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Cardinal Mahony rebuked as more 'brutal' priest abuse files released

February 1, 2013 |  7:22 am

The Los Angeles Archdiocese has released tens of thousands of pages of previously secret personnel files for 122 priests accused of molesting children and took the extraordinary step of publicly censuring Cardinal Roger M. Mahony for mishandling the incidents.

Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez announced Thursday that he had relieved his predecessor, Mahony, of all public duties.

Gomez also said that Auxiliary Bishop Thomas J. Curry, who worked with Mahony to conceal abusers from police in the 1980s, had resigned his post as a regional bishop in Santa Barbara.

DOCUMENT: Los Angeles Archdiocese priest abuse files

"I find these files to be brutal and painful reading," Gomez said in statement. "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."

The public censure of Mahony, whose quarter-century at the helm of America's largest archdiocese made him one of the most powerful men in the Catholic Church, was unparalleled, experts said.

"This is very unusual and shows really how seriously they're taking this. To tell a cardinal he can't do confirmations, can't do things in public, that's extraordinary," said the Rev. Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest and Georgetown University fellow.

An archdiocese spokesman, Tod Tamberg, said that beyond canceling his confirmation schedule, Mahony's day-to-day life as a retired priest would be largely unchanged. He resides at a North Hollywood parish, and Tamberg said he would remain a "priest in good standing." He can continue to celebrate Mass and will be eligible to vote for pope until he turns 80 two years from now, Tamberg said.

At Our Lady Queen of Angels Church on Olvera Street, parishioners discussed the action against Mahony.

"They seem to be taking drastic measures," said Ralph Ochoa, a food volunteer. "They have to for the church to survive. A lot of people were hurt, they feel they were betrayed. It hurt parishioners and everyone too."

Richard Estrada, a church volunteer from Los Angeles, said he remained skeptical that Mahony participated in the cover-up, adding that if he did, he was trying to protect the church.

"But it hurts everybody," said Jose Lopez, a minister who said he become religious after multiple stints in prison. "Forget about embarrassment, it's hurting the kids."

Gomez's decision capped a two-week period in which the publication of 25-year-old files fueled a new round of condemnation of the L.A. archdiocese. The files of 14 clerics accused of abuse became public in a court case last Monday. They revealed in Mahony and Curry's own words how the church hierarchy had worked to keep law enforcement from learning that children had been molested at the hands of priests.

To stave off investigations, Mahony and Curry sent priests who they knew had abused children to out-of-state assignments, and they kept them from seeing therapists who might alert authorities.

Mahony and Curry both issued apologies, with the cardinal saying he had not realized the extent of harm done to children until he met with victims during civil litigation. "I am sorry," he said.

ALSO:

L.A. church molestation records spark call for criminal inquiry

Steve Lopez: It's too late for Cardinal Roger Mahony's apologies

Text of the letter Archbishop Gomez sent to the church community

--Harriet Ryan, Victoria Kim and Joseph Serna

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