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LA Archdiocese, still grappling with sex abuse scandal, may try $200 million fundraiser

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Esther Millar, 54, talks about her abuser, while holding pictures of Vicki and Mary, who she says were victims of sexual abuse by a priest in the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Millar was part of a news conference urging others with information about alleged abuse to come forward, held at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles on Feb. 1.

Amid continuing anger over the poor handling of sexual abuse cases by Catholic Church officials over several decades — and still deeply in the red from settlements with victims — the Archdiocese of Los Angeles is considering the launch of a massive fundraising campaign, according to the website of a Catholic fundraising organization.

The non-profit Guidance in Giving lists the Los Angeles-area Catholic Church among its "diocesan accounts" and says it is exploring a campaign to raise $200 million for the diocese to meet "a variety of needs," including "priests' retirement, seminarian education, Catholic schools, Catholic Charities and parish needs."

The archdiocese did not respond to NBC queries in time for publication, but a church spokesman acknowledged the possible campaign to the Los Angeles Times, which first reported it.

In 2007, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles agreed to a $660 million settlement with 562 victims of abuse by priests and other church personnel. According to the Times, financial reports show that the church remains $80 million in debt.

The effort to shore up church finances is the initiative of Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez, who was installed in 2011, and now seems keen to move the church away from its tarnished past.

On Jan. 31, Gomez presided over the release of thousands of pages of priest personnel files that had been the subject of a legal tussle for six years. The 12,000 pages, made accessible through the archdiocese web site, reveal many communications among officials who appear to be concealing allegations of the priests' sexual abuses from police.

The court ordered the documents be released in 2007 as part of the settlement, but the church lawyers fought to redact many of the names in the documents until earlier this month, when a judge ruled against them.

In a letter written by Gomez  to congregants and read in many services on Sunday, the archbishop described the files as "brutal and painful reading," and went on to rebuke his predecessors for failing to protect the children from adult predators. He announced removal of his predecessor, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, from administrative and public duties and said a high-ranking bishop, Thomas J. Curry, had been dismissed from his role as regional bishop of Santa Barbara.

"I cannot undo the failings of the past that we find in these pages," Gomez said in his letter.

"To every Catholic in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, I want you to know: We will continue, as we have for many years now, to immediately report every credible allegation of abuse to law enforcement authorities and to remove those credibly accused from ministry."

In the introduction to the files, the archdiocese website says that the release "concludes a sad and shameful chapter" in the history of the archdiocese.

But critics of the church may not let the matter rest.

Just a few days after the documents were made public, The New York Times reported on watchdog allegations that many names in the files that should have been made public were redacted, and that parts of the personnel files were missing.

According to the Times, lawyers for the abuse victims say they may file a motion next week to compel the church to release what they believe are missing or are erroneously redacted documents.

The Los Angeles Archdiocese is the largest in the United States, comprising Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, with an estimated 4.6 million members.


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