May 19, 2005

Files on Some Accused Priests May Remain Sealed

CALIFORNIA
Los Angeles Times

By Jean Guccione, Times Staff Writer

Alleged victims of pedophile priests celebrated when secret files showing Diocese of Orange officials had covered up for abusive priests were released Tuesday. But their triumph came at a cost.

Though Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Peter D. Lichtman allowed lawyers for accusers to open 15 files to the public, the judge had said he was "powerless" to order the release of information on eight accused priests and educators who objected to the diocese disclosing their secrets.

The ruling could mean that hotly contested files including the ones Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles has been fighting to conceal for two years will remain sealed forever unless alleged victims mount costly legal battles.

"It's a triumph for the predators and those who protect them," said Jeff Anderson, a St. Paul, Minn., lawyer who specializes in clergy sex-abuse cases.

The Los Angeles accusers had been trying to negotiate an out-of-court settlement just like the Orange Diocese's record $100-million pact one that would include money and full disclosure of church files, they said.

But after eight priests and educators objected that their privacy rights would be violated if the information got out, Lichtman said he couldn't order the release because he had no jurisdiction over the settled cases.

Posted by kshaw at May 19, 2005 04:16 AM