May 15, 2005

Clues to abuse scandal waiting in files

Orange County Register

Steven Greenhut

As massive institutional and moral failings go, the Roman Catholic Church's child-rape scandal is a doozy. It is almost unfathomable that the church could become so infested by those who twisted Christ's love of children ("Suffer the little children to come unto me ...") into exploitation, and that many leaders refused to side with the victims.

Now that a record-setting settlement has been provided by the Diocese of Orange, and personnel records here are about to be released (although the archdiocese of Los Angeles and many dioceses across the country continue to resist the release of documents), it's useful to look for clues about why the scandal took place.

The files, as bland as they seem, might offer answers about what church leaders knew and when they knew it, which is why abuse victims, notably Joelle Casteix and her attorney John Manly, insisted that the $100 million settlement for 87 Orange Diocese victims include the documents' release.

The church, to its credit, complied and turned the files over to the court. Some alleged abusers are asking to keep the documents sealed, and the court will decide this month. The terms of the settlement: All documents relating to the sexual abuse of children are to be released, although alleged abusers can keep other documents - i.e., performance reviews, 401(k) information, etc. - outside of the public's view.

My theory is the files will include detailed documentation of abuse by priests and others and then glowing review letters sent by the church to the next diocese or employer, thereby shuttling the problem somewhere else. That's what we saw when the Boston archdiocese documents were released by the court.

Posted by kshaw at May 15, 2005 05:25 PM