Bishop Accountability

Mahony Resources – March 19–31, 2002

Note: The documents in this file are offered solely for educational purposes. Should any reader wish to quote or reproduce these documents for sale, the original publisher should be contacted and permission requested. makes no claim regarding the accuracy of any document we post.

Sexual Abuse Victims Confront Cardinal
Religion: Protesters in Camarillo quietly reproach Mahony for not doing enough about the problem of molestations by priests

By Richard Winton and Christine Hanley
LA Times
March 25, 2002

For the first time since sexual-abuse allegations began to rock the Roman Catholic Church, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony was confronted by victims and their supporters outside a Palm Sunday service in Ventura County.

As Mahony greeted parishioners after helping say a Mass at St. Mary Magdalen church in Camarillo, a few protesters had short, quiet conversations with him.

Several said they told Mahony that he had ignored the problem for too long and had not been forthcoming enough. Armed with banners and leaflets they gave parishioners, the two dozen victims and their families mostly stood quietly as Mahony passed by in and out of the church.

In the leaflets, they called on the archdiocese to release the names of several priests recently dismissed over sexual abuse of minors. They also asked that victims be released from settlement agreements binding them to confidentiality so they can speak out about their abusers. In addition, they ask parishioners to stop contributing money until the church is more forthcoming with information.

"The cardinal needs to release the names of all the perpetrators so they cannot move on and abuse children elsewhere," Ray Higgins, whose son was sexually abused in Santa Barbara by two priests, told reporters.

Carrying a sign that said "Break The Silence," Jim Falls said he hoped his presence might "save a child" from what he endured. Falls, now 34, said he was molested when he was 15.

"I am a survivor of abuse," he said. "I've lived with this for decades and it feels good to be able to confront those who have for so long ignored our plight."

The archdiocese recently dismissed six to 12 priests for sexually abusing minors, according to church sources. The archdiocese has refused to provide any details about their identity, location or number, although Mahony has written in the archdiocesan newspaper that a "few local priests" had been removed from the ministry for harming minors.

On Sunday, Mahony made no public statement to the protesters, did not address the issue at the service and would not answer questions from reporters outside.

But in Orange County, Bishop of Orange Tod D. Brown told those at Holy Family Cathedral that it was especially important during Easter week for the Catholic Church to accept responsibility for the "terrible, terrible crimes" committed by priests against children and to seek forgiveness for wayward clergymen.

Brown, leading Mass at the service, made his strongest public remarks to date about the growing sex scandal in a short but direct homily, characterizing it as a cross that the church and its people must bear in order to heal.

"We know now of the terrible trauma our church has been experiencing since the events in Boston earlier this year," Brown told parishioners.

"We know that, unfortunately, some among us, even members of our clergy, infinitesimal in numbers, but nevertheless real, have been perpetrators of terrible, terrible crimes, throughout the country, in our state, in our own county."

Brown concluded by saying that the church must seek forgiveness and pray for strength to "carry the cross of suffering that God has given to us" to "emerge into a new era of Easter a stronger, holier, more complete church."

Palm Sunday commemorates the day Jesus Christ triumphantly entered Jerusalem, where worshipers placed palm fronds before him as he arrived. It marks the first day of Holy Week, the most solemn observation of the Christian calendar.

Brown said this was the first chance he had to acknowledge the sexual abuse scandal from the pulpit.

In Camarillo, a spokesman for Mahony said the cardinal did not see the occasion as appropriate to address the issue.

Tod Tadberg, spokesman for the cardinal, said that the archdiocese is cooperating with law enforcement and that individual clergy are complying with a state law that mandates they report sexual abuse to police.

Mahony, he said, addressed clergy abuse in Friday's issue of the archdiocese newspaper, Tidings.

Mahony wrote that the church is going through a period of purification.

The cardinal wrote that some victims have called an archdiocese clergy abuse hotline.

But as he stood outside the Camarillo church Sunday, Falls said Mahony is not doing enough.

"We're here to stop Cardinal Mahony protecting child molesters," he said.

"By getting rid of these priests without naming them, he is saying, 'It's not my problem if they molest another kid,'" he said.

Cardinal Mahony's Chrism Mass Homily
Monday, March 25, 2002

The Tidings (LA Archdiocesan Paper)
March 29, 2002


Year after year, we listen to these challenging Scriptures at our Chrism Mass. But this year, they take on new and deeper meaning because of the extraordinary crisis swirling about the Church across the country.

Only one human being throughout the course of history could have listened to the Isaiah prophecy and then respond: "Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing." And that person was Jesus Christ.

Jesus set the tone, the theme, and the modeling for all of us who would be his disciples, all who would come after him in the service of the People of God.

Each Chrism Mass we pause to measure ourselves against Jesus Christ, the Isaiah prophecy, and all of his words and actions. In past years we have always come up short - we always had need for a further change of heart, a deepening of our discipleship. And we priests always had to gauge how we measured up to our priestly commitments.

But this year: the Church and the priesthood are undergoing an incredible purification because of the sinful and deplorable actions of a small percentage of priests.

In previous years we could hold our heads high as we listened to Jesus proclaim: "Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing." But-not this year; we have come up incredibly short.

In my 40 years as a priest and 27 years as a Bishop, I have never felt to devastated, so sad, so besieged because of the horrific and sinful crimes of priests across the country. I never dreamed that any priest could so betray and defile his vows and wreak such havoc upon innocent children and youth. I personally find this egregious conduct incomprehensible. But more, I am outraged at the colossal harm that has been done, and commit myself to use every energy that I have to not only correct any possible lingering problems here in Los Angeles, but to make certain that the Church across the country responds with swift action to correct all the wrongs.


Each year we bless the Oil of Catechumens, the Oil of the Sick and Sacred Chrism-these blessed oils are then sent out to our 290 Parish Communities to be used in the Sacramental life of the Church.

The blessed Oils are poured out on babies in Baptism, and on young people in Confirmation; yet, some of our children and youth have been violated by the very priests who poured upon them the Church's life-giving Oils.

We plead for forgiveness from our youth, our young adults who have been so harmed, and from our adult Catholics who have placed their trust in us and have found us wanting.

This year's Chrism Mass, in a special way, is a Mass of reparation for the sins of those priests who have sinned and created such devastation in the lives of the innocent; a Mass seeking deeper forgiveness from all the victims who have suffered so much; a Mass for the healing of those so gravely wounded; and a Mass to help the Church become more open, honest, and trustworthy.

As members of the Church, we need these consecrated Oils to be poured over us to heal us of our sins and our illnesses, to help eradicate the evil that from time to time grips us.

The blessed Oils are given for sinful and struggling disciples, not for saints; that insight is painfully clear this year.

How I wish that this year we could pour out these blessed Oils upon all of us Bishops and priests, over the whole Church, so that the purification through which we are struggling could be even more powerful and swift!

