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Newly released file details clergy sex abuse in Santa Barbara

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Files detailing alleged clergy abuse at Franciscans' St. Anthony Seminary, a former boarding school in Santa Barbara, have been released following a lengthy legal battle.

The documents, posted online at bishopaccountability.org, contain accusations of sexual abuse of children, and an account of a man who describes being molested there as a child and later molesting other childeren, says the L.A. Times.

For decades, the now-shuttered St. Anthony's Seminary was awash in dark secrets. A cache of documents obtained in a lawsuit and posted online Wednesday, including [Robert] Van Handel's so-called sexual autobiography, has begun to shed some light on them.

The documents, containing accounts of 25 alleged victims who say they were abused by nine clergy members, is the largest release of a Roman Catholic religious order's confidential files, according to a plaintiffs' attorney. Van Handel is the only one of them who has been criminally convicted, notes the newspaper.

"This isn't as good as having them listed on the Megan's Law website," said plaintiffs attorney Tim Hale, referring to the online sex offender database. "But it is a vindication of the victims who stepped up." 

The files are not part of another ongoing legal battle involving the Los Angeles Archdiocese, which agreed to pay alleged abuse victims $660 million in 2007, but has yet to release priests' internal files.

Of the accused molesters named in the lawsuit, three have died, four are no longer members of the clergy, and two -- Mario Cimmarrusti and Samuel Cabot -- are still members of the order but not in positions where they interact with children, according to the Franciscans' attorney, Brian Brosnahan.

The alleged victims were among those who stepped forward when California gave childhood molestation victims one year to file lawsuits after "the pervasiveness of sex abuse allegations in the Catholic Church came to light in the early 2000s," notes the Times. 

The Franciscans agreed to pay the plaintiffs $28 million in 2006 but the ongoing fight has been about releasing the clergy members' personnel files.

 

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