Archbishop takes action on Mahony, Curry over abuse scandal
Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez announced Thursday that Cardinal Roger Mahony would have a reduced role in the church and that Santa Barbara Bishop Thomas J. Curry has stepped down from that job amid recent revelations over their handling of the priest abuse scandal in the 1980s.
"Effective immediately, I have informed Cardinal Mahony that he will no longer have any administrative or public duties. Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Curry has also publicly apologized for his decisions while serving as Vicar for Clergy. I have accepted his request to be relieved of his responsibility as the Regional Bishop of Santa Barbara,” Gomez wrote in a letter.Internal Catholic church records released Monday show that 15 years before the clergy sex abuse scandal came to light, Mahony and Curry discussed ways to conceal the molestation of children from law enforcement.
The records offer the strongest evidence yet of a concerted effort by officials in the nation's largest Catholic diocese to shield abusers from police. The newly released records, which the archdiocese fought for years to keep secret, reveal in church leaders' own words a desire to keep authorities from discovering that children were being molested.
The records contain memos written in 1986 and 1987 by Mahony and Curry, then the archdiocese's chief advisor on sex abuse cases. In the confidential letters, Curry proposed strategies to prevent police from investigating three priests who had admitted to church officials that they had abused young boys.
Curry suggested to Mahony that they prevent the priests from seeing therapists who might alert authorities and that they give the priests out-of-state assignments to avoid criminal investigators. Mahony, who retired in 2011, has apologized repeatedly for errors in handling abuse allegations.
The church has agreed to release many more files about how officials handled the sex abuse cases.
In his letter, Gomez said: "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."
[Updated at 10:05 p.m.: An archdiocese spokesman, Tod Tamberg, said that beyond cancelling 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” and continue to celebrate Mass there.]
Here is Gomez's full letter:
My brothers and sisters in Christ,
This week we are releasing the files of priests who sexually abused children while they were serving in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
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. We need to pray for everyone who has ever been hurt by members of the Church. And we need to continue to support the long and painful process of healing their wounds and restoring the trust that was broken.
I cannot undo the failings of the past that we find in these pages. Reading these files, reflecting on the wounds that were caused, has been the saddest experience I’ve had since becoming your Archbishop in 2011.
My predecessor, retired Cardinal Roger Mahony, has expressed his sorrow for his failure to fully protect young people entrusted to his care. Effective immediately, I have informed Cardinal Mahony that he will no longer have any administrative or public duties. Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Curry has also publicly apologized for his decisions while serving as Vicar for Clergy. I have accepted his request to be relieved of his responsibility as the Regional Bishop of Santa Barbara.
To every victim of child sexual abuse by a member of our Church: I want to help you in your healing. I am profoundly sorry for these sins against you.
To every Catholic in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, I want you to know: We will continue, as we have for many years now, to immediately report every credible allegation of abuse to law enforcement authorities and to remove those credibly accused from ministry. We will continue to work, every day, to make sure that our children are safe and loved and cared for in our parishes, schools and in every ministry in the Archdiocese.
In the weeks ahead, I will address all of these matters in greater detail. Today is a time for prayer and reflection and deep compassion for the victims of child sexual abuse.
I entrust all of us and our children and families to the tender care and protection of our Blessed Mother Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe and Our Lady of the Angels.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
-- Shelby Grad, Harriet Ryan and Victoria Kim
Photo: Archbishop Jose Gomez, left, and Cardinal Roger Mahony appear at a transition ceremony at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in February 2010. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times