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L.A. Files Show Decades of Priests' Sex Abuse

Records released by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles paint a picture of a church hierarchy that repeatedly failed to protect child victims. In an out-of-court settlement reached with the lawyers for 560 alleged victims, the archdiocese agreed to make public the personnel records of 126 priests accused of sexual abuse.

The files show that for more than 75 years, the nation's largest Catholic archdiocese shipped priests accused of sexual abuse back and forth between therapy and new assignments, often ignoring the complaints of parishioners. At least eight priests accused of sexual misconduct were allowed to remain in contact with children.

In many cases, there was little mention of sexual molestation, with euphemisms such as "boundary violations" used instead. The documents offer details in numerous cases, though much of the information has already been published.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs had objected to the documents' release, saying other personnel documents which the church has refused to make public would show the church in a worse light.

Raymond P. Boucher, the plaintiffs' lead attorney, said the newly released information was a first step but that complete personnel files, including letters of transfer and other confidential documents, should be made public.

"The significance of these files is that they provide a little more information for the public about the church's knowledge and frankly their participation in the molestation of children, but until the (entire) files are made public, we're not going to be satisfied," he said.

Tod Tamberg, spokesman for the archdiocese, said plaintiffs' concerns that the summaries might be whitewashed were unfounded.

"It's not as simple and as sinister certainly as the plaintiffs' attorneys would allege," said Tamberg. "A judge has gone through all of these documents and so what we have here is not some papered-over church public relations ploy. This is something that reflects what is in those files as determined by a judge as proper for release."

The archdiocese has posted nearly 150 pages of summaries from the clergy files on its Web site.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.