This year, the sins of us Bishops and priests are exposed and trumpeted for all to see. Our shame is all the more intense as the glaring lights of public opinion shine back and forth across us. We feel trapped and incapable of escaping the penetrating glare of all - both Catholics and those outside the Church.

Jesus' words, "Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing" seem so distant - the challenge to live up to the call so impossible to approach, much less to imitate as we should.

As we take this year's blessed Oils back to our parish communities, I know that on our lips will be fervent prayers that their inner power - through the Holy Spirit - will bring about that much-needed conversion and renewal for which we all long.

But the fog and mist that surround us seem never to lift so that we can all return to the mission upon which Jesus set us: to fulfill in our midst his faithful love and concern for all peoples:

-Good News is preached to the poor

-Captives receive their liberty

-The blind recover their sight

-The oppressed go free.

Nonetheless, I believe deeply that the Spirit of the Lord is upon us, that we have been anointed to carry on Jesus' work in the world; but that we have been found unworthy at this moment in salvation history.

I truly believe that we need to be washed clean once again, especially in the repentance and penance to which we are now called.


As I look out this evening and see so many of our brother priests gathered prayerfully during this time of purification, I am struck by the incredible imbalance: here we have a large group of faithful, committed and zealous priests who are striving day after day to be trustworthy to their priestly vows and promises; and yet, why are not the bright lights and the cameras focusing upon them?

And here is the imbalance: a small group of priests has managed not only to harm so many children and young people, but this small group has also dragged the blanket of shame and guilt over the rest of us, and their damaging exploits obliterate the goodness of the 98 percent-plus who are participating in Chrism Masses across the country this week.

Each year we enter into the Renewal of Commitment to Ministry; it is a time of the repetitious "I am" response to my questions - dutifully said, but possibly without the depth of inner application that those words have this year.

This year, I have asked that the Renewal of Commitment to Ministry be re-written to reflect the current painful moment in our history, and to help call forth from all of us a more profound and deeper loyalty to our priestly commitments and promises.

You will hear shortly specific questions relating to our ministry, with pointed questions to each one of us asking for our dedication to continue to love God and his people in chaste celibacy.

I beg you to enter fully into this year's rite of Commitment with a new vigor and resolve - far greater than in any previous year.

Like Simon of Cyrene, we are being called to carry the crosses of others - both the innocent crosses of the many victims of priestly abuse and misconduct, and the guilty crosses of those priests who have perpetrated such deplorable conduct.

Our people await anxiously both for signs and for visible and concrete actions - we owe them no less this evening.

The Church's truthfulness, honesty and credibility have been deeply wounded these past several months; I pray deeply that we will be able to recover some of those virtues in the coming months, but it will not be easy.

A new standard of openness and frankness has been established, and I eagerly welcome that standard; anything less betrays our own trust and that of our people.


There is a very wide gap to be bridged now within the Church and between the Church and the world.

People still long to hear Jesus' words, "Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing," and to find his love, caring, and ministry visibly at work in the Church.

I believe that the Archdiocese of Los Angeles has been very proactive in dealing with the issue of clergy sexual misconduct and abuse over the years. That effort began in 1986, and the first Archdiocesan Policy was formally issued in 1988.

One of the key groups advising me on developing our policies and in dealing with all of these cases is the Sexual Abuse Advisory Board. They review each and every case, new and old, and offer me their recommended course of action for each case. I follow their advice and recommendations fully. This group has been invaluable to the Archdiocese progressing forward with sound policies that protect children, youth and all Catholics.

The Board is made up primarily of lay people, including a couple whose sons were abused by a priest. The Archdiocese could not have a finer body assisting in the Church's response to any cases that arise.

The policies and procedures have been enhanced and updated over the years as we have learned more about this terrible sin and devastating scourge.

Our beginning and continuing goal remains the same: the total protection of children and young people, and the swift and ongoing care of any victims. Neither I nor anyone in the Archdiocese will accept a lesser standard.

As we learned more about this intolerable abuse and misconduct, we began strengthening our policies especially with respect to any re-entry of priests into partial or full pastoral ministry. Gradually, that policy shifted over the years to its present state: a zero tolerance for any priest to function in this Archdiocese who has been determined to be guilty of child abuse.

This policy is firmly in place and will be followed for all the years to come precisely because we have this wide gap to bridge - our goal is still to have all priests, deacons, and ministers resonate with Jesus' goal: "Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing."

A very few priests involved in old cases were impacted because of our stringent zero tolerance policy.

Some have inquired why we have not released the names and numbers of these few priests who were involved in the final phase of our new policy implementation. Please understand that there are two different sets of situations that require our attention:

Current or new active cases: In all of these cases, we follow a very strict policy of full disclosure adapted to each situation. Parish staffs, parishioners, parish school personnel, and others are notified promptly - the name of the priest is used. We follow that policy fully ourselves if an Archdiocesan priest is involved, and we strongly urge the Religious Communities to follow a similar policy.

We have several examples over the past several years demonstrating the Archdiocese's open, forthright, and swift handling of new cases of misconduct or abuse.

Old cases: In those cases going back many years - sometimes decades - a major criterion is whether the release of the information will further help or harm victims. The last thing victims want is to be re-victimized all over again many years later.

I concluded, with the advise of the Advisory Board, that such action would not in any way help protect children or youth from harm, but rather, the opposite effect was a real danger: that new harm could be inflicted upon victims of many years back.

If I thought that making these few names public would aid in any way to protect children and youth, or to help victims in their recovery, I would do it. But all indications in these few cases point to the opposite happening, and I will not permit further harm or exploitation to occur.

Please remember that victims find differing ways of healing. For some, a vigorous and public display helps them; and I respect them for their right to do that. Some of the victims' rights groups advocate this approach.

But other victims prefer a different and less public approach to their healing, and I must respect their right to privacy and to handle their situation in their own way. No victim can be forced to "go public" as a healing remedy.

If any past victims change their minds and wish to make their stories public, I support that decision fully.

As your Archbishop, I accept fully my responsibility to protect all members of the people of God from any misconduct or abuse. If my actions have at times been inadequate, or my response not as swift as it should have been, then I offer my sincere apologies. While I believe we have put in place sound safeguards and policies to protect all our people, but most especially our precious youth, we will still need to monitor the situation and to take whatever further steps may seem appropriate. I will not and cannot flinch from my duty and responsibility.

The new 800 number has proven to be very effective in helping people in various stages of their healing, as well as giving us new information to make certain that no one in ministry is abusing children or youth.

I ask your bold advice, innovative recommendations, and whatever counsel you can offer to help me serve as a better Archbishop and to have our Archdiocese of Los Angeles unparalleled in rooting out misconduct problems, safeguarding our people, and proclaiming once again the Good News of Jesus Christ.

