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Documents Confirm That Cardinal Mahoney Shielded Priests Who Abused Children

Another example of the Catholic Church’s decades-long cover-up of priests who abused children is coming out of Los Angeles:

Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, for more than 25 years the savvy shepherd of the Roman Catholic Church in Los Angeles, retired nearly two years ago to a renovated yellow house behind his childhood parish, pledging to stay in the spotlight by continuing to fight for the rights of immigrants.

But the cardinal now finds himself in a most unwelcome spotlight, one that he sought for years to avoid. Internal church personnel files released this week as part of a civil court case reveal that he and his top adviser knowingly shielded priests accused of child sexual abuse from law enforcement. In one letter, the cardinal ordered a clergyman to stay in New Mexico, where he had been sent for treatment, to avoid the possibility of being reported to the police in California.

Lawyers for the Los Angeles Archdiocese fought for years to prevent the release of the files, but a demand for transparency was a primary goal of the more than 500 victims of clergy abuse who signed a record settlement for $660 million with the archdiocese in July 2007. When a judge ordered the files to be made public despite the church’s objections, the archdiocese fought to be allowed to redact names and identifying details. But it recently lost that battle and now awaits an imminent cascade of 30,000 more documents that could further tarnish Cardinal Mahony’s legacy.

(…)

In 2009, the Los Angeles Archdiocese became the first in the nation to be the subject of a federal investigation into the handling of clergy sexual abuse. The United States attorney, Thomas P. O’Brien, convened a grand jury, which was reported at the time to include an investigation into the role of Cardinal Mahony and his chief lieutenants in protecting accused abusers. No charges were ever brought.

The cardinal weathered the growing scandal because he retained the loyalty of Hispanic parishioners and his priests, unlike in Boston and Philadelphia, where clerics who lost confidence in their cardinals sought their ouster, said Rocco Palmo, editor of the Web site Whispers in the Loggia, which follows news of the Catholic hierarchy.

“The scandals have not had the same kind of impact among Hispanic Catholics, and that’s where Mahony’s base had been from the beginning of his ministry,” Mr. Palmo said.

It is unclear whether the newly released documents will result in criminal prosecution. The cases may be beyond the statute of limitations. The United States attorney’s office declined to comment on Tuesday, and Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles district attorney, said in a statement that the office would “review and evaluate all documents as they become available to us.”

Anthony DeMarco, the lawyer for the plaintiff whose civil case led to the release of the documents on Monday, said the files show that Cardinal Mahony was corresponding regularly with his lieutenants about priests accused of sexually abusing minors.

“Every day, just about, he was dealing with this, and from the moment he arrived in Los Angeles, he’s reading about this, he’s taking action, he’s saying, ‘Let’s send them out of state and out of the country,’ ” Mr. DeMarco said.

The documents shed light on the case of Msgr. Peter Garcia, accused of molesting as many as 20 boys, one of whom he is said to have tied up and raped. A letter from Cardinal Mahony reveals that he urged Monsignor Garcia to stay at a treatment center in New Mexico instead of returning to California.

The cardinal wrote to the treatment center’s director in 1986, “I believe that if Monsignor Garcia were to reappear here within the archdiocese, we might very well have some type of legal action filed in both the criminal and civil sectors.”

So, it’s basically the same story we’ve seen in other jurisdictions. Rather than thinking about the children who were being abused and reporting these men to the police, which is all they should have done, Mahoney and others like him were concerned only with protecting the image of the Church and thought nothing of reassigning these abusers to other jurisdictions where they would have the opportunity to abuse again. It happened all over the United States and, indeed, all over the world, and the man who now holds the title of Pope knew all about it. Why more heads aren’t rolling over this I will never understand.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Jeremy says:

    Why more heads aren’t rolling over this I will never understand.

    It’s religion, Doug.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  2. Ron Beasley says:

    This should come as no surprise. The Catholic Church was never a spiritual organization. When it was founded it’s purpose was to maintain the power of the Roman Empire and after that to maintain the power of the church itself.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

  3. Rob in CT says:

    Shocker.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  4. C. Clavin says:

    Sad this is no longer even suprising…much less shocking.
    We should eliminate the tax exemption of all churches.
    That would go a long way towards solving some debt issues.
    It would also free up some space in our city centers.
    And it’s not just the Catholic Perverts.
    The fact that clowns like Pat Robertson operate bazillion dollar operations on a tax exempt basis is ridiculous.
    Who was the other guy that was smoking meth and f’ing gay prostitutes? Hagar? Hagen?
    Just because these fools believe in the supernatural, an infinitely old, infinitely powerful, omniscient being for which there is no evidence, is no reason they shouldn’t pull their own weight.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Jeremy:

    It’s religion, Doug.

