A Start Or Plan B? Cardinal “Disciplined” Over Handling Of Child Sexual Abuse Cases [UPDATED]

By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

His Eminence Cardinal Roger Mahony
His Eminence Cardinal Roger Mahony

I suppose you’d have to say better late than never – but not much better. So much “not much better,” that some are questioning it’s veraciousness.  In an unprecedented move, Roman Catholic officials in Los Angeles have relieved their retired cardinal of public and administrative duties after the court-ordered release of 12,000 pages of documents pertaining to child sexual abuse at the hands of L.A. area priests. Cardinal Roger Mahony presided over the flock since the mid-1980s in the largely Hispanic and deeply religious world of southern California Catholics.  The documents reveal a steady stream of complaints of sexual abuse by priests under Mahony’s charge as well as cries for help. They response from the good cardinal was silence. 192 priests were eventually named in the ensuing litigation and the abuse spanned decades.

One particularly heinous complaint revealed by the church was the case of a seventeen-year-old boy continually abused by a parish priest in 1983.  The boy was taken to a religious retreat where he was fondled and forced into sex by the priest. The abuse continued in a church rectory, a hotel, and in a mobile home near Tijuana, Mexico, that someone loaned the priest according to the victim. No disciplinary inquiry was ever held and the matter was simply swept under a convenient rug.  Another file only held newspaper clippings of an infamous pedophile admitted to Holy Orders and who ran the Oxnard, California altar boy program. In that case, a chilling handwritten note detailed the outcome of this fox’s control of the henhouse: ” “Ventura DA (district attorney) *3/27/03 — Charged w/ felony 25 counts of child molestation of 8 youths in late 70’s-early 80’s.”

In a third case,  Mahony refused to turn over a list of altar boys to police who were investigating claims that a visiting Mexican priest had molested 26 boys during a 10-month stint in Los Angeles. In a scene right out of  All the President’s Men, Mahony wrote “We cannot give such a list for no cause whatsoever.” If a police criminal investigation into the sexual abuse of children under your care  isn’t “cause,” one has to wonder could be to Roger Mahony?

Current Archbishop Jose H. Gomez apparently had seen enough and on Friday asked his predecessor to stand down from public appearances and administrative functions in the diocese. That did not sit well with the 77-year-old prelate who responded to the Gomez rebuke on his own website:

“”Unfortunately, I cannot return now to the 1980s and reverse actions and decisions made then. But when I retired as the active archbishop, I handed over to you an archdiocese that was second to none in protecting children and youth,” Mahony wrote to Gomez. “Not once over these past years did you ever raise any questions about our policies, practices, or procedures in dealing with the problem of clergy sexual misconduct involving minors.”

(If you care to read it, the entire letter is here on Mahony’s website, Cardinal Roger Mahony blogs L.A..)

See, it’s your fault Gomez for not challenging my policies!  Mahony did graciously accept a small part of the blame in that round-about way of public men that takes the cutting edge off the truth. “I have stated time and time again that I made mistakes, especially in the mid-1980s. I apologized for those mistakes, and committed myself to make certain that the Archdiocese was safe for everyone,” he wrote. Mistakes? Mistakes are forgetting to carry the 1 in a math problem. Willful indifference better suits the case here.  Plus, the retired Prince of the Church doesn’t sound too contrite, as I was taught by the good sisters, every good penitent must be.

David Clohessy, who directs the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP),  welcomed the newly-pressed courage of Gomez and other Catholic leaders to at least confront the abusers and their protectors as a start, but called the suspension a mere “slap on the wrists.” Clohessy, himself a victim of years of  priest sexual abuse as a young child, observed that “… to say to a retired employee that we’re going to give you fewer roles, it’s a symbolic gesture and a pretty hollow one at that.” And it should be noted that Mahony hasn’t had any administrative duties since retiring,  so taking away what he never had seems ersatz punishment, indeed.

Such a battle between churchmen is so unprecedented that it may have the fingerprints of Rome all over it. “It is so rare because they stick together like glue,” said canon lawyer, Rev. Thomas Doyle.  “The fact that Gomez said what he said, this had to have been cleared by the Vatican, they had to have discussed this with the Vatican. Mahony took the fall.”  And  Joelle Casteix, the Western regional director of  SNAP, wondered at a Friday news conference whether Mahony was shedding crocodile tears over Gomez’ actions. The decision “is little more than window dressing. Cardinal Mahony is still a very powerful prelate. He’s a very powerful man in Rome and still a very powerful man in Los Angeles.”

The files were to be released as part of a record-breaking $660 million settlement with more than 500 victims of sex abuse, but lawyers for the archdiocese and individual priests waged a five-year battle to keep them sealed until Thursday.  A day after the court’s order requiring release by Feb. 22, Gomez took the unusual step of censuring Mahony and accepting the resignation of now Bishop Timothy Curry who was Mahony’s top aide.  Mahony can continue to celebrate the sacraments and can vote in conclave in a papal election until age 80. He remains a priest in good standing.

Manual Vega, one of the victims of the Oxnard abuse, wonders why Congress has turned a deaf ear to the plight of victims all over the nation. “We’ve had congressional hearings for doping,” Vega told reporters. “But where’s our congressional hearing? This has not only impacted L.A. but it’s impacted the entire United States and throughout the world.”

I wonder, too. Do you?

