The personnel files of priests accused of sexual abuse will soon be released by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, cooperating with county judge Emilie Elias' order that the files be released without editing.
“The Archdiocese will abide by Judge Elias's decision. We are now working with all parties involved to facilitate the release of the documents as promptly as possible,” said a Jan. 7 statement from the archdiocese.
Carolina Guevara, associate director for Media Relations, added that the archdiocese “has been committed to the release of the files as part of our continued efforts to inform the public of what had occurred and our efforts to prevent abuse and protect children in our parishes and schools.”
Judge Elias' order for the release of the files was made at a hearing Jan. 7. In December, attorneys representing plaintiffs had argued that edits proposed by the archdiocese were excessive. The edits were in accord with a 2011 decision by a retired judge named Dickran Tevrizian who was acting as arbiter and who had been chosen by both sides.
Tevrizian's 2011 decision had been challenged by the Los Angeles Times and the Associated Press. The two news organizations argued that his decision would “deny the public information that is necessary to fully understand the church's knowledge about the serial molestation of children by priests over a period of decades.”
The retired judge's decision was the result of a 2007 “global settlement” between the archdiocese and victims of priest sexual abuse.
“That settlement included an agreement by the archdiocese to release pertinent information from files of priests who had been publicly accused of abuse and who were the subject of the settlement,” Archbishop Gomez wrote in a letter to his priests Dec. 20.
Most of the documents to be released have already been made public as part of the “Report to the People of God” created by the archdiocese in 2004.
The documents include psychiatric records, investigative reports, letters of complaint, and private correspondence, many of which are now 20 years old.
Tevrizian said in his 2011 court decision that his move to allow edits was made because he thought the documents would then be used only to “embarrass or to ridicule the church” and questioned that they would have any “useful purpose.”
In compliance with judge Emilie Elias' Jan. 7 order, the archdiocese hopes to release the files early this year.
“The files will also reflect fundamental growth and change in the manner in which these serious problems came to be addressed and dealt with by the archdiocese,” wrote archdiocesan attorney Michael Hennigan in a letter to the editor published in the Los Angeles Times Dec. 30.
The archdiocese now provides abuse prevention training for both adults and children. Background checks are carried out which include fingerprinting of every adult who has contact with children. More than 120,000 employees have been fingerprinted in total.
Archbishop Gomez wrote to his priests that these are “great sign(s) of our hard work to keep our children safe...we have put in place 'best practices' for child protection that can be a model for other institutions.”
He also exhorted his priests to “continue to pray for the healing of all victims of abuse.”
The archdiocese has been found in compliance with every audit of child protection measures, which have been conducted since 2004.
“While ashamed and saddened by the past, the archdiocese is justifiably proud of the present...every child who participates in a church program or school receives training every year on what to expect from adults and what to do about inappropriate behavior,” Hennigan noted in his editorial.