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Los Angeles Catholic diocese ordered to release clergy abuse files

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles [official website] on Monday was ordered to release its files on child abuse by its employees with full disclosure on all subject matter, totaling nearly 30,000 pages of documents and more than 200 priests named in the allegations. Judge Emilie Elias of the Superior Court of Los Angeles [official website] held that the public's right to know [LAT report] how the archdiocese dealt with the molestation allegations outweighs any concern over the Catholic Church's possible embarrassment arising from the information's full disclosure, overruling a 2011 decision by the Superior Court. The documents include [LAT report] internal memos, Vatican correspondence, and psychiatric reports.

The California Superior Court's decision on Monday joins a growing trend regarding parochial legal proceedings in the US. In August ajudge for the US District Court for the District of Oregon ruled in favor of the Vatican by holding that priests are not employees [JURIST report] of the Holy See, the ecclesiastical, governmental and administrative capital of the Roman Catholic Church. Judge Michael Mosman ruled that the facts of the case do not establish an employer-employee relationship, despite his 2006 ruling allowing the lawsuit [JURIST report] to proceed on a strictly legal theory that a priest was a Vatican employee under Oregon law. The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act [Cornell LII materials] typically grants the Vatican and other foreign states immunity in US courts, but the 1976 act does not shield such states when engaged in commercial or certain harmful activities in the US. In June a 12-member jury in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas handed down a landmark verdict [WSJ report] finding Msgr. William Lynn, secretary for clergy in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia from 1992 to 2004, guilty of child endangerment for allowing a priest to take a new assignment after learning of sexual abuse allegations against him. Msgr. Lynn is the first Roman Catholic Church official to be convicted [NYT report] of covering up sexual abuses by priests in the US.

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