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L A Catholic Church loses battle over priest files

Written by: Staff
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LOS ANGELES, Apr 18 (Reuters) The Roman Catholic archdiocese of Los Angeles, the largest in the nation, lost a four-year legal fight to keep private the files of two priests accused of molesting children.

The US Supreme Court declined to take up the case, meaning that Cardinal Roger Mahony will have to hand over to Los Angeles prosecutors the records of all communications regarding the two priests.

The Los Angeles archdiocese has fought one of the most vigorous battle in the United States to prevent the files of priests accused of abuse from being made public.

The Survivor's Network of those Abused by Priests criticized Mahony's tactics, saying yesterday he had ''spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, donated by generous Catholics, on far-fetched and increasingly unsuccessful legal maneuvers to keep hidden the secrets about abusive priests and complicit bishops.'' The abuse scandal erupted in Boston in 2002 and spread to almost every Catholic diocese in the nation. Scores of dioceses have already released personal files of implicated priests and many have reached multimillion dollar settlements with victims.

Yesterday's ruling effectively upheld a lower court order that 14 documents in the files of two priests should be made available to a Los Angeles grand jury.

It also paved the way for the release of confidential records sought by more than 500 people who have brought civil lawsuits against the archdiocese. By some estimates, the Los Angeles archdiocese could face a possible total settlement of 1 billion dollar.

The archdiocese said in a statement that yesterday's decision was ''disappointing,'' noting that it was working on efforts to settle civil cases through mediation.

In a statement, Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley said the ruling was ''a decisive victory'' for local victims of clerical abuse.

''The US Supreme Court's denial to review this matter establishes an important principle that evidence of criminality be made available to appropriate authorities,'' Cooley said.

REUTERS PDS PM0637

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