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Judge: L.A. archdiocese must reveal names in personnel file release

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) — The Archdiocese of Los Angeles must reveal the names of church officials included in 30,000 pages of personnel files that will be released with information related to allegations of child sexual abuse by church employees, a Superior Court judge ruled Jan. 7.

The Associated Press and Los Angeles Times reported that Judge Emilie H. Elias reversed a previous ruling by a retired federal judge who had said that material to be released should have names redacted to prevent the documents’ use to “embarrass or ridicule the church.”

During a Jan. 7 hearing on a request by media organizations to order the names to be released, Elias asked an attorney for the archdiocese, “Don’t you think the public has a right to know … what was going on in their own church?” the Times reported.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles said in a brief statement that Elias had revised the previous judge’s order “acknowledging that much of the information in question has already been made public by the archdiocese in the 2004 “Report to the People of God” and updates released in the subsequent proffers.”

The statement said the archdiocese would abide by the judge’s decision. “We are now working with all parties involved to facilitate the release of the documents as promptly as possible.”

The Times said the judge and attorneys for alleged victims of abuse were meeting later that day to work out details of release of the records, which include psychiatric reports, reports of abuse and letters to the Vatican.

The archdiocese agreed in 2007 to release the files as part of a settlement of numerous abuse cases. Retired U.S. District Court Judge Dickran Tevrizian ordered that files containing information about child sexual abuse be released and that the names be edited, or redacted, so the names of victims and church employees would not be revealed.

The Tidings, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, reported before the Jan. 7 hearing that the archdiocese intended to release the documents as early as Jan. 14. Attorneys for the archdiocese said at a Dec. 10 hearing before Elias that there were about 69 files that were believed to meet the criteria for release. Attorneys for the plaintiffs suing for the release questioned the number of files and the amount of material being redacted. Elias ordered the two sides to go through the edited documents together and get back to her with a list of disputed material.

At a Dec. 27 hearing, Elias granted the request of the Los Angeles Times and The Associated Press to intervene in court to argue against redactions.

The Times reported that the news organizations claimed in court filings that redactions would “deny the public information that is necessary to fully understand the church’s knowledge about the serial molestation of children by priests over a period of decades.” The Times said the personnel files of priests accused of child sexual abuse “could include internal memos about abuse claims, Vatican correspondence and psychiatric reports.”

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