Cardinal Mahony is disciplined after files show failure to address abuse allegations

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.

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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.

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