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Bishop sorry for ‘inadequate or mistaken’ response to priest abuse

A Roman Catholic bishop apologized Tuesday for "inadequate or mistaken" responses to clergy sex abuse when he served as a top advisor to Cardinal Roger M. Mahony in the late 1980s.

"Like many others, I have come to a clearer understanding over the years of the causes and treatment of sexual abuse," Bishop Thomas J. Curry, who oversees Santa Barbara and Ventura counties for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, said in a statement.

Internal church files released this week show Curry and Mahony, who was then archbishop, discussed how to conceal child molestation by priests from law enforcement, including by keeping the priests out of California to avoid prosecution. While serving as vicar of clergy, Curry also suggested to Mahony that they prevent pedophile priests from seeing therapists who might alert authorities.

DOCUMENT: Los Angeles Archdiocese priest abuse files

In one letter about a priest who had acknowledged using a 12-year-old parishioner as what a church official called his "sex partner," Curry said it was "surprising" that a church-paid counselor hadn't reported Father Michael Wempe to police. He and Wempe "agreed it would be better if Mike did not return to him."

Perhaps, Curry added, the priest could be sent to "a lawyer who is also a psychiatrist" thereby putting "the reports under the protection of privilege."

The trove of documents, which was made public as part of a civil lawsuit, came from personnel files for 14 priests. Files related to 75 more priests are expected to be released in the coming weeks.

While the memos provoked outcry from church critics, legal experts said they were unlikely to lead to criminal charges, let alone convictions. Most of the letters fall decades beyond the three-year statute of limitations for felonies such as child endangerment, obstruction of justice and conspiracy to commit those offenses.

Mahony, who retired in 2011, issued a statement Monday in which he apologized and recounted humbling meetings with dozens of abuse victims. "I am sorry," he said. The next day, Curry released his statement to the Ventura County Star.

"I wish to acknowledge and apologize for those instances when I made decisions regarding the treatment and disposition of clergy accused of sexual abuse that in retrospect appear inadequate or mistaken," Curry said. "Like many others, I have come to a clearer understanding over the years of the causes and treatment of sexual abuse and I have fully implemented in my pastoral region the archdiocese's policies and procedures for reporting abuse, screening those who supervise children and abuse prevention training for adults and children."

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-- Ashley Powers, Harriet Ryan and Victoria Kim

 
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