We clergy understand and have accepted our responsibility as mandated reporters in the state of California these past five years, joining the ranks of thousands of other Archdiocese mandated reporters, and we pledge our continuing total compliance in filing the necessary reports when we suspect child neglect or abuse. As your ministers, the well-being and protection of children and young people, one of God's most precious gifts, is of utmost concern to us.

I assure you that the Archdiocese has worked closely with the various law enforcement agencies within our three counties over the years, and we renew our pledge to file all mandated reports. Our working relationship with law enforcement agencies has enabled us to consult with them where there is some doubt, and to seek their guidance to make certain all reportable cases are dealt with properly.

We understand that it is our most important duty to keep children and young people safe from sexual misconduct of any kind.


And so, what might we expect next? Many lay people and priests have asked me in the past weeks, "When will all of this end, be over with?"

And I respond, when we once again will be able to hear the words of Jesus, "Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing," and be convinced that the anointed works of Jesus Christ will once again dominate our Church - not scandals.

I truly believe that the hoped-for day will come, but not before the purification process has surfaced every past and present problem, and not before all those guilty of child abuse - whether they be bishops, priests, religious or laity - are no longer engaged in any ministry of the Church.

We are moving towards that day, but I fear it is not yet at hand. We have many more days - possibly weeks - of our Good Friday journey before we reach the joys of Easter Morning. Our ongoing purification process gives me great hope for the Church and for the health of priestly ministry in the Church. I do not fear the continuing media focus upon us at this time; rather, I fear that we may have still missed someone in ministry - priest, deacon, religious or lay - who has abused a child or youth, despite our proactive efforts.

Until I can stand at the cathedra of our new Cathedral and proclaim that our Local Church of Los Angeles has been fully cleansed of this insidious disease, I will not rest nor spare any effort to bring that full cleansing about.

But I sincerely believe that our collective efforts are working to restore the health and vibrancy of the Church for which we pray and eagerly yearn. While I cannot give you a final completion date right now, I can assure you we are on the right path to reaching our goal.

And while I am quite optimistic that a stronger and more healthy Church will emerge from this purification, I am also aware that some unintended fallout may occur: I would anticipate some false accusations being made against Bishops, priests, religious and lay ministers. These false charges would not necessarily spring from evil intent, but possibly from a confused rush to hasten the purification. We must be ever alert to following all our policies and procedures carefully in order to avoid harming innocent parties.

While my heart remains yet heavy with the darkness that swirls about us, I can see those early signs of the light of God's presence and nurturing that are beginning to emerge.

Our credibility as a Church in this country has been seriously challenged and in many ways eroded, and we must face the long and arduous task of restoring credibility among the many, inside the Church and beyond, whose confidence has been shaken, and in some cases destroyed.

May we together pass through the needed purification process so that our Church may be the more holy, the more faithful, and the more reflective of our calling to be a light to the nations, a sign of hope amidst a deeply wounded world.

Only then will we be able to hear the words of Jesus with a fresh, challenging and hope-filled sense of mission: "Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing:"

-Good news is preached to the poor

-Captives receive their liberty

-The blind recover their sight

-The oppressed go free!!

Thank you, and God bless you.

-Cardinal Roger M. Mahony

Mahony Won't Name Abusers
Catholics: He says to do so would traumatize victims further, but they can break confidentiality agreements if they wish

By Larry B. Stammer and Richard Winton
LA Times
March 26, 2002

At an extraordinary "Mass of reparations," Cardinal Roger M. Mahony told about 300 Catholic priests Monday night that he would support victims of long-ago sexual abuse who want to break confidentiality agreements and talk, but would not release the names of their abusers.

"I couldn't care less about confidentiality agreements," Mahony told reporters after the Mass in Long Beach.

But he cautioned that identifying priests involved in older cases could traumatize their victims again.

"The last thing any of us want is to victimize all over again many years later," he said. "If I felt that making those few names public would in any way protect children and youth or help victims, I would do it."

Speaking in a Christian penitential season, Mahony said he accepts full responsibility as head of the nation's largest archdiocese for the sins of the past.

"I offer my sincere apologies," he said.

The cardinal's remarks during the Mass and at a news conference afterward came at a time when the nation's bishops have been under unrelenting pressure to face up to the widening sex abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church. Some within the church have called it the gravest crisis to confront the Catholic faith in modern times.

Mahony also said that the subject of marriage in the priesthood should be open to discussion.

"I think all these questions are open; I never said they should not be raised," he said. Mahony also made it clear that he saw no correlation between the church's current mandate of celibacy and child abuse. Sexual abusers, he said, are often married men.

Nonetheless, the fact that an American cardinal would suggest an open discussion on married priesthood was likely to cheer liberals and offend conservatives. Pope John Paul II has been unbending in his opposition to a married priesthood and has said the subject was closed.

Mahony made it clear that new cases of sexual abuse would be thoroughly aired, and that the church would cooperate fully with law enforcement.

"A new standard of openness and frankness has been established," he said. The archdiocese's sexual abuse policy has been strengthened over the years since it took effect in 1988. As of July, the archdiocese has imposed a "zero tolerance" policy.

In recent months, church officials have examined thousands of priests' personnel files, past and present, looking for reports of sexual abuse.

One new case of alleged abuse reported on the church's hotline is under investigation by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, he said. A priest also was dismissed last week from the presidency of an Encino Catholic school because of sexual abuse.

Historically, however, the number of sexual abuse cases involving the archdiocese has been small compared to those in some other areas, but Mahony would not be more specific.

Mahony's remarks at Our Lady of Refuge Church in Long Beach came as the Catholic Church and Christianity around the world entered Holy Week, the most sacred time on the Christian calendar.

Speaking to the Los Angeles diocese's white-robed priests and an equal number of nuns and members of the laity, Mahony said that in all his 40 years as a priest and 27 years as a bishop "I have never felt so devastated, so sad, and so besieged."

Mahony, archbishop of the archdiocese that includes Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, said the sins of a few priests had pulled a "blanket of shame" over its 1,200 priests.

He pledged full disclosure and cooperation with law enforcement in any new cases, and repeated that the church is undergoing a time of what he called purification. He said the church's truthfulness, honesty and credibility have been deeply wounded.

He pledged a new standard of openness and frankness to close what he called "a very wide gap between the church, its people and society."

Monday's Mass was an annual event at which the cardinal blesses the holy oil that priests will use throughout the next year for baptisms, confirmations and the ordination of new priests. It also was a time for priests to renew their ordination vows. The title of Monday's Mass, however, suggested the uniqueness of events

"We pause to measure ourselves against Jesus Christ," Mahony said. "In past years, we have always come up short. . . . But this year, the church and priests are undergoing an incredible purification because of the sinful [actions] of a small percentage of priests."

He said he was outraged at the harm done to children and youths entrusted to the church's care.

