Bishops Seek To Withhold Internal Documents

Roman Catholic archdioceses in Boston and Los Angeles have argued before courts that the First Amendment protects them from having to reveal church documents dealing with investigations into priests accused of sexual abuse.

In early April, a state appeals court rejected a request by the Boston archdiocese to prohibit government officials, including courts, from investigating or becoming involved in confidential talks between priests and bishops. The appeals court action advances a large number of clergy sex abuse lawsuits. The Boston archdiocese had argued that turning over its internal documents to the court would violate the separation of church and state.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has also asked a state court to find that it does not have to release internal church documents. On April 1, lawyers for the archdiocese implored the Los Angeles County Superior Court to allow it to withhold documents on priests accused of sexual abuse. The lawyers argued that confidentiality between a bishop and a priest is a central tenet of Catholicism and that court intrusion would violate the First Amendment.

An advocacy group called the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests accused Cardinal Roger Mahony of protecting child molesters.

"Cardinal Mahony has not kept his promise to protect children," Mary Grant, a director of the Survivors Network, told The New York Times. "Instead he has done everything possible to protect child molesters who are priests."