The Los Angeles Roman Catholic Archdioces of Los Angeles says it will comply with a judge's order to release priest abuse case files that include the names of church officials involved in internal investigations.
Church officials issued a statement saying they would comply after L.A. Superior Court Judge Emilie Elias ordered the release of 30,000 pages of documents without the redactions that another judge had previously allowed.
The documents include letters and memos between top church officials and their attorneys, medical and psychological records, complaints from parents and, in some cases, correspondence with the Vatican about abusive priests.
The archdiocese issued a statement that it was “working with all parties involved to facilitate the release of the documents as promptly as possible.”
Earlier, attorneys for the archdiocese had said they would make the confidential files public by mid-January, but with the names of the church hierarchy blacked out. Now the names will stay, but the release could be delayed.
The Los Angeles Times and Associated Press filed court papers objecting to a 2011 decision by retired Judge Dickran Tevrizian that all names of church employees, including Cardinal Roger Mahony and other top archdiocese officials, be crossed out in the documents before they were made public.
Attorneys for the Times and AP argued that the redactions would prevent the public from learning which church officials knew about abusive priests, how much they knew and how they handled it.
Members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), a clergy abuse support group, applauded the decision by Judge Elias. In a statement, SNAP said its members are “thrilled and grateful that a California judge is refusing to protect corrupt Catholic officials by keeping long-secret and long-promised church abuse records hidden any longer.”
More than 550 plaintiffs settled with the archdiocese in 2007 for a record-breaking $660 million, but the agreement also called for a process to vet personnel files for future release.
More than 20 accused priests have held up the release in court for five years, arguing that making their files public would violate their privacy rights. The priests have exhausted their legal appeals, however, and the documents are expected to come out within days or weeks.