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LA Archdiocese Adds 54 Names To List Of Priests It Says Sexually Abused Children

The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels on March 12, 2013 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
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For the first time in a decade, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles on Thursday updated its public list of priests accused of sexually abusing children, pledging to more frequently revise the disclosure.

Church officials added the names of 54 priests who were all accused of abuse since 2008.

"We're responding to all that's going on in the church at this point in time," said Heather Banis, a victims assistance coordinator with the archdiocese.

"In the last 10 years, when reported to us, we've been making those names public in the parishes or ministry sites where the priests had served," Banis said. "And there was a general sense that we needed to compile that information, have it all in one place and make it a little more accessible."

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First published in 2004, the archdiocese's "Report to the People of God" names what the church calls "credibly accused" priests. The list was updated in 2005 and 2008. With the latest additions, the full list of Catholic clergy accused of child sex abuse in the archdiocese now numbers 296.

In 2007, the L.A. archdiocese agreed to a $600 million settlement covering more than 500 abuse cases. At the time, it was the largest payout in the church scandal.

More recently, the U.S. Catholic Church has been under renewed pressure to address the ongoing abuse crisis after the release this summer of a grand jury report detailing widespread abuse and cover-up in Pennsylvania. Other states have followed with similar investigations.

Last month, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced his office is gathering information from the public about sexual misconduct by Catholic clergy, but didn't confirm a formal investigation.

Lawsuits against the church continue to be filed here, with attention turning beyond the accused predators to church officials who allegedly protected abusive priests.

In October, a Camarillo man who says he was molested by a local priest in Anaheim in the 1970s sued California's Catholic bishops for civil conspiracy and nuisance. The lawsuit alleges Catholic officials, including those in Los Angeles, covered up criminal activity by keeping known abusers in ministry.

The bishops responded that the state's dioceses have taken positive steps over the past 15 years to protect children, adopting a "zero tolerance" standard for abuse and independent review boards to advise the bishops on personnel decisions.

At a news conference on Thursday, L.A. Archbishop Jose Gomez also defended the steps taken by the diocese in dealing with abuse cases.

"In the past two decades, we have put in place an effective system for reporting and investigating suspected abuse by priests and for removing offenders from ministry," the archbishop said.

When allegations of misconduct are received, he said, they are immediately reported to police and priests are removed while law enforcement and an archdiocesan oversight board investigate.

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Most of the 54 new names provided by the archdiocese were accused of sexual abuse that had happened years ago. Twenty-seven of the priests named are deceased.

"In 10 years, we've only had two priests named in allegations of current misconduct," said Banis. "That's still two too many, but it's a pretty remarkable number. It's really good evidence to us that the policy and procedures that we have implemented are working."

But attorney Anthony DeMarco, who has represented clergy sex abuse victims in Los Angeles since 2002, charged church officials are always eager to present clergy child abuse as a historical problem.

"The archdiocese started with this message 15 years ago, that this is a problem of the past," DeMarco said. "But it relies on the latency of child sexual abuse victims. Child abuse victims tend not to complain simultaneous with the abuse. It takes them many years, typically, to come forward, because of the trauma. And so, once again, they're attempting to rely upon that."

Attorney Mike Reck with law firm Jeff Anderson & Associates said the latest step taken by the archdiocese to update its list will make kids safer, but the church needs to go further.

"Do the right thing," said Reck. "Disclose the files, the documents that show not just the identities of those accused, but the identities of those who covered up the abuse."

The L.A. archdiocese says it will be updating its list of accused priests regularly from now on instead of waiting another 10 years.

Aaron Schrank covers religion, international affairs and the Southern California diaspora under a grant from the Luce Foundation.

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