LOS ANGELES -- New documents released by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles are the strongest evidence presented so far that top clergy knew about sex abuse among priests and tried to cover it up.
The Los Angeles Times reports that retired Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, then the Archbishop, tried to conceal sex abuse among their clergy and protect priests from prosecution.
The documents included private personnel files that the Catholic church tried to keep confidential. They were released as part of a 2007 settlement brought by victims and their families.
The court ruled that the church must release the documents without the names of top clergy blacked out.
Mahony and his aide Msgr. Thomas J. Curry, then the archdiocese's chief advisor on sex abuse cases, discussed ways to thwart law enforcement such as sending the priests on assignments out of state and preventing them from seeing therapists who would be required to report any abuse.
The documents show memos between the two detailing how they worked to protect a priest who revealed in therapy sessions that he had raped an 11-year-old boy and abused up to 17 boys, reports AP.
One priest, Peter Garcia, mainly worked in immigrant neighborhoods and allegedly threatened to have one of his victims deported if he told anyone about the abuse.
Mahony sent a letter to the priests therapist explaining that Garcia shouldn't return to California because "we might very well have some type of legal action filed in both the criminal and civil sectors," reports the Wall Street Journal.
A year later, Curry sent a letter to Mahony about the possibility of Garcia returning to work in the archdiocese. Curry said he was worried that victims in Los Angeles might see the priest and call police, reports the LA Times.
"[T]here are numerous — maybe twenty — adolescents or young adults that Peter was involved with in a first degree felony manner. The possibility of one of these seeing him is simply too great," Curry wrote in May 1987.
Mahony retired in 2011 but Curry is still active in the church and is currently an auxiliary bishop for the archdiocese’s Santa Barbara region.
The Los Angeles District Attorney's office said they will "review and evaluate" the documents, according to the Wall Street Journal. The documents mainly date from the 1980s and the statute of limitations will make new prosecutions unlikely.
Mahony apologized on Monday for his role in the abuse and said he has met with 90 victims.
An attorney for the church, J. Michael Hennigan, has denied that there was a cover-up attempt. "He's been an instrument of change and transparency," Hennigan told the Wall Street Journal.