LOS ANGELES - The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles must release the names of church leaders and pedophile priests identified in thousands of pages of internal documents recounting sexual abuse allegations dating back decades, a judge ruled Monday.
The decision by Superior Court Judge Emilie Elias overturned much of a 2011 order by another judge that would have allowed the archdiocese to black out the names of church higher-ups. Victims, as well as The Associated Press and Los Angeles Times, argued for the names to be public.
Elias said she weighed the privacy rights of priests and others - including those who are mentioned in the documents but were not accused of any wrongdoing - versus the public's interest in learning details of the child abuse that prompted the archdiocese to agree to a record $660 million settlement with victims in 2007.
"Don't they have the right to know what happened in their local church?" Elias said before ruling from the bench.
The documents include letters and memos between top church officials and their attorneys, medical and psychological records, complaints from parents and, in some cases, correspondence with the Vatican about abusive priests. There are approximately 30,000 pages and it wasn't immediately clear how soon they would be released.
Elias stipulated that some redactions of people who played no major role would be allowed, and attorneys for the plaintiffs and church were discussing how to do so.
The sexual abuse scandal within the Catholic Church has played out in many dioceses around the country, with victims receiving huge settlements. Files released in other places, such as Boston, have shown the church shuffled predator priests among parishes without calling police.
Both plaintiffs' and church attorneys said Monday they want the documents released as soon as possible.