L.A. Cardinal Wants Files Kept Private

The Associated Press, carried in Seattle Post-Intelligencer [Los Angeles CA]
February 3, 2006

LOS ANGELES -- The head of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles asked the U.S. Supreme Court to let the church keep two priests' personnel records out of the hands of investigators in a sex abuse probe.

Attorneys for Cardinal Roger M. Mahony filed the petition Thursday, arguing that giving prosecutors private records on two priests would violate the constitutional separation of church and state.

The archdiocese is appealing a decision by the California Supreme Court last year ordering it to produce the files, which were subpoenaed three years ago.

Archdiocese attorney Michael Hennigan argued that the cardinal needed "protection of his continued ability to have confidential, and what we call sacred, communication with his priests."

Prosecutors countered the evidence wasn't protected by any privilege. "Our subpoenas are simply seeking evidence of these crimes, no matter who has it or how it was obtained," Brent Ferreira said.

Release of the files would mean prosecutors could scour the records for evidence that might result in criminal charges against additional clergy members, those familiar with the case have said.

Hundreds of lawsuits have been filed against the archdiocese by people who claim they were molested by priests decades ago.

In one criminal trial underway in Los Angeles, retired priest Michael Wempe is charged with molesting a boy 15 years ago. Wempe denies that allegation but has admitted molesting 13 other boys in the 1970s and 1980s; he could not be tried in those cases because the statute of limitations had expired.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.