What to Know
- The archdiocese has been roiled by allegations that onetime church leaders mishandled clergy abuse cases.
- The LA Archdiocese paid a record $740 million in various settlements to victims and had pledged to better protect its church members
- Churches across the nation and California responded by releasing previously undisclosed names of clergy accused of abuse.
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles said Friday it is prepared to cooperate with a state Attorney General's Office inquiry into how the diocese has handled sexual abuse allegations, including a review of whether it followed mandatory reporting requirements to law enforcement.
A letter, dated Thursday and reviewed by the Los Angeles Times, from state Attorney General Xavier Becerra to Archbishop Jose Gomez requests that church officials preserve an array of documents related to clergy abuse allegations, The Times reported.
It's unclear whether Becerra's office is also seeking records from other California dioceses. But one source told The Times other dioceses were being contacted by the attorney general.
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"The California Department of Justice is conducting a review of your archdiocese's handling of sexual misconduct allegations involving children, including whether your archdiocese has adequately reported allegations of sexual misconduct, as required under California's Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act," the letter stated, according to The Times.
A spokeswoman said Friday the archdiocese had not yet received the Becerra letter as of Friday afternoon, but the diocese issued a statement saying it is prepared to cooperate fully with any review.
"The Archdiocese of Los Angeles is committed to transparency and has established reporting and prevention policies and programs to protect minors and support victim-survivors in our parishes, schools and ministries," according to the diocese. "The Archdiocese was one of the first dioceses in the nation to publish a comprehensive report in 2004 listing accused clergy both living and deceased, and released clergy files as part of a 2007 global settlement."
The diocese noted that it has cooperated with two state and one federal investigation and "continues to fully cooperate with all civil authorities."
"Allegations of abuse involving minors whether by a member of the clergy or a lay person are reported to law enforcement, public announcements are made at the places where the person has served and if found credible the person is permanently removed from any capacity according to the Archdiocese's Zero Tolerance policy. The Archdiocese does not tolerate anyone who does harm to a child or vulnerable person and remains committed and vigilant in ensuring that parishes, schools and ministries are safe places for everyone in our community."
For nearly two decades, the archdiocese has been roiled by allegations that onetime church leaders mishandled clergy abuse cases, sometimes moving clergy suspected of wrongdoing to other parishes rather than punishing them and informing law enforcement.
The LA Archdiocese paid a record $740 million in various settlements to victims and had pledged to better protect its church members. Gomez succeeded longtime Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, who faced criticism for his handling of the scandal. In the aftermath of the settlement, the church imposed a series of reforms.
Other state attorneys general have also launched investigations into their Catholic churches following new abuse scandals in the past year, including a Pennsylvania report that revealed a decades-long cover-up of child sex abuse involving more than 1,000 victims and hundreds of clergy.
An Illinois attorney general's report released in December found that the number of Catholic clergy accused of sexual abuse in that state was much higher than previously acknowledged. The report found 690 clergy accused, although church officials had publicly identified only 185 with credible allegations against them.
Churches across the nation and California responded by releasing previously undisclosed names of clergy accused of abuse.
Other states' attorneys general have requested or subpoenaed dioceses' records on clergy, but Becerra's request goes further, also asking for records about cases involving non-clergy personnel, such as volunteers and staffers.
In December, the LA archdiocese updated its list of clergy accused of molesting children for the first time in a decade.
Archdiocese officials have said the church has made great strides to prevent abuse and work with law enforcement. In April, the LA archdiocese announced a record $8 million settlement with a former Catholic school student, now 18, who was molested by a coach. It was the largest individual settlement by a local church in a sex abuse case. Her attorney said concerns about the teacher's conduct were ignored.