Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Cardinal Roger Mahony and the Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal

The National Catholic Reporter has an editorial about the case of former Los Angeles Archbishop and Cardinal Roger Mahony, previously a widely respected figure, who we now know was extensively involved in shielding priests who had committed crimes against minors in the part of the abuse scandal that came under his jurisdiction, Truth stings worse than rebuke of Los Angeles cardinal 02/11/2013.

The Catholic Church hierarchy at all levels needs to come clean on the abuse cases and the coverups. Even if it decimates a lot of senior officials. I hope the next Pope will be very, very serious and focused on doing so.

The editorial says:

Some truth exists in the "We didn't know" defense. Few knew, years ago, the seriousness of the disease borne by those who molest children. Much of it remains a mystery today.

But the "We didn't know" defense quickly wears thin against the details contained in the 12,000 pages of documents recently released by the court in Los Angeles, just as it wore thin against the truth revealed when documents were released in other places like Philadelphia and Boston.

That's why Mahony spent so much time and money over nearly a decade attempting to keep the documents sealed. It's why, even after agreeing to release documents as part of a 2007 settlement with 508 victims costing $660 million, he continued to fight tooth and nail to keep them secret. It is why he and the archdiocese's lawyers tried as a last-ditch attempt to get the courts to redact the names of church officials from the documents so it would be difficult to tell who did what. The documents put the lie to the "We didn't know" defense.

What they demonstrate is that diocesan officials, while they may not have understood the intricacies of the sex abuser's mind and motivation, did know laws were being broken, that children were being raped and otherwise abused. They knew they had to take extraordinary lengths -- sending priests to counselors who were also lawyers so they could claim their conversations were privileged, sending some priests out of the country and others from parish to parish and diocese to diocese -- to avoid detection by the law and by the very Catholic community the officials were charged to serve. They knew enough to understand they had to hide the crimes and the behavior if they didn't want to ruin the reputation of the clergy culture. Consideration of what was happening to the abused children and their families was incidental, at best. [my emphasis]
Here is a CNN report on Mahony's coverups, Retired Los Angeles cardinal relieved of duties 02/01/2013:

Mahony actually had a fairly liberal reputation. Here is a 03/03/2006 report from The Young Turks, Cardinal Roger Mahony is Disobeying the Rules! Here Cenk Uygur is complimenting Mahony for being a "real Catholic" because of a pro-immigrant stand he took:

Cenk was right in 2006 in saying that Mahony's stand then was more humane and more genuinely Christian than that of the xenophobes. But his allegiance to protecting the hierarchy was neither. From the National Catholic Reporter editorial:

The action by Archbishop Jose Gomez, relieving Cardinal Roger Mahony of "any administrative or public duties," was remarkable on two levels. [Update: that sentence first appeared here outside the quotation indicator. I regret the error.]

First, it broke with the unspoken but nearly ironclad rule of the culture of Catholic hierarchy that bishops do not publicly criticize other bishops. That courtesy extended even to the most egregious examples of ecclesial malfeasance -- the deliberate and persistent hiding of criminal activities by priests. No one to this point had uttered a word against a predecessor, not in New York or Connecticut, not in Philadelphia or Milwaukee, not in Seattle or Santa Fe. There were "mistakes made," they would say, and offer vacuous apologies. For reasons yet unknown, Gomez broke the code.

Second, the language Gomez used was blunt and unqualified. The behavior he found in the files, he said, was "evil." The acts themselves and the handling of these matters, as the files revealed, showed more than mistakes made, they showed a "terrible failure."

"I find these files to be brutal and painful reading. The behavior 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," wrote Gomez, who also referred to Mahony's sorrow "for his failure to fully protect young people entrusted to his care." [my emphasis]
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