Los Angeles Achdiocese to Release Personnel Files of Priests Accused of Abuse
By Christina Villacorte
LA Daily News
October 12, 2012
Five years after agreeing to do so, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles is poised to release personnel files on 25 former priests accused of sex abuse and child molestation, after the state Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected the former priests' appeal to keep the documents confidential.
The release of the documents was part of the Archdiocese's record $660 million settlement in 2007 to 508 people who said they were victims.
Former priests sued to block the release of the documents, but lost. The state Supreme Court denied their appeal Wednesday.
Archdiocese spokesman Tod Tamberg did not say when the documents would be released, only that it would happen "at some point in the not-too-distant future."
Joelle Casteix, Western regional director for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said victims have waited too long for those personnel files to be made public.
"No amount of money in a financial settlement can heal the wounds of childhood sex abuse," she said in a written statement. "That is why victims fought to expose secret sex abuse files."
"Catholics and the community can now know the true scope and scale of abuse and cover-up," she added. "Most importantly, exposing the files also helps victims keep children safe RIGHT NOW."
Tamberg said the Archdiocese has been "cooperative" and stressed it was the accused former priests' lawyers who tried to block the release of the documents.
He added the Archdiocese has spent the last several years trying to redact the names of innocent priests from the personnel files, which is allowed under the settlement. Victims' attorneys are present when the names are removed.
"We're still working under the order of the court, which was accepted by plaintiffs' attorneys, to redact the names of innocent people," he said.
"Once that's completed to the judge's satisfaction, then presumably she'll sign an order to release the documents."
Tamberg said the process for releasing the documents did not begin in earnest until about two years after the settlement was reached. He said further delays were caused by a judge recusing himself from the process, and the considerable wait for another judge to set the rules for redacting names.
"There have been twists and turns along the way, with former priests objecting to their files being produced, but I think everybody would agree we're at the end of that process," Tamberg added.
Casteix said she hopes the personnel files - which should include any complaints against the former priests and how the church responded to them - can be used to protect children.
"We hope that law enforcement, who may be actively investigating many of these men, will vigorously review these files and use any evidence in them to punish wrongdoers and keep children safe," she said.
Former Archbishop Roger Mahony once fought against making the documents public but stopped contesting their release as part of the settlement.
The former priests whose personnel files will be released are: Michael Buckley, Santiago Tamayo, Kevin Barmasse, Angel Cruces, Donald Patrick Roemer, Peter Garcia, Cristobal Garcia, Lawrence Lovell, John Salazar, Matthew Sprouffske, Lynn Cafoe, Michael Baker, John Dawson, Gerald Fessard, Michael Wempe, Carlos Rene Rodriguez, James Ford, Richard Allen Henry, Michael Nocita, Luis Jaramillo, George Neville Rucker, George Miller, Eleuterio Ramos, Benjamin Hawkes and Fidencio Silva.
News of the impending release of confidential personnel files on former priests accused of abuse comes days after a Seattle plaintiffs attorney released the names of 1,900 men kicked out of Boy Scouts of America for alleged sexual abuse from 1970-1991.
Next week, by order of the Oregon Supreme Court, the Boy Scouts is expected to release 1,200 files on alleged sexual abuse spanning 1965-1985.