07 February 2013
By GILLIAN FLACCUS | Associated Press
After alleged victims complained of key omissions, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles has said it would release additional documents from internal clergy abuse files.
The church made the announcement Wednesday after alleged victims said some 12,000 pages released last week were missing critical memos and contained excessive redactions.
The documents in question from the file of former priest Michael Baker span a 14 year-period — from 1986 to 2000 — and provide insight into how retired Cardinal Roger Mahony and other church leaders dealt with him.
The Associated Press reported from an unredacted copy of the Baker file last month that contained documents that were not included in the archdiocese’s disclosure.
The archdiocese acknowledged it had erred in keeping those pages sealed after the AP inquired Wednesday about the documents.
“They will be posted shortly,” archdiocese attorney Michael Hennigan said in an email. “It is our intention to do this completely and correctly.”
He did not immediately respond to a follow-up email asking how the archdiocese failed to include the Baker memos in its Jan. 31 release.
The archdiocese posted more than 120 confidential priest files online less than an hour after a Los Angeles judge ordered it to release the papers without redacting the names of members of the church hierarchy who made key decisions about how to handle priests accused of molestation.
The files show Mahony and other top church leaders shielded pedophile priests to protect the church and repeatedly failed to report child abuse to law enforcement despite clear knowledge of the crimes clergy members had committed.
The archdiocese agreed to the release as part of a $660 million settlement with abuse victims in 2007. Attorneys for individual priests fought for five years to prevent the papers from being made public, and the archdiocese tried to blot out large sections, including the names of hierarchy involved in decision making.
The AP and Los Angeles Times fought successfully to have the names of Mahony and top church officials made public.
Alleged victims and their advocates applauded the archdiocese’s decision to release more pages but said there are other problems with missing pages and blacked-out names and paragraphs.
“It’s not unanticipated that as things are pointed out to the archdiocese, they will go back and correct it,” plaintiff attorney Anthony De Marco said. “If it’s not pointed out, they won’t correct it.”
The archdiocese has until Feb. 22 to comply with the order by the judge, who has the power to resolve disputes.
The documents initially omitted by the archdiocese include a December 1986 letter that Mahony wrote to Baker summarizing a private meeting in which the priest said he had molested two brothers for years.
Also left out were two internal memos describing Baker’s ongoing contact with minors despite a psychiatrist’s recommendation that he stay away from children or be defrocked, and an August 2000 memo in which a top Mahony aide suggests that the church contact police about Baker. The priest was performing baptisms without permission and had skipped a disciplinary meeting without explanation.
“Since it appears he continues to use his status as a cleric to gain access to families, I will be consulting with the families for whom Father Baker did the baptisms and depending on what is learned there, there may be other bases for ecclesiastical penalties,” wrote Msgr. Richard Loomis, the vicar for clergy in charge of priestly discipline. “We may also be in the position of reporting Father Baker’s activities to the police.”
Baker, who is believed to have molested 20 children in his 26-year career, was sentenced to prison for child molestation in 2007.
“Obviously, these omissions matter. If the DA or any other reader reads only the (archdiocese) file, they won’t appreciate that Baker violated his restrictions repeatedly and flagrantly for years before he was permanently removed,” said Anne Barrett Doyle, co-founder of BishopAccountability.org, which tracks public releases of internal clergy abuse documents from dioceses nationwide.
Doyle believes there are 66 other documents missing from Baker’s file alone and said her group is considering filing a brief with the court.
Several plaintiff attorneys are also considering filing a motion, but are still poring over the files, De Marco said.
The archdiocese will review disputed documents and redactions as they are brought to its attention, Hennigan said in his email.
One of Baker’s victims, Matt Severson, said he had not planned to read the priest’s confidential file until a friend called him and urged him to do so.
The missing documents upset Severson, he said, but not as much as reading references to his own abuse in Baker’s words.
The priest told a therapist at a center where Mahony sent him for evaluation that his relationship with Severson was “very beautiful” and that the young boy was “the focus of his affection” although he had also molested other children. The priest molested Severson for a decade, beginning when Severson was about 10.