    And money. Don’t forget the money. In fact, the religion is all about the money, and the power that comes with it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Just because these fools believe in the supernatural, an infinitely old, infinitely powerful, omniscient being for which there is no evidence, is no reason they shouldn’t pull their own weight.

    Pray tell, just exactly what is it in their behavior that leads you to believe, that these charlatans believe in any such thing as a god?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  7. C. Clavin says:

    @ Ozark…
    Valid point…but I was speaking of all religions…not just the child molesting ones.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  8. michael reynolds says:

    So let’s see if I get the history of this church right.

    The Roman Catholic church begins its formal life as apologists for brutal Roman dictators. They go on to be defenders and apologists for various brutal dukes, princes and kings. They then launch unprovoked attacks on Muslims with a side helping of vicious anti-semitism. They then become apologists for imperialists up to and including justifying genocide. Then it’s on to representing for any half-assed Euro-royal who will collect a church tax for them, while busily stabbing and poisoning and invading and torturing in the name of Jesus. Oh, and of course some Jew killing. Then we enter the modern age when they bless both sides in the first world war, move directly on to covering up Nazi atrocities, help to shelter war criminals, back every banana republic midget tyrant, and start the wholesale rape of little boys, followed by a cover-up.

    Great institution.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 1

  9. C. Clavin says:

    @ Ozark…
    …not just the child molesting, meth smoking, gay prostitute f’ing, homophobic, xenophobic, hypocritical ones.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  10. Ernieyeball says:

    Then were little children presented to him, that he should impose hands upon them and pray. And the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said to them: Suffer the little children, and forbid them not to come to me: for the kingdom of heaven is for such. And when he had imposed hands upon them, he departed from thence.

    Matthew 19 13-15
    New Advent Bible

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  11. C. Clavin says:

    I don’t usually vote one way or the other for comments…but Reynolds just got a “like”.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  12. Ron Beasley says:

    Just another indication that the Catholic Church has no real morality:
    In malpractice case, Catholic hospital argues fetuses aren’t people
    It’s all about money and power not about spirituality or morality.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  13. stonetools says:

    Actually, the Roman Catholic Church has done great good-and great evil. Micheal’s characterization of the Church is one sided ( and no, I’m not Roman Catholic).
    This is a great blot on the institution, though. They have to dig deep, humble themselves, and clean out this cancer root and branch. The current Pope needs to focus on that, rather than making any more pronouncements to those outside the Church.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  14. Ron Beasley says:

    @stonetools:

    Actually, the Roman Catholic Church has done great good-and great evil.

    The same can be said for Hamas – are you prepared to defend them as well?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  15. wr says:

    @stonetools: “The current Pope needs to focus on that, rather than making any more pronouncements to those outside the Church. ”

    Except he can’t — because he was right at the heart of the coverup.

    Oh, and except he doesn’t want to. His sole interest seems to be in returning the Church to the 15th century.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  16. PJ says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    This should come as no surprise. The Catholic Church was never a spiritual organization. When it was founded it’s purpose was to maintain the power of the Roman Empire and after that to maintain the power of the church itself.

    You’re wrong. This is why the Catholic Church was founded. (NSFW, Louis C.K., NSFW)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  17. CB says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    I spit my coffee out when i read that this morning. What kills me is that youll never get those people to understand the profound dissonance between those two positions. Theres always a heretofor unmentioned justification. Such transparent BS.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  18. de stijl says:

    Why anyone still belongs to the Catholic Church baffles me.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  19. michael reynolds says:

    @stonetools:

    There’s no “but they also do good” for an organization that has systematically enabled the rape of thousands if not millions of children, covered up those crimes, attacked the victims and not only defended the perpetrators but put them in a position to rape again .