Given the enormity of the scandal in the church, Mahony told reporters, he was glad the archdiocese newspaper in Boston, the Boston Pilot, had recently raised the issue of a married priesthood. Although he didn't offer his personal views on that subject, he contended that there is no connection between celibacy and sexual abuse.

Allowing priests to marry would reverse hundreds of years of church tradition and could only be made by the pope.

Still, Mahony's comments were warmly received by many priests in his congregation Monday night.

One veteran priest who spoke on condition of anonymity said: "He's a realist. We're open to the future. The Lord works in various ways."

Mahony's remarks on sexual abuse were generally applauded by his priests.

"This is a very difficult period we are going through in the church," the Rev. Carl Bell said. "Whatever the cardinal says, not everyone is going to be satisfied. Some are going to want more, some are going to want less."

As for relations with young congregation members, he added, "We don't want to push a child away, but we don't want to seem to pull them too close. We are all treading on eggshells."

There have been calls in Boston for the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law. A bishop in Florida resigned after disclosures he had molested a seminary youth years earlier. Last week, Pope John Paul II said priests had succumbed to evil and brought a grave scandal to the church.

But the response from U.S. bishops, each of whom heads an autonomous diocese and is answerable only to the pope, has been uneven. Mahony, while consistently decrying sexual abuse and early on putting sexual abuse policies in place, has not been as forthcoming as some bishops in offering a public accounting of the number of priests accused of sexual abuse in his archdiocese.

Mahony was confronted by Catholics carrying placards after a Palm Sunday Mass in Camarillo Sunday. One man said his son had been sexually abused by a priest. Another man said he was molested when he was a boy. They and other demonstrators said Mahony had mishandled the crisis.

Although the scandal erupted in January with disclosures in Boston and elsewhere, Mahony remained publicly silent until last week. Sources within the church disclosed that in February, Mahony removed six to 12 priests from their ministries because of past sexual abuse. The Times published that report March 4.

But Mahony declined to confirm or deny the report until March 22 when he issued a partial confirmation in a message to Catholics he wrote for the archdiocesan newspaper. He conceded that a few local priests had been removed from their ministries.

But he did not say precisely how many clerics were involved. Nor did he say when the reported abuse occurred, where the priests had served, or when the archdiocese first learned of the allegations. He said only that virtually all of the cases cited in the media were old, having occurred as long as decades ago.

Since the offenses, the priests, some of whom served jail time, reportedly had undergone psychological therapy and counseling and apparently were leading acceptable lives, one source said. Mahony's decision to terminate the six to 12 priests appeared to be the result of the civil suit settlement last year in which the Los Angeles Archdiocese and the Diocese of Orange agreed to rid themselves of anyone found guilty of sexual abuse in the past. In that case, $5.2 million was awarded to a man who said he had been sexually abused as a teenager.

Monday was the first time Mahony had addressed the archdiocese's priests en mass on the subject. All or most of them recently completed a series of regional workshops on observing personal boundaries in their ministries.

In June, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which has addressed the problem in years past, will take up the issue again when they meet in Dallas.

Times staff writer Louis Sahagun contributed to this report.

Cardinal Mahony Reacts to Criticism Over Sex Abuse Scandal

March 26, 2002

Irvine -- An attorney for a molestation victim who won a $5.2 million settlement from the local archdiocese criticized Cardinal Roger Mahony today for his refusal to release the names of priests believed to have engaged in sexual abuse.

Kathy Freberg said she wants to see Mahony take a more active approach in handling sex crimes.

"What concerns me is that Cardinal Mahony seems to believe that his parishioners will be appeased by some comforting words from the church's hierarchy," Freberg said.

"Words are not good enough any more," she said. "The church needs to act. The church needs to release the names of the molesters to protect the public. The church needs to report every molestation to the police so that these priests can be criminally prosecuted."

Freberg represented Marcus Ryan DiMaria who agreed to the $5.2 million last year in an out-of-court settlement stemming from accusations a priest molested him while he was a student at Santa Margarita High School in Rancho Santa Margarita.

Freberg said that the church needs to demand from the Pope that the molesters be defrocked as Catholic priests.

"Until action is taken, no real change will happen," Freberg said. "Cardinal Mahony is making excuses for his inaction."

In a 28-minute homily yesterday at Our Lady of Refuge Church in Long Beach, Mahony told parishioners worried about sexual abuse that "the church and the priesthood" are being purified this year.

That, he said, is "because of the sinful and deplorable actions of a small percentage of priests."

Mahony said if any victims of such abuse "wish to go public, I support them fully."

But he cautioned that identifying priests involved in older cases could traumatize their victims again.

"The last thing any of us want is to victimize all over again many years later," Mahony told reporters after the Mass. "If I felt that making those few names public would in any way protect children and youth or help victims, I would do it."

Mahony said that he "fully" accepts his "responsibility to protect all members of people of God from any misconduct or abuse. If my actions have at times been inadequate, or my response not as swift as it should have been, then I offer my sincere apologies.

"While I believe we have put in place sound safeguards and policies to protect all our people, and most especially our precious youth, we will still need to monitor the situation and to take whatever further steps may seem appropriate. I will not and cannot flinch from my duty and responsibility."

Freberg said Mahony's words did not ring true.

"For example, Cardinal Mahony says that he did not reveal the names of the molesters because he did not want to re-victimize the victims," Freberg said. "What we have learned is that victims come forward once a molester is named because they learn that they are not the only ones.

"Could the fear of more victims coming forward be the real motivation for Cardinal Mahony's not naming names?" Freberg asked. "Cardinal Mahony has finally acknowledged that the church is in state of crisis."

Mahony's comments came during the Long Beach Mass and at a news conference following the Mass.

His remarks came amid growing controversy around the country surrounding allegations of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests.

Church's Scandal Starts with Celibacy

Steve Lopez
LA Times
March 27, 2002

On my way to hear Cardinal Roger Mahony speak in Long Beach Monday night, I stopped to visit a Catholic priest who thinks the greater church's response to the nationwide sex abuse scandal is all wrong.

"What amazes and dismays me," the priest had said in an e-mail, "is that bishops appear to believe that with stricter policies alone ... the issue can be taken care of in a timely fashion. I believe the issue is much, much larger."

Father Frederick, as I'll call him, greeted me at his residence in Orange County. "In Africa," he said, "nuns are being sexually abused by priests. In other parts of the world, concubinage is a practice among priests." In the United States, clergy abuse of children has gone on for generations.

And the connection?

"These are all issues of human sexuality," Father Frederick said.

Of course they are, and the church does not discuss sexuality in any way other than to regurgitate its own outdated policies.

"On marriage, abortion, contraception and homosexuality, we don't deal with the fact that millions of people don't comply with church teachings," Father Frederick said. "We're not addressing the real circumstances of people's lives and the impact of these teachings."

About halfway through our discussion, Father Frederick told me he's gay. A vast number of his colleagues are gay, too, he said. "I'd say at least 10%."

