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Files Finally Made Public in Sex-Abuse Case Involving St. Anthony’s Seminary

Thousands of documents shed light on molestations that occurred over many years at the former Franciscan boarding school

Thousands of confidential documents were released this week as the result of a court settlement for plaintiffs who accused Franciscans at St. Anthony’s Seminary in Santa Barbara of childhood sexual abuse.

The settlement awarded the plaintiffs, former students of the Franciscan boarding school, $28 million in 2006. Defendants fought against releasing their private files, and the matter eventually went to the California Supreme Court, the Associated Press reported.

According to court documents, it was decided that the state’s interest in protecting children from sexual abuse outweighed privacy rights.

“The evidence gathered through (plaintiff) counsel’s investigation and discovery has revealed that since 1960, Santa Barbara has had one of the highest per-capita concentrations of clergy pedophiles in the history of United States clergy abuse,” 2007 Superior Court documents state.

Documents go on to say that, of the estimated 76 Santa Barbara children sexually assaulted by Roman Catholic clergy since 1958, 54 of them were abused by friars assigned to the St. Anthony’s Seminary and Old Mission Santa Barbara. The school was closed in 1987.

Plaintiffs hoped by making the order’s “sordid history” public, it would help people be better aware of warning signs, and provide some kind of closure, according to court documents.

Among the documents are files relating to Robert Van Handel, who has been accused of molesting 19 people. He graduated from St. Anthony’s in 1965, and became a teacher there, where he directed the community choir from which he chose his victims, according to the Associated Press.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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