By Ben Brumfield
(CNN) — A California judge has forced the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to release some 12,000 pages of church documents revealing how it handled allegations of priest sexual abuse.
There were many — 192 priests and bishops were named in litigation, the archdiocese said.
“The cases span decades,” Archbishop Jose H. Gomez said in a statement Thursday. Some go back to the 1930s.
“But that does not make them less serious. I find these files to be brutal and painful reading,” he said.
Gomez also chastised his predecessor, now retired Cardinal Roger Mahony, for shortcomings after victims came forward during his tenure.
“Effective immediately, I have informed Cardinal Mahony that he will no longer have any administrative or public duties,” Gomez said in a statement.
It’s a mere slap on the wrist long after the fact, said David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abuse by Priests.
“A meaningless gesture. He should have been demoted or disciplined by the church hierarchy, in Rome and in the US,” he said.
But Mahony was not as much as denounced when he was in power, Clohessy said.
Mahony “expressed his sorrow” over the alleged abuse, which victims reported during his tenure as archbishop from 1984 – 2011, the archdiocese said Friday.
But Clohessy feels he and other church officials knew too much and did too little and that there have not been enough consequences to deter future abuse or cover-ups.
“If you successfully conceal your wrongdoing, you can keep your job,” he said.
The archdiocese already published the names of accused clergy in a 2004 report, but the release of Thursday’s documents will allow the public to trace how the church handled the allegations. It may bring to light some cases where accusations were kept under wraps and the accused were kept out of the sight of the law or accusers.
The documents had served as evidence in 508 civil cases by sex abuse victims that were settled in one stroke in 2007.
Victims received a total of $660 million in the landmark judgment.
Most of the documents were inner-church correspondences about accused clergy. The archdiocese fought to purge the names of the accused from the papers until Thursday, when Judge Emilie Elias ruled that they be made public by February 22.
The church published them shortly after the ruling. There are 124 personnel files in total, 82 which reveal sex abuse allegations against minors.
The release “concludes a sad and shameful chapter in the history of our Local Church,” the archdiocese said.
It warned that although the names of the abused have been deleted, some may recognize their cases.
“We understand this experience may be a difficult one,” it said.
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