Of course, you don't go around telling people you're gay if you're a priest. It's another sexual reality the church prefers not to acknowledge, let alone discuss.

There is no known connection between homosexuality and pedophilia, by the way. But among those attracted to the priesthood are straight and gay people who haven't dealt with or don't understand their own sexuality. And once they're in, they're required to suppress powerful natural urges for the rest of their lives. If you were actually trying to create a laboratory for sexual dysfunction, you couldn't do better than this.

I asked Father Frederick if it's time for the church to reconsider the celibacy vow and let priests marry, and he grinned before answering.

"Isn't it obvious?" he asked.

Yes. To everyone but the pope.

The fact that I can't tell you Father Frederick's real name is half the story. The last Orange County priest who spoke to me about reform got sent to Canada. So Father Frederick has no idea what exile might await him for talking openly.

Why stick around? I asked him.

Because despite its flaws, Father Frederick said, he cares deeply about the church and would like to see it advance into the current century.

A lot of what he had to say reminded me of my conversations with Richard Sipe, a former priest now living in La Jolla with his wife and family.

"The church's understanding of human sexuality is inadequate at best and false at worst," says Sipe, who has written books on the subject and has been an expert witness in dozens of sex abuse cases involving priests.

"Jesus Christ never said anything about masturbation or contraception, and the moral reasoning the church uses to establish [its] teaching is not only ephemeral, it's false. It does not fit with what we know scientifically about human nature."

By dusk on Monday, Our Lady of Refuge in Long Beach was packed pew to parking lot. Three hundred priests at the "Mass of reparations" heard Cardinal Mahony say the sins of a few had soiled the reputations of hundreds. Actually, it was the refusal of church leaders to come clean--here and elsewhere--that raised suspicion and shattered trust.

In the news conference after Mass, I asked Mahony why several priests were only recently dismissed if he's had a zero-tolerance policy in place for more than a decade. He spoke, but he didn't get close to answering. This gives me something in common with L.A. County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley, who sent a letter to Mahony asking him to share what he knows.

But, as Father Frederick had said, the church's problems extend far beyond the specifics of child abuse.

And so I asked Mahony if he were open to a kind of self-examination that includes broader reforms, such as letting priests marry. Given that Mahony is probably the most powerful cardinal in America, and that the Vatican does not operate a democracy, I thought I knew the answer.

"I think all these questions are open; I never said they should not be raised," Mahony said, keeping me off balance, contradicting Pope John Paul II, and giving Father Frederick a measure of hope.

Cooley Urges Reports of Abuse
Catholics: In a letter to the archdiocese, district attorney asks church to comply with state law and turn in any priests suspected of crime

By Richard Winton and Anna Gorman
LA Times
March 27, 2002

Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley urged the Roman Catholic archdiocese to comply with state law and give any suspicions of child abuse by its priests to police or child welfare officials, according to a letter released Tuesday.

In response to the March 13 letter he received from Cooley, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony maintained that church officials in the Los Angeles region are abiding by the 1997 state law that requires such reporting.

"To the best of my knowledge, allegations of known or reasonably suspected instances of child abuse or neglect were reported to the appropriate agency at the time of the allegation in accord with the California Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act," the cardinal wrote. The two letters were released by Cooley's office Tuesday. The archdiocese could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Cooley's letter came after church sources revealed that six to 12 priests were removed recently from the Los Angeles archdiocese because of allegations of sexual abuse against minors. Cooley said he has not been able to confirm whether those cases were reported to legal authorities. Cooley's letter explains that the law requires clergy to report by phone immediately and by writing within 36 hours any reasonable suspicions of child abuse, including sexual abuse.

The district attorney offered the help of his office in handling the sensitive matters, similar cases of which have caused painful reviews within the Catholic Church nationwide.

Mahony, in his letter of reply, thanked Cooley for the offer to help the archdiocese. The cardinal repeated a segment of his March 10 letter to parishioners across Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties that emphasized the obligation of clergy to report abuse.

The law allows, however, exceptions for reporting by clergy if the claim of sexual abuse is made during a confession or if an adult who was victimized as a child is capable of making the report.

"We urge everyone with knowledge of child abuse to go to police. We need to take the predators off the street," said Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for Cooley.

Mahony told 300 Catholic priests Monday that he would support victims of long-ago sexual abuse who want to break confidentiality agreements and talk, but he said the archdiocese would not release the names of their abusers.

The release of abusers' names from many years ago would further harm victims, he said. When new cases of abuse arise, he said, the names of priests removed for sexual misconduct will be announced to parishioners, Mahony said.

He said the few recent dismissals stem from incidents many years ago and said some of those involved went to jail but he did not offer any details.

The cardinal apologized during the mass for "the sinful and deplorable actions of a small percentage of priests" and said he has adopted a zero-tolerance policy.

In a news conference afterward, Mahony said church officials are cooperating with police and cited a tip to an archdiocese hotline that led to the dismissal last week of a priest as head of a Catholic high school in Encino.

Victims' advocates took issue Tuesday with Mahony's position on not releasing names in old cases.

"My experience with victims is once a molester is named, more victims come out of the woodwork," said Kathy Freberg, an attorney for clergy abuse victims. "It is far easier to come forward when you are not alone. Cardinal Mahony fears more victims."

Scandal Puts New Focus on Celibacy
Catholics: Cardinal Mahony's remarks add to growing debate on marriage and priesthood

By Larry B. Stammer
LA Times
March 27, 2002

Celibacy, a cornerstone of the Roman Catholic priesthood for a thousand years and a symbol of ordained holiness, is being questioned with a new urgency as the church's sexual abuse scandal sweeps across the nation.

In a sharp departure from Pope John Paul II's insistence that the celibacy issue is closed, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony on Monday became the first American cardinal to declare that discussion of a married priesthood remains open.

Mahony's willingness to debate celibacy is further evidence that the widening sexual abuse scandal is forcing church leaders to examine the nature of the Catholic priesthood, church experts said.

The Los Angeles archbishop's candid remarks Monday night are certain to reach the Vatican, where John Paul has been unbending in his opposition to married priests.

Mahony's remarks after a Mass in Long Beach appear to contradict the Holy See. "I've never said that we can't discuss these things," Mahony said, adding that Eastern rite Catholic priests can marry. "It works out fine."

Mahony's comments marked the third time this week that celibacy has been raised in a major American archdiocese.

Two weeks ago, the official newspaper of the Boston archdiocese, headed by Cardinal Bernard Law, called celibacy an issue that "simply will not disappear." The newspaper said the issue had gained new currency among the nation's 62 million Catholics, most of whom disagree with their church's position.

In Milwaukee, Archbishop Rembert Weakland--one of the most liberal of U.S. bishops--wrote in a March 19 letter, "Perhaps this will be the moment when the larger issue of priestly ministry in the church will be faced." Weakland said he was more open to married clergy after visiting Eastern Orthodox churches around the world.

