After five years of legal wrangling, confidential personnel files of at least 69 priests accused of sexually abusing children in the Los Angeles Archdiocese could be ordered released as early as January, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge said Monday.
Judge Emilie H. Elias set a hearing for Jan. 7 to hear objections to the release of what a church attorney said were five or six banker's boxes of files relating to the archdiocese's handling of child molestation claims, which could include internal memos, Vatican correspondence and psychiatric reports.
The public release of the files was agreed to as part of a record $660-million settlement reached in 2007 between the archdiocese and 562 people who alleged that they were molested as children by clergy members. The process, overseen by a retired judge, was beset by delays and faced objections from an attorney representing at least 30 of the priests, who contends that his clients' constitutional rights to privacy are at stake.
The retired judge, Dickran Tevrizian, also ordered that all names of church leaders, including Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, who retired as archbishop last year, be blacked out in the files, saying the information should not be used to embarrass the archdiocese. Attorneys for The Times on Friday filed a motion opposing the redaction of church officials' names, contending that the public has a right to know who in the hierarchy knew of molestation allegations and what they did about it.