These documents are expected to shed new light on a scandal Benedict inherited from Pope John Paul II, a supporter of Maciel even after the allegations against him were filed.
Some say Pope Benedict XVI was the most knowledgeable man about the crisis, but others say he didn't do enough for victims.
Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez's public rebuke of his predecessor, Cardinal Roger Mahony, at the end of January was quickly described as unprecedented.
Sharply critiquing Mahony's handling of sex abuse cases after the long-delayed release of church files made clear the cardinal had shielded abusive priests from public scrutiny and possibly law enforcement at the expense of children's safety, Gomez announced Jan. 31 that his predecessor would "no longer have any administrative or public duties" in the archdiocese.
Before his name became connected with failing to adequately address clergy abuse of minors, Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles was better known for his reputation as one of the nation's leading church advocates of social justice, particularly for farmworkers and immigrants.
As a young priest in Fresno, Calif., during the 1965-70 Delano Grape Strike, Mahony became a nationally known figure.
Editorial: The "We didn't know" defense in sex abuse cases wears thin in the light of the recently released documents from Los Angeles.
"Ten years into the greatest crisis the Church has faced since the Reformation, most American bishops still haven’t begun to grasp the problem" of clergy sex abuse.
Not the words of a clergy sex abuse victim or advocate, but those of Phil Lawler, the editor and director of the not exactly progressive Catholic World News.
NCR Today: Los Angeles' archbishop says he and his predecessor, Cardinal Roger Mahony, are "committed to moving forward" after the release of files on sex abuse.
All Things Catholic: In 2010, one cardinal got in trouble with the Vatican when he criticized another prelate. Why didn't this happen to Archbishop Gomez in Los Angeles?
Fr. Jim Connell sent an open email asking for Mahony's spot to be given to a range of experts as well as those directly affected by the scandal.
We say: The rebuke of L.A. Cardinal Mahony and release of documents are a moral victory -- an imperfect victory, but a victory nonetheless.