Seeing those descriptions brought back painful memories — but also a sense of relief, said Severson, now 45.
“In the mix of all these swirling emotions, there’s also a sense of validation,” he said. “I see myself in here and as painful as it is, it’s helpful.”
Los Angeles Archdiocese Is Accused of Failing to Release All Abuse Records
The New York Times
Published: February 4, 2013
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles released 12,000 pages of internal files last Thursday on priests accused of sexually abusing children, saying that it was finally abiding by a settlement it signed with victims six years ago to make the painful history public.
But it now appears that the files the church released with much fanfare are incomplete and many are unaccounted for, according to the abuse victims’ lawyers. In addition, on many documents the names of church supervisors informed of abuse allegations were redacted by the archdiocese, in apparent violation of a judge’s order.
At issue is whether the survivors of abuse and the public will ever learn which church officials were responsible for mishandling or covering up allegations of sexual abuse.
Abuse victims had insisted that the Archdiocese of Los Angeles release the records as part of a settlement in 2007, which provided $660 million to more than 500 victims. Other Catholic dioceses that have settled with victims have released similar records.
“We know we have not gotten a complete disclosure,” said Jeff Anderson, who is among the lawyers representing the victims. “They have removed things that should not have been removed, some of which we have seen before, so we know that they exist. It’s more deception, deceit and secrecy.”
But J. Michael Hennigan, a lawyer for the Los Angeles Archdiocese, said in an interview that while there were probably a few errors, there was no intention to withhold information.
“I would be surprised if we did this job perfectly,” he said. “The team that worked on this worked under pressure sometimes late into the night.”
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles fought for six years all the way to the State Supreme Court to block the release of the documents. Early in January, Judge Emilie H. Elias overturned a previous decision, and ordered the archdiocese to lift the redactions of the names of certain kinds of officials: archbishops and bishops, vicars for clergy members and directors of treatment facilities, as well as pastors, “church agents” or employees who had supervisory responsibility over an accused priest and were made aware of complaints or suspicions about him.
But on many pages it appears that the names of supervisors, like pastors in parishes or the supervisors of religious orders, are missing.
For example, the file on Carlos Rodriguez, a priest serving in a parish in Central Los Angeles, includes a letter to him from his religious order, the Vincentian Fathers and Brothers, informing him that he is being sent to a treatment center in Maryland. Mr. Rodriguez was accused of molesting several teenage boys over the years. But while the letter makes clear that the writer is the priest’s religious superior, the name is redacted. Other documents in the file are similarly missing names of religious order supervisors.
Terrence McKiernan, co-director of BishopAccountability.org, a victims’ advocacy group that collects documents on sexual abuse by clergy members, said he found many omissions by comparing the files on priests released by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles with those released by the Diocese of Orange. The Orange Diocese used to be part of the Los Angeles Archdiocese, so there is an overlap in some files.
“They seem to be trying to protect the names of supervisors not only in Los Angeles, but in other dioceses as well,” Mr. McKiernan said.
Even the number of pages that exist in the files is now in contention.
At the hearing before Judge Elias on Jan. 7, Mr. Hennigan, the archdiocese’s lawyer, said there were 30,000 pages, arguing that it would take too long for his team to go through and remove the redactions on everything they had already redacted. “We have 30,000 pages,” he said. “Every page has to be gone through. Every redaction has to be examined afresh.”
But when the church announced on Jan. 31 that it was releasing the redacted files and making them accessible through its Web site, the announcement pointed out that there were actually only 12,000 pages of files.
Mr. Hennigan said the reason for the discrepancy was that the 30,000 number was a “wild guess” he had made based on how many bankers boxes of documents he had.
But several lawyers for the victims said it was absurd to think that the church was so off base on the count of documents it had already redacted.
Lawyers for the abuse victims said they were compiling a list of documents that they believe are missing or are erroneously redacted, and may file a motion next week to compel the church to release them.