Weakland said another door was opened when the pope allowed married Episcopal priests to convert to Catholic priests. Such discussions, he wrote, "could be the kind of breakthrough that will force us to move ahead in unexpected ways."

The statements from Boston and Los Angeles are given great weight because the two cardinals are considered among the most powerful Catholic leaders in the United States. Mahony is seen as one of the American church's more liberal cardinals, while Law is considered one of the nation's most conservative.

Mahony has been unquestionably loyal to Catholic doctrine. His remarks, delivered after a sermon to 300 of his priests, show clearly "that this is a live issue that can't be swept under the carpet," said Father Tom Reese, editor of the Jesuit magazine America.

"He's not the pastor of a Podunk parish," Reese said. "He's one of the most visible Catholic bishops in the U.S. For him to bring this up is certainly important."

Reese added that Mahony's remarks would probably add to the momentum of the informal discussions that have been held for years.

"It's a significant statement and for many a sign of hope because many perceive the American Catholic bishops as a very cautious, conservative group, looking constantly over their shoulder at the Vatican," Father Richard P. McBrien, professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame, said Tuesday. No one in the church, either in the United States or elsewhere, believes there is any serious likelihood that a married priesthood will come during the reign of John Paul. Indeed, neither Mahony nor the Boston Catholic newspaper suggested they necessarily favored making celibacy an option.

A week after the Boston newspaper's March 15 editorial it published a second story that sought to calm the controversy. The paper said it only reported what rank-and-file Catholics are saying about celibacy. Cardinal Law, the newspaper's publisher, distanced himself from the editorial, saying: "It is one thing to report the questions of others; it is quite another thing to make those questions one's own."

Mahony said Monday that he was glad the paper raised the issue, noting that the Catholic Church had for 1,100 years allowed its priests to marry.

"The Eastern Catholic churches have always had a married priesthood, and it works out fine," he said. "So I think it should be discussed."

When asked whether he had a personal view, Mahony said, "No, I just think it should be very much discussed." He added, "When I do, I'll let you know."

Mahony said his only regret about the Boston editorial was that it may have left the misimpression that celibacy is linked to sexual abuse. Psychologists and other experts on sexual development say there is no correlation.

"Most pedophiles are married," said Father Curtis Bryant, a Los Angeles psychologist and former director of inpatient clinical services at St. Luke Institute in Washington. The institute treats priests involved in sexual abuse.

He said older men entering the seminary have more life experience and are more likely to have completed their psychosexual development. That makes for a healthy priest, Bryant said.

Celibacy has been a contentious issue in the American church and throughout the church's 2,000-year history. It was observed in varying degrees over the ages. In the church's early history, the Apostle Paul urged followers not to marry because Christians in those days believed Jesus' Second Coming was imminent.

Later, celibacy became an issue because of disputes over property rights: Who would inherit the estate of a dead priest? His wife or the church? The issue was settled by the first and second Lateran Councils in 1123 and 1139, which declared that priestly orders were an impediment to marriage and marriage an impediment to priestly orders.

But rules on celibacy in the priesthood can be changed. The ban on sex is considered a church discipline, rather than immutable dogma.

John Paul's age and failing health are prompting some in the church to say the next pope could have a different view on celibacy. Church leaders say most of the bishops appointed by John Paul will turn 75 over the next 10 years, paving the way for possible change in coming generations.

A more immediate concern is the diminishing number of priests. In 1980 there were 58,621 priests in the United States. Ten years later, that number had fallen to 53,111. Last year, there were 46,075. Advocates of optional celibacy argue a change would draw more men into the priesthood.

A Newsweek poll this week found that 79% of all Americans and 69% of Catholics favored allowing married men to be ordained as priests.

Opening the discussion of marriage among priests has been an unexpected consequence of the sex abuse scandal in the church.

"One bright spot in this whole horrible business of the sex abuse scandals is that it does seem to be creating an atmosphere for transformation," said Linda Pieczynski of Call to Action, a Chicago-based unofficial Catholic reform group.

"The openness with which Cardinal Mahony is approaching this issue shows that the bishops are starting to realize what the people in the pews have been saying for years."

Conservatives were caught off guard by Mahony's statement.

George Weigel, author of an extensive biography of the pope, said Tuesday that he found Mahony's remarks "a little puzzling." He said he expected the celibacy rule to remain intact.

But, Weigel said, there should be a discussion of a reformed priesthood without unraveling the discipline of celibacy.

"Living a chaste, celibate life has to be talked about much more openly, much more assertively in seminaries," Weigel said. "Celibacy is not the problem. The problem is men not living the celibate commitment they have made."

In St. Louis, Helen Hull Hitchcock, director of Women for Faith and Family and an editor of a conservative liturgical journal, said she was not surprised by the new calls for optional celibacy. She said that for those who favor married priests--which she doesn't--now is the time to press the issue.

Rip the Veil of Secrecy

LA Times
March 27, 2002

After a prolonged and troubling silence, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony on Monday accepted responsibility and apologized for the sins of the small minority of priests that has brought shame to the Los Angeles Archdiocese. At an extraordinary "Mass of reparations," the cardinal said from now on the archdiocese will cooperate fully with law enforcement when parishioners allege sexual abuse. But in adding that he will not give police the names of priests accused of past sexual crimes, he asks society to take an unacceptable leap of faith.

When did the alleged abuse occur? Who stands accused? Are these priests even now abusing teenagers and other children? Civil, not religious, authorities need to answer these questions. Soon.

Meanwhile, the scandals grow wider and uglier. Week by week across the nation, new allegations of abuse against children leak out, and last weekend Times staff writer Glenn F. Bunting reported that a monk and a priest at a Jesuit retreat in Los Gatos had for at least five years sexually abused two mentally disabled men.

The Catholic Church is not by any means the only church in which some clerics have abused their power and injured those they should be comforting and protecting. But the institution stands alone for having so spectacularly botched its handling of the decades-old problem.

We encourage Catholic leaders to put aside sectarian pride and learn from the Episcopalians, who have taken a much more aggressive approach to sexual abuse by the clergy. The key is openness. If a parishioner makes a credible charge of abuse against an Episcopal priest, that church, under a written policy, passes the information on to the congregation.

In contrast, the Catholic Church, faced with what may be its gravest crisis in modern history, has followed the bad example set by large corporations that keep information about dangerous products secret by demanding confidentiality agreements in their legal settlements.

On Monday Mahony said he would support victims of past sexual abuse who want to break such legal deals and talk. We encourage victims of abuse to do so and to cooperate fully with civil authorities to make sure that bad priests don't harm others.

