May 18, 2005

Files: O.C. diocese did little to stem abuse


By Laura Wides and
Gillian Flaccus
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES Personnel files released Tuesday by court order show that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange knew for years of allegations of sexual misconduct against priests and lay workers but did little to warn parishioners or prevent future abuse.

The private personnel files of the 14 priests and one lay coach were released after Superior Court Judge Peter Lichtman ruled that to do so was in the state's "compelling interest in protecting children from abuse." The files of five other priests and three lay teachers were withheld because they contested the release.

The decision was heralded by the priests' accusers, who reached a record-breaking $100 million settlement with the diocese in December after nearly two years. As part of that agreement, the diocese agreed not to block the release of private files on the accused priests and lay workers.

"This was a very important and historic decision," said Ray Boucher, an attorney for the plaintiffs. He said he would appeal the judge's decision to seal the remaining eight files.

Bishop Tod D. Brown welcomed the unsealing.

The settlement "was about taking moral responsibility for sins of the past that have caused suffering and pain," Brown wrote. "Today's release follows through on my commitment to the victims and their loved ones."

Posted by kshaw at May 18, 2005 05:09 AM