Cardinal Mahony Ordered to Provide Files

By Jean Guccione
LA Times [Los Angeles CA]
September 8, 2004

Cardinal Roger M. Mahony was ordered today to turn over documents in the secret personnel files of Roman Catholic priests accused of sexually abusing children after a judge rejected his claim that prosecutors were interfering with Roman Catholic Church operations, in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Superior Court Judge Thomas F. Nuss ruled that disclosing internal documents to criminal investigators doesn't violate the ability of the church to freely exercise religion, nor does it illegally entangle the state in church business. Rather, the state has a compelling interest in prosecuting child molesters, he ruled.

Mahony's lawyers who have waged a fierce, 2-year legal battle behind closed doors to keep the subpoenaed documents secret have vowed to appeal Nuss' ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.

Those hardball tactics were criticized this year by an independent Catholic national review board that found that Mahony's legal "argument did little to enhance the reputation of the church in the United States for transparency and cooperation."

Mahony's quest to withhold the documents is being fought on two fronts: in the criminal case, where prosecutors have charged two priests with molesting children, and in the civil arena, where lawyers for more than 500 alleged victims say those papers will prove that the church hierarchy failed to protect children from known molesters.

Prosecutors have for 27 months through the Los Angeles County Grand Jury sought Archdiocese of Los Angeles records regarding child sexual abuse committed by Catholic clergy.

"Our intention is to gather evidence wherever it exists," said Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley, whose prosecution of a dozen priests for older crimes was blocked by the courts last year.

Cooley praised the ruling: "I once again urge Cardinal Mahony, as I first did in 2002, to give priority to the protection of children from child molestation by providing the fullest possible disclosure of evidence of sexual abuse by clergy," he said.


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