Once again, our most trusted and most powerful religious and social institutions are fighting to keep their secrets and their sins safe from disclosure. Luckily, courts continue to recognize how important the exposure of secrets is to accountability and child protection.
On Monday, California Superior Court Judge Emilie Elias ordered the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to release the names of priests and church officials contained in the Archdiocese’s internal records on the sexual abuse of children. The records were originally ordered to be released as part of a groundbreaking $660 million settlement between the Archdiocese and survivors in 2007. Since that time, the Archdiocese has fought tooth and nail to release the files (which include abuse reports, church memos, and letters to and from the Vatican) in redacted form to protect the anonymity of abuser priests and those church leaders who protected them.
The release of the Archdiocese’s files in unredacted form is a major victory for survivors, who no doubt agree with Judge Elias, who spoke publically about the release, saying “Don’t you think the public has a right to know?”
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the California Supreme Court ruled that the Boy Scouts of America must provide decades of files detailing sexual abuse allegations as part of discovery in an ongoing lawsuit. The BSA maintains that the files are not relevant to the lawsuit, while the lawsuit alleges that prior to the plaintiff’s 2007 sexual abuse, the BSA concealed knowledge of sexual abuse in scouting. The files will not immediately be public due to a protective order in the case.
Despite the best efforts of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the BSA to protect their knowledge of child predators, the public now understands that the plague of child sexual abuse only thrives in such secrecy, and it’s time for the secrets to be revealed. While the battle for accountability wages on, the justice system continues to play a vital role in exposing and combating child predators and those that protect them.
Jeff Anderson is an attorney and advocate working with survivors of clergy sexual abuse at Jeff Anderson & Associates.