Cardinal Roger Mahony defends his legacy on church child abuse
Retired Roman Catholic Cardinal Roger Mahony defended his tattered legacy one day after Archbishop Jose Gomez stripped Mahony of his administrative duties and released thousands of pages of confidential files on sexually abusive priests.
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The files were to be released as part of a record-breaking $660 million settlement with more than 500 victims of sex abuse, but lawyers for the archdiocese and individual priests waged a five-year battle to keep them sealed. On Thursday, a judge ordered them released without significant redactions after attorneys for The Associated Press and Los Angeles Times intervened.Skip to next paragraph
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An attorney for the media organizations contacted the archdiocese Friday with concerns that certain documents were improperly redacted.
Several of the documents in the newly released files echo recurring themes that emerged over the past decade in dioceses nationwide, where church leaders moved problem priests between parishes and didn't call police.
Studies commissioned by the U.S. bishops found more than 4,000 U.S. priests have faced sexual abuse allegations since the early 1950s, in cases involving more than 10,000 children — mostly boys.
In one instance, a draft of a plan with Mahony's name on it calls for sending a molester priest to his native Spain for a minimum of seven years, paying him $400 a month and offering health insurance. In return, the cardinal would agree to write the Vatican and ask them to cancel his excommunication, leaving the door open for him to return as a priest someday.
"I am concerned that the archdiocese may later be seen as liable — for having continued to support this man — now that we have been put on notice that one of the young adults under his influence is suicidal," a top aide wrote in a memo about the priest to Mahony in 1995, urging him to stop paying benefits to the priest.
The cardinal added a handwritten note: "I concur — the faster, the better."
In another case, Mahony resisted turning over a list of altar boys to police who were investigating claims against a visiting Mexican priest who was later determined to have molested 26 boys during a 10-month stint in Los Angeles. "We cannot give such a list for no cause whatsoever," he wrote on a January 1988 memo.
While Gomez's decision to strip Mahony of his administrative duties and reduce his public role was unprecedented in the American Roman Catholic Church, Mahony can still act as a priest, keep his rank as cardinal and remain on a critical Vatican panel that elects the next pope.
Victims were quick to point out the contrast between Mahony's pared-down local standing and his continued position as a cardinal who travels frequently to Rome and remains in good standing there.
The decision "is little more than window dressing. Cardinal Mahony is still a very powerful prelate," Joelle Casteix, the Western regional director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said at a Friday news conference outside the Los Angeles cathedral. "He's a very powerful man in Rome and still a very powerful man in Los Angeles."
The Vatican declined to comment Friday when asked if the Holy See would follow Gomez's lead and take action against Mahony.