L.A. priest abuse: 'These are tough days,' Msgr. Kevin Kostelnik says
At Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral downtown, Msgr. Kevin Kostelnik asked parishioners Sunday “to pray fervently” for the victims of the clergy child abuse scandal and lamented that “these are tough days.”
Like other church leaders, Kostelnik read a Jan. 31 letter from Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez about tens of thousands of pages of previously secret personnel files posted on the church’s website last week of 122 priests accused of molesting children. Some of the files lay out in Cardinal Roger M. Mahony and Auxiliary Bishop Thomas J. Curry’s own words how the church hierarchy plotted to keep law enforcement from learning that children had been molested at the hands of priests.
“The behavior described in these files is terribly sad and evil,” Gomez wrote in the letter. “There is no excuse, no explaining away what happened to these children.”
After reading the letter, Kostelnik urged parishioners to continue to reflect on the archbishop’s words and to pray for the victims.
Kostelnik noted that the church and its congregation have become weary of the intense media coverage since the church files were released.
"Media have been camped on all three streets" around the church for days, Kostelnik said after a scripture reading, describing for congregants a difficult week. Parishioners have been "searching for a way out [of the church] without having a microphone shoved in their face."
"I'm usually a very optimistic person," he said. "But these are tough days. These are tough days."
Kostelnik told parishioners the church has worked to move forward. Employees undergo background checks and extensive training, he said.
Outside the cathedral, Donald L. Kohles stood with a picket sign reading "Phony Mahony." Kohles said he attends another Catholic church in Los Angeles.
Kohles, who described himself as a strong Catholic, said "The church needs to be purified" and added that it could help restore confidence in the church by getting the truth out.
At Holy Family Church in Pasadena, Msgr. Clement Connolly told parishioners: “This is a terrible day, but this is a good day. We are standing, finally, in a place of truth."
A decade earlier, Connolly said, he stood before his congregation and begged for the truth. He feared "institutional malignancy," he said.
"Any malignancy that is not addressed becomes invasive, becomes the norm," he said. "It shapes the culture of the church. It shapes decision-making."
A standing-room-only crowd that spilled into the nave applauded as Connolly finished his homily. The services at 8 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. focused on finding faith and grace in everyday life.
"There really aren't words," said Jennifer Rockenback of Los Angeles. She had arrived with her husband and two children, hoping Connolly could make sense of what she called "a terrible, terrible thing."
— Hailey Branson-Potts and Laura Nelson
Photo: Cardinal Roger M. Mahoney turns to look to the back of the courtroom as victims of priest abuse were asked to stand in July 2007. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times