Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, who retired less than two years ago as the leader of the nation’s largest Roman Catholic archdiocese, was removed from all public duties by his successor, Archbishop José H. Gomez, as the church complied with a court order to release thousands of pages of internal documents that show how the cardinal shielded priests who sexually abused children.
The documents, released as part of a record $660 million settlement in 2007 with the victims of abuse, are the strongest evidence so far that top officials for years purposely tried to conceal abuse from law enforcement officials. The files, which go from the 1940s to the present, are the latest in a series of revelations that suggest that the church continued to maneuver against law enforcement even after the extent of the abuse crisis emerged.
Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Curry, who was the vicar for clergy and one of the cardinal’s top deputies and his adviser on sexual abuse, also stepped down as the regional bishop for Santa Barbara, Calif.
As a practicing Catholic in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, I’ve seen some of the lasting effects of Mahony’s part in this scandal. The tragedy of abused children was compounded by the higher-ups who stupidly tried to hide it. Now tens of thousands of decent priests who aren’t criminal deviants are paying the price for the few who were shielded by their superiors.
The new archbishop had this to say:
In a letter on Thursday, Archbishop Gomez wrote that the files are “brutal and painful reading.”
“The behavior described in these files is terribly sad and evil,” he said. “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.”