Source: CNN; Christian Science Monitor

~Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

Update: 2/3/2013 8:38 p.m.:  The National Catholic Reporter published this editorial yesterday that bears repeating. Here’s an excerpt if you can’t read all it here:

It doesn’t take a master’s or a doctorate to understand that the first obligation of adults is to protect the children. When the first instinct became protection of the clergy and the institution, our leaders became disfigured at some deep and essential level. The Catholic community is still waiting for them to deal honestly with that reality, with what happens to them when their robes turn to purple.

Meanwhile, there are no heroes in any of this. Gomez may have broken with normal behaviors, but as many have already pointed out, he had access to the documents for two years and said nothing. And it is reasonable to expect that if Mahony and the lawyers had succeeded in keeping the documents sealed, nothing would have been said. The “evil” would have remained festering on some chancery shelf.

If Archbishop Gomez really wants to do a service to the people of God in Los Angeles, he will reveal how much of the archdiocese’s treasury was spent during the last decade on trying to hide that truth. By its own admission the Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., diocese spent $1.39 million in a failed 18-month attempt to defend Bishop Robert Finn from charges of failing to report a child pornographer, and the Milwaukee archdiocese has spent $9 million in a two-year-long, far-from-settled bankruptcy case precipitated by sex abuse law suits. The amount of money the Los Angeles archdiocese has spent hiding these documents must be mind-boggling. That is evil, as well.

There are no heroes among the many other chancery officials and public relations advisors and lawyers who knew, some for many years, what crimes and sins had been committed against children.

There are no heroes in the Vatican structures, on up to the pope, among those who years ago could have demanded a review of the documents, come to the same conclusions as Gomez and removed Mahony long ago. It would have saved the church of Los Angeles years of suspense and enormous amounts of money. We say we believe that the truth will set us free. In too many dioceses today, the truth remains hidden and the church remains in chains fashioned by its bishops.


31 thoughts on “A Start Or Plan B? Cardinal “Disciplined” Over Handling Of Child Sexual Abuse Cases [UPDATED]”

  1. I am extremely impressed together with your writing skills and also with the structure for
    your weblog. Is that this a paid subject or did
    you customize it yourself? Either way keep up the nice high quality writing, it is rare to peer a great weblog like this one these days.

  2. UPDATE. Really?!? you want to chastise the leadership for defending, protecting and promoting child rape & you spend paragraphs whining about MONEY?!? How about the thousands and thousands of victims & money be damned?

    We have before us an organization that has had many branches, all over this country, and indeed, all over the world that has members engaged in illegal and immoral sexual relation up to and including the rape of children. There are systemic, repeated efforts to hide the criminals, promote the criminals, move the criminals as part of a giant cover up scheme that also has been shown to be world-wide. Why is this organization allowed to continue to operate in the US?

  3. Never mind. He is one of our Beanie Boys and we hear all of what he has to think or say. Ach, you dont want to know. I thought at first he was one of those Baseball Cardinals. If think think this one is a perp the look up the photo on your Google thing of Cardinal Burke and check out his Red Dress.
    “[Music} See the girl with the Red Dress on! She can do the dance all night long! Oh Ya… Wha’d I say, Oh what da I say? ” -Ray Charles album

  4. LOL. Great article, Mark, but I now have a half-written comment on Roger Mahony to file with my half-written comment from last week on the Lori Stodghill case. I agree that the Vatican is trying to stop the bloodletting before it reaches Rome. But this creates an existential dilemma for Mahony, and I don’t see him simply fading away.

  5. Catholic haters, I think not. The current Pope and all the other preists, bishops and cardinals who chose the institution rather than the children don’t deserve any respect or sympathy. They deserve condemnation and jail time. I know many good priests who are just as appalled as I am about this scandal and just as disgusted with the primping peacocks who dare call themselves “Princes of the Church”. I dare say they don’t hate Catholics.

    Christ said “what you do to the least of these you do to me”. Quite an indictment from the person they claim to represent. It is truly unfortunate that the pope can claim soverign immunity and can avoid both prosecution and civil law suits. I suggest a law suit against the Catholic Bishops as a group. A federal criminal prosecution might also be in order or are this men “too holy to prosecute”.

    It is amazing that Obama has now capitulated to these criminals on the contraception issue. It is doubling amazing that these men have the arrogance to lecture women on morals or anything else.

  6. I got off the “plane” today from Remulak and have to report back some information on this planet. So I always come to this blog. We need to know just what the funny looking guy in the outfit actually is. Guy? Right? Why the beanie? We use beanies to control people on Earth. He is not ours. Is there another planet working you guys?

  7. Anon – I don’t hate Catholics. I hate organizations that protect predators. If the Catholic Church fits that description then it deserves to be hated.

    Show me a school or teachers group that has a long and tortured history of covering up and enabling the worst abuses of humanity and I will add them to my list of groups that deserve scorn and ridicule. You may try to comfort yourself by saying its not every priest, and thats not untrue. But when it is nearly impossible to find a branch of the organization that has not had a problem and chose to lie and cheat to hide their crimes and aided and abetted rapists and abusers in every city and in every nation – with the full knowledge and assistance of the highest levels of the organization that is comfort only to those who are willfully blind and deaf to the pain and misery they are supporting.

    If the RICO act were used as it could be there would be no Catholic Church in America any more.

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