Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez stripped Cardinal Roger Mahony of all administrative church duties on Thursday after releasing files on more than 100 clerics, as required under a 2007 lawsuit deal over alleged sex abuse.
In 2007, Cardinal Mahony and the Roman Catholic Church in Los Angeles apologized for abuses by priests, dating back to the 1940s, after 508 victims reached a settlement worth $660 million, reports the Los Angeles Times.
As part of that deal, the archdiocese agreed to release the personnel files of clergy accused of abuse. However, Cardinal Mahony then spent enormous amounts of money on legal bills to try to stop the files from becoming public.
Esther Hatfield, leader of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) in Los Angeles chapter, told the Los Angeles Times that church officials, including Archbishop Gomez, “have relentlessly and expensively and successfully fought for years to keep these horrific secrets secret.”
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Archbishop Gomez said that Cardinal Mahony will “no longer have any administrative or public duties,” while Mahony’s former top adviser on sex-abuse issues, Thomas Curry, has stepped down as a regional bishop.
Mahony reached the mandatory retirement age (75) for bishops in 2011 and was succeeded by Gomez on March 1, 2011.
Mahony remains "a priest in good standing" and may still hold Mass, but no longer will administer the sacrament of Confirmation. Mahony still holds the titles of Cardinal and Archbishop Emeritus of Los Angeles and retains his Vatican appointments, including his eligibility to vote for new popes.
124 files were released on the LA archdiocese’s website, listed by priests’ names, including 82 containing information on allegations of childhood sexual abuse.
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The files also documented Mahony's attempts to cover up sexual abuse by priests, which included shuffling them around to different churches. In 1987, Cardinal Mahony prohibited a priest from seeking therapy for his "urges" on the grounds that a therapist might report the crimes to the police.
Archbishop Gomez said in a statement: “These files document abuses that happened decades ago. But that does not make them less serious. 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. We need to acknowledge that terrible failure today.”
SNAP director David Clohessy said in a statement: “The lesson here for Catholic staff is clear: if you successfully conceal your wrongdoing, you can keep your job. If, however, you fail, there’s an extraordinarily slim chance you might experience some slight consequences."
Local media have long-criticized former Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley for refusing to file charges against Cardinal Mahony, even though there has been clear evidence that Cardinal Mahony knew of sexual abuse crimes and tried to hide them, which is a felony.