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Cardinal is relieved of public duties for past failure to protect children

By on Friday, 1 February 2013

Cardinal Roger Mahony (CNS photo/Nancy Phelan Wiechec)

Cardinal Roger Mahony (CNS photo/Nancy Phelan Wiechec)

Cardinal Roger Mahony will “no longer have any administrative or public duties” as retired Archbishop of Los Angeles because of past failures to protect children from clerical sex abuse, Archbishop José Gomez has said.

Archbishop Gomez, Cardinal Mahony’s successor as Archbishop of Los Angeles, made the statement on the same day the archdiocese published the files of clergy who were the subject of a 2007 global abuse settlement. The material has been posted on a website, along with supporting information that includes the names of senior Church figures.

Archbishop Gomez also accepted Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Curry’s request to be relieved of his responsibility as the regional bishop of Santa Barbara.

Cardinal Mahony, now 76, led the archdiocese from 1985 until his March 2011 retirement. Bishop Curry, 70, was the archdiocese’s vicar of clergy and chief adviser on sexual abuse cases in the mid-1980s.

“These files document abuses that happened decades ago,” Archbishop Gomez said. “But that does not make them less serious. I find these files to be brutal and painful reading. The behaviour 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,” he said.

Some of files show archdiocesan officials worked to conceal child molestation by priests from law enforcement authorities in the 1980s. Memos exchanged in 1986 and 1987 by the cardinal and the bishop reveal proposals to keep police from investigating three priests who had admitted to Church officials that they molested young boys.

“Sad and shameful as the past history of sexual abuse is,” an archdiocesan statement said, “the Archdiocese of Los Angeles can point to more than a decade of modern child protection efforts that are among the most effective in the nation at preventing abuse and dealing with allegations of abuse.”

Archbishop Gomez in his statement noted that Cardinal Mahony “has expressed his sorrow for his failure to fully protect young people entrusted to his care” and Bishop Curry “has also publicly apologised for his decisions while serving as vicar for clergy”.

“Effective immediately,” he continued, “I have informed Cardinal Mahony that he will no longer have any administrative or public duties” and accepted Bishop Curry’s request to be relieved of his responsibility as the regional bishop of Santa Barbara.

Archbishop Gomez said that “reading these files, reflecting on the wounds that were caused, has been the saddest experience I’ve had since becoming your archbishop in 2011.”

“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,” he said. “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,” he said.

The 2007 settlement for $600 million covered more than 500 people who made claims about being sexually abuse by priests and other church personnel. Some of the priests who had claims against them sued to keep their names from being released, saying it violated their privacy rights.

A Superior Court judge ruled in early January that the names of personnel identified in the files could be made public, overturning an earlier decision by a retired federal judge who was acting as a mediator in a settlement between the archdiocese and victims who said they had been abused.

Church officials in Los Angeles had fought for years to keep the files private.

The documents show that Bishop Curry suggested to Cardinal Mahony that they prevent the priests from seeing therapists who might alert authorities and that the priests be given out-of-state assignments to avoid criminal investigators.

Cardinal Mahony said last month that he prays for victims of abuse by priests daily as he celebrates Mass in his private chapel.

“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,” he said in a statement, explaining that on his altar he keeps cards with the names of each of the 90 victims he met with from 2006 to 2008.

“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 cardinal said. “I am sorry.”

Archdiocesan spokesman Tod Tamberg said that while he has been relieved of administrative and public duties, Cardinal Mahony will continue to say Mass in the parish where he lives.

The cardinal sits on three Vatican offices: the Congregation for Eastern Churches, the Pontifical Council for Social Communications and the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See. He would normally keep those positions until the retirement age of 80.

When asked by Catholic News Service in Rome if Archbishop Gomez’s action to relieve Cardinal Mahony of administrative duties will affect his role with those offices, Jesuit Fr Federico Lombardi responded only by stating that the “measure taken by the archbishop naturally regards his archdiocese and not other duties that Cardinal Mahony has received from the pope in the Roman Curia.”

The retired archbishop was named a cardinal in 1991. As a member of the College of Cardinals who is under the age of 80, he is eligible to vote in a conclave.

  • JabbaPapa

    Oh please — Gaudi was an architectural genius, and his buildings are typically works of great beauty.

  • JabbaPapa

    It sounds bigoted.

  • Jonathan

    Parasum, I think that you’re quite right.  There are big cultural and organisational issues at play that need to be thoroughly and urgently addressed.  You identified some of them in another post.

    I’d still separate the bad system – and bad individuals – from decent individuals who are sort of stuck within it.  I’d also say that individuals should not escape from accountability by shifting blame to the system.

  • Jeannine

    I quote directly from the article: “The cardinal sits on three Vatican offices: the Congregation for Eastern Churches, the Pontifical Council for Social Communications and the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See.”

    Granted these are only committees where he will share his opinions. His opinions can be incorporated any any documents these councils publish. If this isn’t influencing Catholic policy worldwide then what’s the point of having these councils around?

  • Benedict Carter


  • Sweetjae

    Agreed but to me the design of physical structure is of part lesser importance than what truly is inside and the reverence it should have. I have been to Los Angeles Cathedral, it’s wonderful with giant tapestries of Saints along the walls and the Tabernacle is right dead center in the Altar. There is also a separate Adoration Room for privacy if one would like.

  • Sweetjae

    Antonio Gaudi is one of most artistic and brilliant architects of our time as testified with the details and intricacies of Sagrada Familia Cathedral, therefore you are dead wrong.

