Lawyer: 200 Sex Abuse Priests Hiding in California
Church needs to alert communities, says Ray Boucher
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 13, 2012 2:50 AM CST
Attorney Ray Boucher says church settlements have allowed pedophile priests to disappear into communities without neighbors knowing of their pasts.   (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

(Newser) – A stunning 200 priests suspected of committing sexual abuse are living in California, mostly unknown to communities, according to a lawyer who sued the LA Archdiocese on behalf of 500 plaintiffs, reports MSNBC. Because none of those priests was convicted of sex abuse, laws about identifying pedophiles and their locations don't apply to them. “Many, if not all, of these priests have admitted to sexual abuse,” Ray Boucher said. “They live within a mile of 1,500 playgrounds, schools, and daycare centers.”

The LA Archdiocese settled with 500 plaintiffs in 2007 for $660 million, but admitted no wrongdoing. Boucher claims the church has simply allowed many of the priests to retire or hide out until statute of limitations run out on their crimes. “By enabling these priests to be hidden for so many years, the church protected them from being prosecuted," said Boucher. A lawyer for the church said the priests have a right to privacy because they haven't been convicted of crimes. But the courts recently ruled against the church, and a judge has ordered the release of some personnel files in the coming weeks.