Gomez strips Mahony of public role, calls files 'brutal and painful reading'

ABGomez-pulpit.jpgThe Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles moved Thursday to take back the sexual abuse scandal, releasing thousands of pages of unredacted files and expressing sorrow for the victims. In the most dramatic event of the day, Archbishop José H. Gomez posted a letter to the church community that called the sexual abuse "terribly sad and evil." He informed the area's Catholics that he has stripped Cardinal Roger Mahony of any further duties with the church, "administrative or public," and accepted the resignation of Mahony's former aide who oversaw the response to years of sexual abuse allegations, Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Curry.

Here is the Gomez letter, posted on the archdiocese website.

My brothers and sisters in Christ,

This week we are releasing the files of priests who sexually abused children while they were serving in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

These files document abuses that happened decades ago. But that does not make them less serious.

I find these files to be brutal and painful reading. The behavior described in these files is terribly sad and evil. There is no excuse, no explaining away what happened to these children. The priests involved had the duty to be their spiritual fathers and they failed.

We need to acknowledge that terrible failure today. We need to pray for everyone who has ever been hurt by members of the Church. And we need to continue to support the long and painful process of healing their wounds and restoring the trust that was broken.

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.

My predecessor, retired Cardinal Roger Mahony, has expressed his sorrow for his failure to fully protect young people entrusted to his care. Effective immediately, I have informed Cardinal Mahony that he will no longer have any administrative or public duties. Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Curry has also publicly apologized for his decisions while serving as Vicar for Clergy. I have accepted his request to be relieved of his responsibility as the Regional Bishop of Santa Barbara.

To every victim of child sexual abuse by a member of our Church: I want to help you in your healing. I am profoundly sorry for these sins against you.

To every Catholic in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, I want you to know: We will continue, as we have for many years now, to immediately report every credible allegation of abuse to law enforcement authorities and to remove those credibly accused from ministry. We will continue to work, every day, to make sure that our children are safe and loved and cared for in our parishes, schools and in every ministry in the Archdiocese.

In the weeks ahead, I will address all of these matters in greater detail. Today is a time for prayer and reflection and deep compassion for the victims of child sexual abuse.

I entrust all of us and our children and families to the tender care and protection of our Blessed Mother Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe and Our Lady of the Angels.

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend José H. Gomez
Archbishop of Los Angeles

Church files released last week showed that Mahony and Curry were aware in 1986 and '87 of numerous cases of potentially criminal sexual abuse of children by priests. The top church officials either did not act to report the abuses to authorities, or discussed ways to keep the reports from reaching the authorities.

The files released today black out the names of victims and some third parties, but they include the names of priests and of church officials who were in charge during the time of the abuses. The release is being made under a 2007 legal settlement, but the Archdiocese fought to block full, unredacted release sought by victims and the media until this week.

The Archdiocese includes some background material on the files. Here's a sample from the web page:

2. How many files are being released with names? 124 files are being released with names. Of this number, 82 files have information on allegations of childhood sexual abuse and 42 files have no information on allegations of childhood sexual abuse but, in those instances, the "proffers" are being provided.

"Proffers" are summaries of personnel files, prepared for litigation that describe some of the documents in that file. These summaries were previously published by the Archdiocese after they were determined by the Court to be complete and accurate regarding the lack of notice to the Archdiocese of any claims of childhood sex abuse for that priest.

3. How many pages are being released?
There are approximately 12,000 pages in the files being released, in accordance with the Court orders. Media reports that there were 30,000 or more pages were inaccurate.

4. There are 6 additional files where the priests are identified by Roman Numerals instead of names. Why?
There are certain priests against whom charges were never substantiated. In those instances, the Court ordered that their identities be protected.

5. There were 192 priests and bishops named in the litigation, what about the remaining 62 individuals?
In those cases the Archdiocese had no file at all or the party was exonerated and the files were not to be produced.

What actual effect that Gomez's action would have on Mahony's church standing is unclear. The LA Times reported tonight that the effects would be minimal:

An archdiocese spokesman, Tod Tamberg, said that beyond cancelling his confirmation schedule, Mahony's day-to-day life as a retired priest would be largely unchanged. He resides at a North Hollywood parish, and Tamberg said he would remain a “priest in good standing” and continue to celebrate Mass there.

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