The California attorney general’s office will review how the Archdiocese of Los Angeles has handled sexual abuse allegations, including whether it followed mandatory reporting requirements to law enforcement, according to a letter reviewed by The Times.
The letter, dated Thursday, from state Attorney General Xavier Becerra to Archbishop Jose Gomez, requests that church officials preserve an array of documents related to clergy abuse allegations, The Times reported Friday.
It’s unclear whether Becerra’s office is also seeking records from other California dioceses. But one source told The Times other dioceses were being contacted by the attorney general. Officials from the archdiocese and the attorney general’s office could not be reached for comment Thursday night.
“The California Department of Justice is conducting a review of your archdiocese’s handling of sexual misconduct allegations involving children, including whether your archdiocese has adequately reported allegations of sexual misconduct, as required under California’s Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act,” the letter stated, according to The Times.
For nearly two decades, the archdiocese has been roiled by allegations that onetime church leaders mishandled clergy abuse cases, sometimes moving clergy suspected of wrongdoing to other parishes rather than punishing them and informing law enforcement.
The L.A. Archdiocese paid a record $740 million in various settlements to victims and had pledged to better protect its church members. Gomez succeeded longtime Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, who faced criticism for his handling of the scandal. In the aftermath of the settlement, the church imposed a series of reforms.
Other state attorneys general have also launched investigations into their Catholic churches following new abuse scandals in the past year, including a Pennsylvania report that revealed a decades-long cover-up of child sex abuse involving more than 1,000 victims and hundreds of clergy.
An Illinois attorney general’s report released in December found that the number of Catholic clergy accused of sexual abuse in that state was much higher than previously acknowledged. The report found 690 clergy accused, although church officials had publicly identified only 185 with credible allegations against them.
Churches across the nation and California responded by releasing previously undisclosed names of clergy accused of abuse.
Other states’ attorneys general have requested or subpoenaed dioceses’ records on clergy, but Becerra’s request goes further, also asking for records about cases involving non-clergy personnel, such as volunteers and staffers.
In December, the L.A. archdiocese updated its list of clergy accused of molesting children for the first time in a decade.
Archdiocese officials have said the church has made great strides to prevent abuse and work with law enforcement. But in April, the L.A. archdiocese announced a record $8 million settlement with a former Catholic school student, now 18, who was molested by a coach. It was the largest individual settlement by a local church in a sex abuse case. Her attorney said concerns about the teacher’s conduct were ignored.