After five and a half years of litigation, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles was ordered to release 12,000 pages of what had been confidential personnel files expected to reveal details of child sexual abuse by priests going back to the 1940s. The Archdiocese posted the files on its website on Thursday, and sex abuse victims, their attorneys and other interested groups have been spending hours poring over the documents in search of answers.
Among many disturbing revelations found in the documents was evidence that archdiocese officials, while acting as if outraged over one particular priest's repeated molestation of children, did virtually nothing to aid his victims.
Additionally, it appears to have been church practice to protect abusers from exposure to criminal charges by referring priest-child molesters to treatment by a Catholic order called the Servants of the Paraclete in New Mexico, which was tasked with rehabilitating them -- rehabilitation that seems to have been distinctly ineffective. That group, in turn, also protected the priests from law enforcement. The Servants were disbanded after a flood of lawsuits in the 1990s in which it was revealed that all of the priests' treatment records had been destroyed.
Destroying records was apparently a recurring theme in the documents, according to the LA Times. They quoted a letter from the acting director of the Servants of Paraclete to Archbishop Roger M. Mahony which detailed therapists' notes about a priest known to have molested numerous children:
"Once more, we ask you to PLEASE DESTROY THESE PAGES AND ANY OTHER MATERIAL YOU HAVE RECEIVED FROM US," the letter reads in part. "This is stated for your own and our legal protection."
The so-called treatment the priests received at the New Mexico facility was shown repeatedly to have been slipshod and ineffective. For example, one priest was treated there for months in 1994 after being accused of convincing altar boys to allow his sexual advances using alcohol and marijuana. Upon his release from treatment, that priest immediately applied for a job at the Arizona Boys School.
All in all, the records cast serious doubt on Archbishop Mahony's past statements that the events occurred in the 1980s, early in his career as archbishop, and that he had instituted strong protections for children after that period.
Current Archbishop Jose Gomez announced Thursday that Archbishop Mahony will no longer have any administrative or public duties, "effective immediately."
Source: Los Angeles Times, "Priest files reveal disturbing stories of child molestation, coverup," Harriet Ryan, Victoria Kim, Ashley Powers, Mitchell Landsberg and Teresa Watanabe, Feb. 2, 2013