    Once you’re a child rapist there’s no second act. And make no mistake, this is an organization that as an organization practices the rape of children. Not enough soup kitchens in the world to balance that off.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  20. stonetools says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    I’m not defending them, so much as being objective. You could say that all the United States is good for was exterminating Indians, oppressing people of color , and backing right wing dictatorships, and you would be largely right, but you have to admit the USA is more than just that.

    @michael reynolds:

    Once you’re a child rapist there’s no second act. And make no mistake, this is an organization that as an organization practices the rape of children. Not enough soup kitchens in the world to balance that off.

    I can understand why you think that. And I can’t defend the systemic enabling of child abuse. But just as there is more to the German people than the Holocaust, there is more to the Roman Catholic Church than child sex abuse. Just to be clear, they need radical reform and its clear they’re not doing enough.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  21. anjin-san says:

    I’m a bit shocked that the self-declared “people of faith” on the right are not raising their voices in righteous indignation, demanding an accounting. After all, “family values” means everything to the right, does it not? I would think protecting children from sexual predators would take precedent over issues such as Michelle Obama’s eye roll…

    A cynic might think that the GOPs endless nods to family values are just a marketing gimmick.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  22. Ernieyeball says:

    @anjin-san: A cynic rational, thinking citizen might think that the GOPs endless nods to family values are just a marketing gimmick.

    FTFY

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  23. Ron Beasley says:

    @PJ: Yes, I’ve seen that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  24. BIll says:

    My son was born premature 10 years tomorrow. Daniel died the next day. Before that happened, the employer of my wife- The Diocese of Palm Beach – Sent a HR employee to see my wife while she was on hospital bedrest so to tell her that A- Her health insurance would soon be ended and B- That she wouldn’t be guaranteed her job when she was able to work again. This after the pastor said otherwise. The story of my son can be found here, and my thoughts on what the Diocese tried to do is here. The Catholic church preaches the sanctity of life but if given the choice of saving $80 a week health insurance premiums or a pregnant mother on hospital bedrest, the Church will pick the money. The Bishop of Palm Beach at the time is Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston. What I truly think of he, our former pastor and current church secretary, and certain diocesan employees, is not printable.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 0

  25. JKB says:

    As I’ve said before, bureaucracy is evil.

    Mahoney may have been the decision maker but others saw these documents and remained silent.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  26. sam says:

    And then there’s this data point in support of the the Institutionalized Hypocrisy theory: In malpractice case, Catholic hospital argues fetuses aren’t people.

    Where’s a guy when you need him to chase the moneychangers out of the temple?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  27. swbarnes2 says:

    @BIll:

    Wow, that’s terrible.

    Just today, it came out that once again, Catholic institutions hold money higher than any other principle. A Catholic hospital, trying to avoid paying for a wrongful death suit is, through its lawyers, arguing that fetuses are not, after all, persons.

    The hospital chain has assets of $15 billion, so apparently, their deeply held beliefs are actually less valuable than a tiny fraction of a percent of their $$$

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  28. grumpy realist says:

    @BIll: My sincere condolences to you and your wife. How premature was he?

    My mother had a similar problem carrying children to term–I was the only one who survived (and in my case it was still a 50%-50% chance.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  29. anjin-san says:

    As I’ve said before, bureaucracy is evil.

    And it was just as stupid the last time you said it as it is now.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  30. Tony W says:

    @swbarnes2: Their affection for money is quite apparent when you travel to a place like Lima Peru or other impoverished areas and see the splendor and glamour of the church building right in the middle of the poorest squalor – all built with those people’s money.

    All religions do this, but the Catholics are particularly egregious.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  31. Dave Schuler says:

    He should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  32. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    As stonetools said, the Catholic Church has done great good, and great evil. They provide about 1 in 6 hospital beds in the US, and their hospitals are superbly run and open to patients of all faiths. Their Catholic Charities do great work, and their adoption services are exemplary.

    That being said… there should be a RICO investigation into the pedophile priest scandals, and we should demand that the Vatican extradite Bernard Law and toss him in a cell alongside Mahoney for accessory before and after the fact on child molesting.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  33. John says:

    Mahony prays for the victims whose victimizer he kept safely hidden?? How about if Mahony starts hoping that the victims will pray for him, a lost and pathetic soul?? These Catholic bishops and cardinals keep hiding behind a veil of ignorance: supposedly no one “understood” how damaging and demeaning rape was to children. Oh? Years of studying the works of Jesus and his teachings (and common sense and empathy) didn’t make that clear to these “leaders”? Maybe guys like Mahony have no business being up there in the pulpit and should take their place, humbly, in the pews.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  34. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @C. Clavin: So was I.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  35. At what point does the Roman Catholic Church become an ongoing criminal enterprise?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  36. An Interested Party says:

    At what point does the Roman Catholic Church become an ongoing criminal enterprise?

