A US judge Monday ordered Catholic leaders in Los Angeles to identify senior church officials accused of sexually abusing children, in a move welcomed by campaigners for victims.
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles immediately pledged to comply with the order by LA Superior Court judge Emilie Elias, which reversed part of a 2011 ruling.
“The archdiocese will abide by Judge Elias’ decision. We are now working with all parties involved to facilitate the release of the documents as promptly as possible,” said a archdiocese statement.
In 2011 a judge ruled against naming senior clerics, due to fears that including the names of the hierarchy could be used to embarrass the church further.
But Elias said the public’s right to know how the archdiocese handled abuse claims outweighed such concerns, and therefore ordered the names to be reinstated in documents where they had been blanked out.
The judge and lawyers for the church and abuse victims met Monday to discuss how and when to release church records including psychiatric reports, reports of abuse and letters to the Vatican, according to the LA Times.
The LA archdiocese, the biggest in the United States, said that “much of the information in question has already been made public” in a 2004 “Report to the People of God” and subsequent documents.
Victims’ campaign group the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests welcomed the order.
“We’re thrilled and grateful that a California judge is refusing to protect corrupt Catholic officials by keeping long-secret and long-promised church abuse records hidden any longer,” it said in a statement.
“For decades, the Los Angeles Catholic hierarchy has successfully kept under wraps thousands of pages of incriminating documents. Because of the courage and tenacity of hundreds of victims, that will soon end.
“Children will be safer as a result,” it added.
The Catholic church is the largest religious denomination in the United States, with nearly one in four Americans identifying themselves as Roman Catholic.
As in other countries it has been rocked by scandals involving alleged abuse of children by Catholic clerics.
A study last year showed many US Catholics still believe priests are sexually abusing children, despite a “striking improvement” in the way the Church deals with the abuse of minors by clergy.