Newly-released documents reveal top Catholic church officials in Los Angeles helped protect molester priests by shielding them from law enforcement.
The documents include confidential church letters filed in a civil lawsuit against the Los Angeles Archdiocese.
The letters reveal retired Cardinal Roger Mahoney and other top Catholic officials maneuvered behind the scenes to conceal child molestation, sometimes by sending accused priests out of state.
Officials even discouraged some priests from seeking therapy out of fear the therapist would alert police.
"We were victims, truly victims of manipulative men who made cold, calculating decisions as to how to protect themselves and save faith in the community," said Manny Vega, church abuse victim.
"I don't think it's something the church condones. I believe it's been happening, but I don't believe they condone it at all," said local parishioner Maria Allred.
One top Mahoney aide even suggested a priest see a psychiatrist who was also a lawyer, so anything discussed about the molestation would be confidential and protected by attorney-client privilege.
The documents offer strong evidence that top officials in the nation's largest Catholic Diocese worked together in a concerted effort to hide evidence from police. But, parishioners 17 News talked to at St. Francis Church say it does not shake the foundation of their faith.
"You know, these people that are abusing their positions, they need help, absolutely. As a parishioner and if I give money to this church, I would love to see it go the help some of these individuals who are disturbed, absolutely," said one parishioner.
The letters also reveal dissent from at least one top Mahony aide who criticized his superiors for covering up allegations of abuse rather than protecting children.
"Yeah, I know it's wrong. Sin is sin no matter where it is, right?," said Al Shanley, a local parishioner.
Msgr. Craig Harrison of St. Francis Church in Bakersfield was out of town for a convocation Tuesday.
Msgr. Ronald Swett of St. Philips Church declined to discuss the subject.