LA priest abuse files might be redacted

The Associated Press
Thursday, March 10, 2011; 10:55 PM

LOS ANGELES -- Attorneys for people who claim sexual abuse by priests from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles were dealt a legal blow Thursday when a judge prohibited the release of files of priests with only one unsubstantiated claim against them.

The ruling came during a mediation hearing in the lengthy fight over the confidential files kept by the church on the Roman Catholic priests.

Retired Judge Dikran Tevrizian, who has been overseeing meditation about the documents, issued the tentative decision.

For the remaining files, Tevrizian said the names of church employees, including top leaders within the archdiocese, should be redacted - something plaintiffs bitterly opposed because they believe the files will show evidence of a cover-up at the highest levels.

The order appeared to allow the names of the accused priests themselves to remain in the documents. But attorneys from both sides disagreed on that point after the hearing, and Tevrizian declined to answer questions from reporters.

Tevrizian recommended the release of files for priests convicted of abuse; those found liable or who have admitted guilt in civil court; and those who have died.

The mediation judge will issue a final order within 45 days that will be forwarded to the Los Angeles Superior Court judge overseeing the litigation. She will likely hold another hearing before issuing a final order.

The two sides have been battling since 2007 over what will be released from the files of the 233 accused priests.

The legal dispute began when the archdiocese paid a record $660 million to settle more than 550 cases.

The settlement agreement included provisions for the release of some priest files, but how much of that material will eventually become public has driven the four years of litigation.

Many of the files have never been seen by anyone outside the church, and plaintiffs' attorneys argue that the papers could include internal correspondence, psychiatric records, letters and defrocking paperwork that show the archdiocese was aware of abuse and conspired to cover it up.

The judge, however, reminded attorneys for the alleged victims that the civil lawsuits underlying the settlement have been dismissed, and that getting into the "nitty gritty" of the priests' files could do more harm than good.

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