Documents ordered released from the sexual abuse files of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles are starting to get out. Today's LA Times lede is a grabber: "Fifteen years before the clergy sex abuse scandal came to light, Archbishop Roger M. Mahony and a top advisor plotted to conceal child molestation by priests from law enforcement, including keeping them out of California to avoid prosecution..."
The archdiocese's failure to purge pedophile clergy and reluctance to cooperate with law enforcement has previously been known. But the memos written in 1986 and 1987 by Mahony and Msgr. Thomas J. Curry, then the archdiocese's chief advisor on sex abuse cases, offer the strongest evidence yet of a concerted effort by officials in the nation's largest Catholic diocese to shield abusers from police. The newly released records, which the archdiocese fought for years to keep secret, reveal in church leaders' own words a desire to keep authorities from discovering that children were being molested.
In the confidential letters, filed this month as evidence in a civil court case, Curry proposed strategies to prevent police from investigating three priests who had admitted to church officials that they abused young boys. Curry suggested to Mahony that they prevent them from seeing therapists who might alert authorities and that they give the priests out-of-state assignments to avoid criminal investigators.
Cardinal Mahony is currently the retired Archbishop Emeritus of Los Angeles. Curry is the archdiocese's auxiliary bishop for Santa Barbara, the Times says. Mahony issued a statement Monday that repeats his apology for the years of sexual abuse by priests and says he prays every day for the victims.
With the upcoming release of priests’ personnel files in the Archdiocese’s long struggle with the sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy, my thoughts and prayers turn toward the victims of this sinful abuse.
Various steps toward safeguarding all children in the Church began here in 1987 and progressed year by year as we learned more about those who abused and the ineffectiveness of so-called “treatments” at the time. Nonetheless, even as we began to confront the problem, I remained naïve myself about the full and lasting impact these horrible acts would have on the lives of those who were abused by men who were supposed to be their spiritual guides. That fuller awareness came for me when I began visiting personally with victims. During 2006, 2007 and 2008, I held personal visits with some 90 such victims.
Those visits were heart-wrenching experiences for me as I listened to the victims describe how they had their childhood and innocence stolen from them by clergy and by the Church. At times we cried together, we prayed together, we spent quiet moments in remembrance of their dreadful experience; at times the victims vented their pent up anger and frustration against me and the Church.
Toward the end of our visits I would offer the victims my personal apology—and took full responsibility—for my own failure to protect fully the children and youth entrusted into my care. I apologized for all of us in the Church for the years when ignorance, bad decisions and moral failings resulted in the unintended consequences of more being done to protect the Church—and even the clergy perpetrators—than was done to protect our children.
I have a 3 x 5 card for every victim I met with on the altar of my small chapel. I pray for them every single day. As I thumb through those cards I often pause as I am reminded of each personal story and the anguish that accompanies that life story.
The cards contain the name of each victim since each one is precious in God’s eyes and deserving of my own prayer and sacrifices for them. But I also list in parenthesis the name of the clergy perpetrator lest I forget that real priests created this appalling harm in the lives of innocent young people.
It remains my daily and fervent prayer that God’s grace will flood the heart and soul of each victim, and that their life-journey continues forward with ever greater healing.
I am sorry
Terence McKiernan of BishopAccountability.org called on local and federal prosecutors in Los Angeles to take action.
The long-awaited Los Angeles archdiocesan documents are beginning to appear. Already we see strong indications that Cardinal Mahony and his management team acted deliberately to prevent abusers from being apprehended by the police. We urge the U.S. Attorney and the Los Angeles County District Attorney to examine this evidence, and if Cardinal Mahony, Bishop Curry, and their associates conspired to obstruct justice, then indictments should follow. We urge prosecutors also to consider the evidence in the Aguilar files of international cooperation between bishops to help a known child molester evade criminal prosecution. These documents and other files that will be released in coming months offer a basis to determine whether priests were transferred in violation of federal law.
The Times reports Monday a statement from archdiocese lawyer J. Michael Hennigan, who says the archdiocese policy in the 1980s was to let victims decide whether to go to the police.
"Not surprisingly, the families of victims frequently did not wish to report to police and have their child become the center of a public prosecution," lawyer J. Michael Hennigan wrote.
He acknowledged memos written in those years "sometimes focused more on the needs of the perpetrator than on the serious harm that had been done to the victims."
"That is part of the past," Hennigan wrote. "We are embarrassed and at times ashamed by parts of the past. But we are proud of our progress, which is continuing."
SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said it would demonstrate outside the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels at 11 a.m. Tuesday and call for prosecutors to move against Mahony and "anyone who broke the law," and call on Archbishop José Horacio Gomez to publicly admonish Mahony.