May 25, 2005

Files reveal Orange County diocese paid thousands for priests', accusers' medical bills

Mercury News

Associated Press

LOS ANGELES - The Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange paid thousands of dollars to treat allegedly abusive priests and their accusers but permitted some acknowledged molesters to continue in the ministry, newly released files show.

Nine priests were ordered into therapy after being accused of sexual abuse. Nearly 1,000 pages of confidential documents from their files were released Tuesday.

The files included medical bills, psychological evaluations of accused clergy, letters between bishops and, in one case, a petition for laicization to Pope John Paul II written by the accused priest himself.

It was the second mass release of such papers in a week. The first batch of some 10,000 pages of files was released on May 17 as part of a record-breaking, $100 million settlement between the diocese and 87 plaintiffs who had sued over alleged abuse.

The files showed that priests accused of sexual misconduct typically received counseling until a 2002 "zero tolerance" policy was adopted.

Siegfried Widera, for example, was barred from priestly duties and sent to a Catholic treatment center in New Mexico in 1985. According to a psychological evaluation, he acknowledged molesting at least 10 boys in Orange County.

However, the director of the center wrote in a 1986 progress report that he believed Widera "will continue to be a good minister within the church."

Posted by kshaw at May 25, 2005 06:39 AM