(Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
The Los Angeles Catholic Diocese must release the names of priests and church officials contained in confidential records about sexual abuse of children, a California judge ordered Monday.
Superior Court Judge Emilie Elias reversed a previous ruling by another judge that allowed the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to black out the identifies of church officials in 30,000 pages of documents that are to be released, the Los Angeles Times reports. The files include medical and psychiatric records, abuse reports, church memos and letters with the Vatican.
Negotiations on releasing the records are part of the landmark $660 million settlement in 2007 over priest abuse. The diocese had redacted names -- including that of retired cardinal Roger Mahony -- and the release was expected by mid-January. It's not yet clear whether today's ruling will delay the release of the records.
More than 20 priests have exhausted appeals to prevent the release, arguing it would violate their privacy rights.
Last year, retired federal judge Dickran Tevrizian allowed the archdiocese to redact the names of church rulers who reassigned abusive priests, along with the names of priests accused only once of abuse. He cited criticism the church had suffered already and said he wanted to prevent the use of un-redacted files from being used to "embarrass or to ridicule the Church."
"You know that the Church recycles priests. Now you want to know who in the clergy is recycled. For what useful purpose? The case is settled," Tevrizian told lawyers for 562 people who settled sex-abuse claims.
The Los Angeles Times and the Associated Press challenged Tevrizian's ruling, and Elias has the final say.
"Don't you think the public has a right to know ... what was going on in their own church?" Elias asked during a hearing about releasing the information. She added that parishioners "may want to talk to their adult children" about abuse alleged in their local church.
Michael Winter, USA TODAY