The American Roman Catholic church just announced that it has stripped Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of all public duties amid a pedophile priest scandal.
As we recently wrote, the retired Cardinal and other key Roman Catholic officials in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles protected molester priests, hid molestation accusations from parishioners, and ensured damage control for the church. Now, Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez has publicly censured Mahony and also announced that Auxiliary Bishop Thomas J. Curry resigned as a regional bishop in Santa Barbara. Curry and Mahony collaborated to conceal sexually abusive priests from police in the 1980s, said The Los Angeles Times.
The church also posted tens of thousands of pages of previously confidential files concerning 122 priests accused of molesting children to its web site. “I find these files to be brutal and painful reading. The behavior described in these files is terribly sad and evil,” Gomez wrote in a letter addressed to “My brothers and sisters in Christ,” according to the LA Times. “I cannot undo the failings of the past that we find in these pages. Reading these files, reflecting on the wounds that were caused has been the saddest experience I’ve had since becoming your Archbishop in 2011,” Gomez wrote.
Experts call the move unprecedented given the public censure, Mahony’s 24-year career running the country’s largest archdiocese, and that Mahony was considered one of the most popular men in the Catholic Church, the LA Times explained. “This is very unusual and shows really how seriously they’re taking this. To tell a cardinal he can’t do confirmations, can’t do things in public, that’s extraordinary,” the Reverend Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest and Georgetown University fellow, told the LA Times.
Mahony’s life as a retired priest will remain, for the most part, the same. He will continue to be a “priest in good standing”; may continue to celebrate Mass; and is still able to vote in papal elections until he turns 80, in 2015, said archdiocese spokesman, Todd Tamberg. Essentially, Mahony’s confirmation schedule has been canceled.
Mahony is accused of protecting priests from criminal prosecution, helping to ensure abusive priests undergoing treatment were kept out of California to avoid criminal and civil prosecution, and keeping the nature of pedophile priests activity secret from parishioners. In one case, a now-fugitive priest was warned in advance of a call to police about allegations made against him by dozens of children and their families. Mahony has undergone three grand jury investigations and repeated calls have been made for his resignation over his mishandling of an ongoing child sex abuse scandal at the diocese, said the LA Times. Criminal charges have never been filed against Mahony, who remained in office until he turned 75—the Vatican’s mandatory retirement age. In fact, no member of the church’s hierarchy has been criminally charged.
Terrence McKiernan, president of bishopaccountability.org, described Gomez’s public criticism of Mahony “striking,” saying that “Even when Cardinal [Bernard] Law was removed in Boston, which was arguably for the same offenses, this kind of gesture was not made,” according to the LA Times.
The Reverend Thomas Doyle, a canon lawyer and Dominican priest who has testified nationwide as an expert witness in clergy sex abuse cases, said the Vatican would “absolutely” have been consulted on a decision of this magnitude. “This is momentous, there is no question,” he told the LA Times. “For something like this to happen to a cardinal…. The way they treat cardinals is as if they’re one step below God.”
Although Mahony and Curry both issued apologies, victims are seeking new criminal investigations and the LA County district attorney’s office said it was reviewing the just-released files, said the LA Times.
As we’ve written, it has been more than one decade since the first major wave of sexual abuse lawsuits were weighed against the Catholic church in the U.S. Hundreds and possibly thousands of children were victims of sexual abuse committed by priests working for the church, which rather than risking a tarnished profile, opted to keep these issues to themselves; rather than removing abusive priests, the Church transferred the accused to different churches, allowing them to prey on unknowing parishioners and their children.
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