Slowly, belatedly, the Catholic Church is getting the message. Modern seminaries now work not just to shape incoming priests' spirituality but to bolster their emotional maturity and give them a clear sense of social responsibility. To fully redeem itself, however, the church must turn over to prosecutors the name of every cleric accused of abuse and leave it to civil authorities to decide whether more investigation is warranted. The wall separating church and state was never meant to be a veil of secrecy to protect criminals.

Should religious leader release names of abusive priests?

LA Times
March 29, 2002

The Los Angeles archdiocese recently dismissed six to 12 priests for sexually abusing minors, according to sources in the church. The archdiocese has refused to provide any details about their identity, location or number. Cardinal Roger M. Mahony has said he would support letting victims of sexual abuse break confidentiality agreements but has refused to make public the names of the priests who were their abusers. Inland Valley Times asked: Should leaders of any religious denomination reveal the names of clergy who are known to have sexually abused minors? As a priest of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, I feel hurt, angry, and betrayed by some of my fellow priests. There is also a certain quasi-family solidarity among priests -- we often refer to it as "priestly fraternity" -- that I think is generally a healthy thing. But we are learning a hard lesson that this priestly fraternity cannot extend a protective cover to wrongdoing, especially when this involves serious harm to innocent young people. We are now all aware that as clergy we are mandated reporters of child abuse -- even if the alleged abuser is a fellow priest. The problem with a blanket insistence that "names be released" is simply that each case is different. The cardinal's refusal to release names involves, I believe, situations in which confidential settlements have been made. Certainly in any cases in which there is an arrest or legal action, the names of those alleged abusers becomes a matter of public record. I believe the cardinal is wise to uphold the terms of the confidential settlements himself, but release the victims from the obligation of confidentiality should they choose. And I believe he is sincere in doing this out of concern for the victims' rights. Furthermore, the source of The Times' report of "six to 12 priests" being dismissed remains obscure, so its accuracy cannot be verified. Also -- and I speak from 34 years of experience as a priest -- it's pretty hard to keep clergy transfers, as well as the reasons for them, secret these days. Clergy assignments are a much more open process than in the past, and it's virtually impossible now to whisk a priest away with no one taking notice.
-- The Rev. Thomas Welbers, Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church, Claremont

Sexual abuse of a minor is a crime, regardless if the perpetrator is a clergyperson, a teacher, Girl or Boy Scout leader, youth leader, or even the victim's parent or other relative. If the accused individual is judicially convicted of sexually abusing a minor, then there are resulting protections to prevent his or her re-offending. The convicted individual must register as a sex offender, and they are included in a database of felons with sexual-related convictions. This information is available to anyone concerned. However, the identity of the victim must always be protected. Publicly revealing the name of individuals convicted of sexually abusing children could also cause the identity of the victim to be exposed and could exacerbate the injury. Conversely, it certainly is appropriate if the victim, or his or her parents, chooses, at some time, to reveal the name of the perpetrator.
-- The Rev. Vincent Connor, St. Matthews, Corona, and CYA Youth Counselor

The abuse of children is an absolute abomination that needs the most vehement moral condemnation as well as severe criminal penalties, and, once the debt to society is accomplished and penance done, forgiveness too -- the kind of forgiveness that makes as humanly sure as possible that no such hurt or harm can ever occur again. Generally, I am puzzled that organizations such as the Catholic Church do not have the statistical information necessary to help inform knowledgeable judgments about the depth and extent of the widening sexual abuse crisis. There has to be in-depth research done in order to obtain hard data about all numbers involved and the organizational dynamics that may contribute to a climate of abuse: authoritarian governance, mandatory celibacy, married men and women's vocation to priestly ministry, and other psychosexual/theological issues. In order to be authentic witnesses to the Gospel, we must be about the change we want to see in our world. Regarding the disclosure of the names of abusers, I gather that there are legal penalties which prohibit the releasing of names once a police report of abuse has been filed. With cases in the past where no report has yet been given, and where the person involved is no longer in any preventable way a threat to children, I would agree that the rights of victims must be fully protected.
-- The Rev. Wayne Maro, Catholic Chaplain, Claremont Colleges

I would tread very carefully here and ask what is the best response for all concerned, including society as a whole, and seek not to be caught up in popular outrage. I would tend toward not releasing the names and here is why: The key word in the question is rightly "minors." The vast majority of Roman Catholic clergy sexual abuse is against sexually mature but underage adolescents, not prepubescent children, and is often, but not always, a homosexual encounter. Naming the priests would make it easier to identify the victims, therefore compounding the problem for the youth involved. This is not to say that priests should be allowed to continue in positions where they will again be likely to abuse minors and the parish not told. That should not happen. In this Holy Week and in the events of Easter we are about to celebrate, we remember the gift of a savior. That savior came for everybody. I doubt there is any more abuse among Roman Catholics than in other denominations, and I would be surprised if it is not less than in the population as a whole. The Catholics, as has been pointed out in a recent article in Touchstone magazine, just keep better records. And the expectation of clergy, rightly or not, is higher than that of the general population. Therefore, I would take whatever steps were necessary to bring renewal to all concerned. I would seek to proclaim the Easter message that gives the final answer of resurrection and newness of life when all seems hopeless.
-- Pastor David Berkedal, Faith Lutheran Church, San Dimas

It should be stated here that people are liable to make mistakes at different levels. The more a person is faithful to his religion, the less he will commit mistakes. However, if he makes a mistake publicly, and he is proud of it, then he has to be given a lesson by penalizing him. But if he felt sorry, he should apologize privately to the one to whom the mistake was done, then he should pay compensation for his mistake. Releasing names to the public does not serve a good purpose either to the church or to the religion. Therefore, we should keep religion above any misconduct of any person in society. Otherwise, people may judge the religious denominations through the misbehavior of some individuals. Finally, all religions of the world teach morality and moral values. Islam has encouraged people to get married as soon as possible so that they will not fall into the trap of immoral life. If they cannot assume the legal responsibility of marriage now, then they are encouraged to fast as much as possible. In so doing they will control their sexual hormones, and refrain from any wrongdoing.
-- Ahmad H. Sakr, director of the Islamic Education Center, Walnut

Yes, Cardinal Mahony should tell the police of any suspected child abusers he knows about. This is not a matter of opinion, but is a matter of law. If he does not do so he has violated the criminal law. Section 11165 of the California Penal Code makes it mandatory for any clergy member to report. Teachers, school administrators, social workers, district attorney investigators, firefighters, physicians, dentists, counselors and therapists, and animal control officers are also among the 33 categories of persons who must report. One may debate the need for the law, the merits of the law or a need to change the law, if any, but violation of the law as it stands is civil disobedience. One may also rightfully ask if Roman Catholic clergy or hierarchy should receive an exemption from this law, which is not available to all other persons "mandated" to report.
-- Daniel Fox, atheist, Pomona

LAPD already has the facts on dismissed priests Mahony says

By Richard Winton
LA Times
March 29, 2002

Abuse: The cardinal responds to a demand from Police Chief Parks for the names of those involved

Responding to a written demand from Los Angeles Police Chief Bernard C. Parks for the names of priests recently dismissed for sexually abusing minors, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony wrote back Thursday that those men already are known to the Police Department.

