The documents are part of a lawsuit seeking damages in a case involving a Mexican priest accused of abusing at least 26 children after he was transferred to Los Angeles in the 1980s. The documents include personnel files of 13 other clerics as well as notes written by Cardinal Roger Mahony and other church leaders.
The newly released documents reveal that retired Cardinal Roger Mahony and other top officials with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles tried to conceal the molestation of children from law enforcement decades ago.
The files show church leaders moved abusive priests out of state, handled damage control and consulted with accused priests behind the scenes.
In confidential letters filed as evidence in a lawsuit against the Archdiocese, one church official suggested to Mahony that they prevent the abusive priests from seeing therapists who might alert authorities, and that they give the priests out-of-state assignments to avoid criminal investigators.
The files also show that Mahony received psychological reports on some priests that mentioned the possibility of many other victims. But there is no indication that he or other church leaders investigated further.
Joelle Casteix of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) says the documents confirm what victims have been sayings for decades.
"It is a huge vindication for victims, because for years we have been told we were not telling the truth. We were told we were trying to shame the church. We were told we were trying to sully our faith," said Casteix.
Cardinal Mahony, who retired in 2011, has apologized repeatedly in recent years for his handling of the abuse allegations. And Monday he did so again, concluding a written statement with the words "I am sorry."
Mahony also said: "Even as we began to confront the problem, I remained naive myself about the full and lasting impact these horrible acts would have on the lives of those who were abused by men who were supposed to be their spiritual guides. That fuller awareness came for me when I began visiting personally with victims."
"What he needs to do now if he is truly sorry is hold himself accountable to law enforcement," said Casteix.
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles issued a statement Monday afternoon: "The Archdiocese of Los Angeles admitted to and apologized for failing to fully understand and effectively deal with priests accused of sexual abuse. The information in these cases is decades old, and does not reflect the abuse reporting and prevention policies and procedures employed in all of our parishes and schools for the past 11 years."
The statement goes on to say the Archdiocese continues to reach out to help victims and to pray for their healing.