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.