Files documenting claims of abuse by California Franciscans made public
Published: May 23, 2012
LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- More than 8,500 pages of material detailing claims of sexual abuse by a group of Franciscan priests and brothers in California were made public May 23. The release of the documents was one unfinished item of business from a 2006 court settlement that awarded $28 million, the vast majority of it from the St. Barbara Province of the Franciscan Friars and Brothers, to settle abuse claims from 25 plaintiffs. The province, based in Oakland, used the proceeds from the sale of a closed seminary, where many of the incidents were alleged to have occurred, to help finance the settlement. The high school seminary closed in 1987. As part of the settlement, the Franciscans agreed to let a judge review for possible public dissemination internal church documents as well as depositions in the litigation, showing how the order handled sexual abuse allegations among its clerics. None of the six priests and three brothers cited in the documents are in active ministry. Some are dead. Others are living at Franciscan residences and restricted from leaving the grounds unaccompanied. In the archive are personnel, psychological, confidential and laicization files, as well as witness depositions. One priest wrote a "sexual autobiography" that was included with the release of the files. In some cases, plaintiffs filed applications to amend complaints against some of the priests and brothers. Attempts by Catholic News Service to reach the current Franciscan provincial, Franciscan Father John Hardin, for comment were unsuccessful. The province's website was silent on the release of the files. The clerics accused of abuse had fought their release since 2006. The case reached the California Supreme Court, which ruled against them. All of the documents are available for viewing at http://bishopaccountability.org/franciscans/.
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