The Associated Press
11/27/2008, 4:40 p.m.

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A federal judge ordered the release of more documents from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Portland that may shed light on how church officials responded to allegations that priests sexually abused minors.

The order from U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan on Wednesday was a result of the settlement in 2007 of about 175 lawsuits for $50 million to end the first bankruptcy filing in the nation by a Catholic diocese.

After the settlement, victim advocates and church officials disagreed over how many documents to release.

Hogan’s order requires the archdiocese to release documents about allegations of sexual misconduct by priests involving minors and the knowledge of the archdiocese about the allegations, or its response to them.

He said the order doesn’t apply immediately in the cases of priests involved in a related dispute over disclosure or in pending litigation.

Hogan’s decision says names of victims have been redacted from the documents.

Portland lawyer Kelly Clark, who represented more than 40 victims, praised the decision and said it meant the archdiocese must release almost all of the disputed documents.

"This is a good day for survivors, and all the men and women abused as boys and girls by priests of this archdiocese can feel rightly proud that they have stood their ground and did not let the archdiocese back out of its commitments," Clark said.

He said a Web site is under construction that will organize the documents so readers can understand the history of cases and how church officials enabled or covered up abuse.

The archdiocese released a statement that said almost all of the misconduct occurred from 1940 to the mid-1980s.

"Today the Archdiocese of Portland has comprehensive child protection policies and programs," it said, including an Office of Child Protection and national programs to audit protections and ensure that people who work with minors are appropriately screened.