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Vatican loses fight to keep sex files secret

Vati Leaks - Monday, February 18, 2013
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After six years of American court appeals by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to keep 30,000 pages of internal, sealed files of priesthood sex crimes out of public scrutiny, the State Supreme Court recently ordered their release, and the documents became public for the first time. They make for startling reading, soul-jarring and shocking, an incontrovertible record of brutal and heartless rapes committed by 122 Roman Catholic priests who presented themselves to the world as the earthly agents of God. These files are a remarkable archive of criminal behaviour condoned by the Holy See, and are disturbing to read. Ray Boucher, the lead attorney for plaintiffs, said that what is revealed in the files is ‘chilling’, and ‘the irony in all of this’, he added, ‘is that in their vain attempts to protect the image of the church, they’ve tarnished it beyond repair’. Upon reading the unsealed documents, an anonymous Vatican official said that the Los Angeles Catholic priesthood ‘left a wake of devastation that is hard to comprehend’.

The sacked Cardinal

As a direct result of the release of the documents, and in a move unprecedented in the American Catholic Church, Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez announced that he had relieved his predecessor, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, of all public duties over his serious mishandling of clergy sex abuse of children over the previous decades. Archbishop Gomez also announced that Auxiliary Bishop Thomas J. Curry, who worked with Cardinal Mahony to conceal child sex abusers from police, had resigned his post as a regional bishop in Santa Barbara, California. In a letter addressed to ‘My brothers and sisters in Christ’, Archbishop Gomez wrote; ‘I find these files to be brutal and painful reading. The behavior described in these files is terribly sad and evil’. Such is the nature of the Catholic priesthood the world over.

Victory for the victims

Abuse victims had insisted that the Archdiocese of Los Angeles release the records as part of a settlement in 2007, which provided $660 million to 508 victims. The Vatican’s response to intense media coverage about decades of paedophilic crimes in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles was simply to say that the accusations were nothing more than ‘petty gossip of the moment’ (Cardinal Angelo Sodano, April 2010, at Easter Mass in St. Peter’s Square), but the records of the Catholic Church now released reveal something entirely different. The published files contain key information that Catholic hierarchs used delaying tactics for six years in the Courts to prevent the public release of the documents since the global settlement was announced. Now the world can read the truth about specific men in Catholic leadership with the titles of Pope, Cardinal, Bishop, and Monsignor and how they always put the avoidance of child sex abuse scandals in the Church above the safety of children.

What are they hiding?

However, it seems that the files the archdiocese released with much fanfare are incomplete and many are unaccounted for, according to the lawyers of the abuse victims. Even the number of pages that exist in the files is in contention. At the hearing before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Emilie H. Elias in January, 2013, Mr. Hennigan, the archdiocese’s lawyer, said there were 30,000 pages, yet only 12,000 have been released, and they have missing sections, such as the names of high-ranking churchmen, and the supervisors of religious orders. In addition, many documents have had the names of particular church supervisors redacted, or blacked-out by the archdiocese’s editors, in apparent violation of the judge’s order. Terrence McKiernan, co-director of BishopAccountability.org, a victims’ advocacy group that collects and publishes documents on sexual abuse by Catholic clergy members, said; ‘They seem to be trying to protect the names of supervisors not only in Los Angeles, but in other dioceses as well’. Lawyers for the abuse victims said they were compiling a list of documents that they believe are still missing or are erroneously edited, and may file a motion in court to compel the church to release them. ‘We know we have not gotten a complete disclosure’, said Jeff Anderson, who is among the lawyers representing the victims. ‘They have removed things that should not have been removed, some of which we have seen before, so we know that they exist. It’s more deception, deceit and secrecy’.

The released files can be accessed at the following web address: http://clergyfiles.la-archdiocese.org/listing.html.
For more information, visit: http://www.zalkin.com/Sexual_Abuse_Blog/2013/January/Court_Fulfills_Promise_of_2007_Settlement_LA_Arc.aspx

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Quote of the day:

"Needless to say that they [the legends of the ‘saints’] do not embody any real historical information and their chief utility is to afford an example of the pious popular credulity of the times".

Catholic Encyclopedia, Farley Ed., Vol., i, p. 131
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