Portland Archbishop John Vlazny says the unscheduled release of the documents has nothing to do with Pope Benedict XVI’s U.S. visit
Wednesday, April 16, 2008

ASHBEL S. GREEN

The Oregonian Staff

In a surprise move Tuesday, Portland Archbishop John Vlazny released 2,000 pages of documents on priests accused of sexually abusing Oregon children.

Vlazny described the release in a statement as "part of the healing process and in the interest of transparency."

Bud Bunce, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Portland, said the release had nothing to do with Pope Benedict XVI’s trip to the United States or the pope’s apology for the priest sexual abuse scandal.

ortland attorneys who have filed sexual abuse suits against the archdiocese said they were baffled by the unscheduled release, which comes less than two weeks after one round of failed mediation and a day before another is set to start.

"I don’t know how the archdiocese thinks," said attorney Kelly Clark, who represents dozens of people who say they were sexually abused by priests. "I just don’t get it."

Erin Olson, another plaintiff’s attorney who is scheduled to begin mediation today, also said she has no idea what was in the new batch of documents. But Olson said she doubts the release includes documents that name priests who haven’t been identified and are still working in parishes.

In 2004, the Portland archdiocese became the first in the country to seek bankruptcy protection from priest sexual abuse litigation. A 2007 settlement plan set aside about $70 million for priest accusers. And Vlazny promised to release church personnel files involving abusive priests.

The archdiocese released a batch of documents a few months later, but lawyers for the church and plaintiffs’ attorneys have been fighting over what else to release ever since.

In his statement, Vlazny explained that he opposed releasing documents involving priests where the accusations were weak or uncorroborated.

"We have made what we believe is a fair decision on document disclosure based on sound guiding principles and will continue on this course," Vlazny wrote. "We hope that the continuing release of documents in the spirit of healing and reconciliation will bring peace to the lives of those who have been harmed."

To read the documents, go to www.archdiocesedocuments.org/Documents.html

You can reach Ashbel S. (Tony) Green at 503-221-8202 or by e-mail at tonygreen@news.oregonian.com.