  • scary goat

     Don’t you think this very situation suggests that there is some reforming going on?  I mean when was the last time you saw an Archbishop “deal with” a Cardinal? I am not sure there is something wrong with the system as such…..I can’t really see that a different system would be better….I mean…like what?  “We are Church”?  Can you imagine the chaos?  Individuals get things wrong, groups of individuals get things wrong, the system isn’t perfect because we are imperfect people in an imperfect world….but I think a bit of “tweeking” is the way to go rather than dismantling the system because what are we going to replace it with?  And I thought it was the system instituted by Christ?

  • JabbaPapa


  • JabbaPapa

    The Archdiocese has clarified that he remains “a bishop in good standing” with no restrictions on his mandates to say the Mass and hear confessions.

  • Nick

    Well that makes a mockery then doesn’t it?

  • Nick

    Given the views they hold, they’ve ALL failed.

  • Nick

    “….but I think a bit of “tweeking” is the way to go rather than dismantling the system because what are we going to replace it with?” – Tweeking – is that the best you can advocate? Abolish it and don’t replace it with anything.

  • Nick

    Who says I’m interested in it?

    Fine, let him oppose it – its still going to happen.
    And in respect of minority rights, when was “listening to the voters” ever the right thing to do?
    Sounds like someone on the wrong side of history.

  • Nick

    Isn’t defending his cause with blind loyalty exactly what JabbaJabba does?

  • Nick

    Misguided teachings…

  • scary goat

     What exactly is your problem? Why this hatred for the Church?  Except that it opposes your personal wishes?

  • Nick

    Ok, well lets start with the opposition to equality for Gay people.

    Also the preaching that condoms won’t help stem the spread of HIV in sub saharan Africa.

    And if you want to throw in a bit of hypocricy, there’s the fact that under John Paul II. one of the major investments of the Congregation for Religious Works (aka Vatican Bank) led by Archbishop Paul Marcinkus was in a firm producing latex rubber – for use in condoms!

  • scary goat

     Which views, Nick?

  • Jonathan

    Well… indeed.  In some cases I agree.

  • Jonathan

    Some thoughts for reform:

    I’d think that alongside the new child protection polices we need a fundamental review of clergy formation and a new and complete honesty and openness about helping clergy to deal with sexual impulse; 

    A structurally system of reporting abuses (aka whistleblowing) akin to that which is found in virtually any large business.

    A thoroughgoing, consistent and *active* attempt to review what clergy are doing and how well they are – rather than waiting to receive one, a few or several complaints about them. Not dissimilar to an internal audit team, not dissimilar either to an HR team within any other organisation with large numbers of personnel.

    On a separate note, I’m still amazed that this, if nothing else, hasn’t at least prompted a review of our general understanding and teaching on human sexuality…

  • Jonathan

    I should say, too, scary goat, that I’m sceptical that Mahoney’s censure tells us much… it has happened only because the files have been released to the public.  The files have been released to the public only because a court ordered it.

    That isn’t sufficient evidence to me of a genuine, organisational, repentance.

  • Nick

    Given the views they hold, there are no “good ones”!

  • Nick

    Isnt defending his cause with blind loyalty exactly what JabbaJabba is doing?

  • Nick

    Discrimination against Gay people…

    No condoms to prevent HIV in sub saharan Africa…

    Vatican Bank investing in companies producing latex rubber to make condoms…

  • Nick

    I don’t know why you bother to keep banning me from posting because I will keep coming back time and time again.

  • scary goat

     Fair comment.

  • scary goat

     Yes, also fair points about reform.  Not sure about your last paragraph.

  • scary goat

     Ok fair enough.  I haven’t seen Los Angeles Cathedral.  When someone said it’s a monstrosity I imagined it to be like ours.  I agree with you that it is the presence of the Blessed Sacrament that really matters but you mention “the reverence it should have”.  I think that is why people don’t like some of the modern Churches/Cathedrals….they feel that such buildings don’t have sufficient reverence for what they are to house.

  • Alidylan73

    Why did this take so long? Good riddance!

  • Dan

    This isn’t isolated though this is pandemic world wide, I wonder how many children have been raped and abused by priests. It must be millions of them all suffering at the hands (litterly) of priests it makes me sick to then think that it all gets covered up. You lot are a mafia you think your above the law. Shame on you all for been associated with such despicable behaviour. No catholic priest should be allowed any where near a child ever again.

  • fizzypilgrim

    You are completely and utterly evil. That causes me pain. Jabba gives no sign that he is otherwise than pained by clerical abuse and any other abuse. He is a sensitive man. Are you?

  • Tjbobrien

     You are quite wrong. There is no tabernacle in the main part of the church it is in a small chapel on the south side. The tabernacle is quite spectacular though if you are able to find the chapel whch is not obvious.

  • Parasum

     Excellent points.

  • Parasum

     The logic is a good laugh, so you get a “Like” for that.

  • Parasum

     If building a church that looks like a rotten gherkin is a work of genius, agreed. If not, then not.

  • Parasum

     “whose guilt has long been known”

    ## Not up at the top where it matters, apparently. If OTOH the men up top did know, why was that scumbag left in place ?

  • Parasum

    He’s is going to be a voter at the forthcoming conclave – as he is well aware. His influence is no more ended than Sodano’s. At least Law can’t vote. Why some of these people are still cardinals, & haven’t been “requested” to resign that position, is anyone’s guess.

  • Parasum

     That’s a novel notion of what constitutes being “a bishop in good standing”. It’s beautifully free of morality or Christianity.