    It would seem that ship sailed a long time ago…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  37. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @stonetools: The problem is that you are comparing a population (the German people) versus an institution (the Catholic Church). I would argue that member of the Catholic Church have done great things over time in spite of the Church, not because of it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  38. Rob in CT says:

    Heh, I get to agree with Jenos about something.

    Say hello to my little RICO, m’fers.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  39. C. Clavin says:

    “…Heh, I get to agree with Jenos about something….”

    I am deeply disturbed by your optimism.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  40. swbarnes2 says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    They provide about 1 in 6 hospital beds in the US, and their hospitals are superbly run and open to patients of all faiths.

    Unless your pregnancy is killing you, in which case, the Catholic doctors will watch you suffer, rather than save your life by ending your pregnancy.

    And sure, conservative men won’t die of pregnancy, but they will die of something. Will a Catholic hospital honor your end of life wishes? Not if they conflict with their interpretation of Catholic teaching.

    Their Catholic Charities do great work, and their adoption services are exemplary.

    Unless you are a gay couple, in which case, they will either refuse to serve you, or dissolve themselves entirely to avoid placing a child with people like you.

    Honestly, this is the best you can come up with on the pro side of the equation?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  41. Mike says:

    @C. Clavin: Do college endowments get tax free status? if so eliminate that as well.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  42. al-Ameda says:

    Yes, the Church is on strong moral ground when it acts to deny health insurance coverage that covers birth control for women.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  43. al-Ameda says:

    Yes, the Church is on strong moral ground when it acts to deny health insurance coverage that covers birth control for women. Of course the Church sees an insurance mandate as immoral. The Church should file for bankruptcy protection and relocate to Somalia, although I’m not sure Somalia would welcome them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  44. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @swbarnes2: @al-Ameda: Man, it really frosts you when people hold certain principles… and then actually stand up for them, doesn’t it?

    I disagree with the Catholic Church on those points, but I respect them for holding a morally defensible position and holding themselves up to it.

    And they’ve made it very clear how strongly they’ll work to live by it. When they were told that they’d have to accept gay couples as adoptive parents, they simply shut down their adoption programs in their entirety in those areas. So, please make the case that things are better in those areas where the Church does NOTHING to help any adoptions.

    And as far as their hospitals go… they’ve said that if they are required to provide services that they find morally repugnant (abortion, mandatory contraception), they’ll not only shut down the hospitals, but level the buildings so they can’t be taken over and used to perpetuate what they see as evil. As the adoption case shows, they aren’t likely to be bluffing. You wanna say that we’ll be better off with 1/6 fewer hospital beds? And are you so insistent that those hospitals should do what you think they should that you’d be willing to do without them entirely?

    I’d rather not. I think the Catholic hospitals and adoptions do a huge amount of good, and wouldn’t want to see them shut down because people won’t let them actually BE Catholic and still do their good work. That a horde of narrow-minded assholes would actually hurt a lot of people because they demand that the Church stop doing good work for people of all faiths, and none unless they essentially renounce their Catholicism.

    But then again, I’m not too worried about that happening. There are such prominent, proud Catholics such as Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, and the Kennedys who I’m sure will stand up for their faith and defend the Church’s rights to…

    Oh, crap.

    I wonder what new buildings will go up in place of the 615 Catholic hospitals in the US? And won’t ObamaCare work even more wonderfully without them?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  45. swbarnes2 says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    And as far as their hospitals go… they’ve said that if they are required to provide services that they find morally repugnant (abortion, mandatory contraception), they’ll not only shut down the hospitals, but level the buildings so they can’t be taken over and used to perpetuate what they see as evil.

    You can not be seriously defending that kind of terrorism.

    “You have to allow us to admit sick pregnant women, and then do nothing at all to save their lives, or we will burn the hospital down”?

    And you aren’t even Catholic? How much do you have to hate women to think such a stance is reasonable?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0