Friday, January 19, 2018


Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves

Mathew 19:18

By Greg Moran | | Oct. 26, 2010

The Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego’s release of previously confidential files on priests accused of sexual misconduct is a landmark development in the abuse scandal, lawyers and advocates for victims said Monday.

The 10,000 pages of documents made available over the weekend extend back more than a half century and constitute what one expert called the most significant cache of clergy abuse files that has been released since 2003.

And more could be on the way, say lawyers for the 144 people who sued the diocese over claims they were molested as children.

The diocese is claiming some 2,000 more pages of documents relating to the priests should remain private, but the final decision will be made by a retired San Diego Superior Court judge who has been charged with deciding what documents should be made public.

In 2007, the diocese agreed to a $198.1 million settlement of all the claims. A key portion of the settlement was release of the files of priests, after a judge had reviewed them.

In a two-sentence statement Monday, the diocese said it has complied with all aspects of the settlement. The money was paid out in 2008. The statement added, “It is the ongoing hope of the Diocese that all victims will continue on a path toward healing and reconciliation.”

A portion of the released documents offers a glimpse into the inner workings of the diocese over the decades as it dealt with some priests accused of abuse. They confirm what plaintiffs and their lawyers have long said — that in some instances the diocese quietly moved priests who had molested children from parish to parish and sometimes ushered them out of the country.

Such black-and-white documentation of the church’s conduct is important, victim advocates said Monday. Paul Livingston, with the San Diego chapter of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said it was “a huge step forward in terms of transparency.”

“The upshot is that people are going to be informed. And when they are informed, children are going to be protected,” Livingston said.

The released documents are more significant than batches made public as part of litigation in Orange County in 2005, Portland, Ore., in 2008, or Bridgeport, Conn., in 2009, said Terry McKiernan, founder of the website, which has tracked the sex abuse scandal.

McKiernan said the depth and breadth of the San Diego documents is rivaled in importance only by a trove released in 2003 in New Hampshire.

Among other things, he said, he was struck that many priests who were accused of abuse were from foreign countries, perhaps more than any other diocese in the nation.

That raises the question of whether San Diego bishops actively recruited, or agreed to accept, problem priests being moved from other dioceses, he said.

McKiernan said the release of the San Diego records also might spur the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to make public similar documents. As part of its settlement with more than 500 people in 2007, the archdiocese agreed to release files about priests accused of abuse.

Raymond Boucher, a Los Angeles lawyer involved in the San Diego and Los Angeles litigation, said those documents are still tied up in review by a judge. Boucher said he expected some of the documents to be released by the end of the year.

Irwin Zalkin, a San Diego lawyer who represented many of the plaintiffs, said the San Diego diocese is arguing that certain legal privileges — such as those between a therapist and patient, or attorney and client — bar the release of the remaining 2,000 pages of records. He said because most of the 48 priests whose files have been released are deceased, the protection does not apply.

The lawyers suspect those documents contain the most embarrassing and damaging records of how the diocese handled problem priests.

“These documents that have been released are just the tip of the iceberg in San Diego,” Boucher said.

A lawyer for the diocese did not respond Monday to questions e-mailed to her about the documents that have not been released.

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