"Recently dismissed priests who were in the jurisdiction of the Los Angeles Police Department have been duly reported," Mahony wrote. "They were prosecuted and served probation many years ago. These cases are a matter of public record and known to your detectives."

In his own letter Monday, Parks had cited a police investigation that was prompted by reports in The Times about the recent dismissals. Parks requested that the archdiocese comply with state law requiring members of the clergy to report any allegations of abuse to authorities. Parks also asked for the names of victims, as well as the dates when the archdiocese reported the alleged abuse to the Police Department.

Under growing pressure to publicly disclose the names of priests involved in past or current child abuse allegations, it remained unclear Thursday what information Mahony may have passed on to authorities.

Mahony told 300 Catholic priests gathered in Long Beach on Monday that he would support the decision of victims of past sexual abuse to speak publicly, including some who had signed confidentiality agreements. But he said the archdiocese would not release the names of their abusers.

Mahony said in his Thursday letter to Parks that although individual clergy are required to report abuse allegations, the law does not extend to the church.

"We are confident each individual has carried out their responsibilities under the [California Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act]," Mahony wrote. "The law also provides for a penalty to any mandated reporter who fails to report. But institutions, as such, do not report."

Mahony wrote that priests who report abuse to authorities are not required to notify the archdiocese or their superiors. "Thus there are undoubtedly reports of which we have no knowledge," Mahony said in his letter to Parks.

In addition, Mahony wrote, the archdiocese stretches far beyond Los Angeles itself, encompassing Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. "Consequently, there are mandated reporting cases which occur in county and local law enforcement jurisdictions outside the city of Los Angeles and hence outside the jurisdiction of the Los Angeles Police Department."

Parks wrote that on March 8, LAPD Dets. Dale Barraclough and Steven Hales met with Sister Judith Murphy, the archdiocese legal counsel.

Murphy told the investigators that all the abuse cases had "been reported to the appropriate law enforcement authorities."

LAPD Cmdr. Gary Brennan said Juvenile Division detectives met again with archdiocese officials Wednesday, after they had received the chief's letter.

Detectives, Brennan said, were given additional information but he would not disclose specifics.

At Wednesday's meeting, he said, "the archdiocese promised to cooperate and make known new information on allegations of abuse. As a result of that meeting, we are confident that the archdiocese is committed to cooperating and we feel they have been cooperating."

Lt. Daniel Mulrenin, head of Juvenile Division's sexually exploited child unit, said his office has received several phone calls in recent days from alleged abuse victims, and a number of LAPD probes are now underway.

In a letter earlier this month, Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley also urged Mahony to report any instances of alleged child abuse by priests.

Cooley said he has not been able to confirm whether any such cases in Los Angeles County have been reported to police or child welfare officials.

During Monday's Mass, the cardinal apologized for "the sinful and deplorable actions of a small percentage of priests" and said he had adopted a zero-tolerance policy for child abusers.

Mahony said, however, that the release of abusers' names going back years ago would further harm victims.

When new cases of abuse arise, he said, the names of priests removed for sexual misconduct will be announced to parishioners.

In a news conference after the Mass, Mahony said church officials are cooperating with police.

He cited a tip to an archdiocese hotline that led to the dismissal last week of a priest who headed a Catholic high school in Encino and another that led to a Los Angeles County sheriff's investigation of the sexual abuse of a minor.

The LAPD has asked that anyone with information on child abuse cases telephone (213) 485-2883.

Times staff writer Jill Leovy contributed to this report.

Priest Who Admitted to Sex Abuse of Teen Agrees to Leave the Clergy
Religion: John Lenihan had been pastor of a Dana Point church
The bishop of Orange says background checks turn up no new offenders

By William Lobdell
LA Times
March 29, 2002

John Lenihan, an Orange County priest who has admitted to molesting a minor and having multiple affairs, has agreed to ask Pope John Paul II to remove him from the priesthood, church officials announced Thursday.

Tod D. Brown, bishop of the Diocese of Orange, also said a special investigation launched last month into his priests' backgrounds had concluded this week with one pastor found to have a history of sexual abuse. That priest, Michael Pecharich, was removed earlier this month from his Rancho Santa Margarita parish.

Pecharich and Lenihan are among three Orange County priests to make headlines in recent months during the Roman Catholic Church's unfolding sex scandal. The Diocese of Orange paid $5.2million in August 2001 to a single victim to settle molestation accusations against Msgr. Michael Harris. As part of the settlement, the dioceses of Los Angeles and Orange were required to fire any priests with a history of child molestation. Lenihan had no comment, his attorney said Thursday.

Lenihan, 56, will be laicized, a canonical process often used by clergy who wish to leave the priesthood to marry. The procedure will not be completed officially until the pope has given final approval, a formality in this case because of the request by Lenihan and the bishop.

Since the late 1980s, laicization has been used with increasing frequency to remove molesters from the priesthood. Previously, such priests often were stripped of their authority to perform religious ceremonies but remained in the clergy for life.

In the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, it's unknown whether Cardinal Roger M. Mahony has sought laicization for any of the six to 12 priests who sources say have been fired or asked to resign recently because of past sexual abuse of minors. A spokesman for Mahony didn't return phone calls Thursday.

Victims' rights leaders applauded the announcement of Lenihan's removal from the priesthood.

"Knowledge is power and people need to know why this man" was removed, said David Clohessy, national director of the St. Louis-based Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, known as SNAP.

In August, the Diocese of Orange asked Vatican officials to remove Msgr. Michael Harris from the priesthood as part of the settlement.

Lenihan was removed as pastor of St. Edward Church in Dana Point in September after he, under the pseudonym "Father X," revealed to a Los Angeles Times columnist that he had had several sexual relationships, including "four serious ones."

In 1991, Lenihan admitted to church officials that he sexually abused a teenage girl in the 1970s. The church paid $25,000 to Mary Grant to settle her lawsuit. The popular priest was allowed to continue to work in the diocese.

In December, Lenihan was accused in a civil lawsuit of molesting a second teenage girl for several years starting in the late 1970s.

"It's way overdue," Grant said of Lenihan's removal from the clergy. "I'm glad that Roman collar isn't going to be his path to molesting other children."

Grant was unable to seek criminal charges against Lenihan because of statute of limitation problems.

Brown said he asked Lenihan to consider quitting the priesthood last fall before the latest lawsuit. The priest was sent to a counseling center in Canada but didn't complete the program, Brown said.

Lenihan agreed to the laicization last week in a decision that Brown said "was very painful for him."

"My heart goes out to his victims, both minors and adults, and his parishioners," Brown said. "I also feel sorry for Father Lenihan."

If a priest doesn't agree with his removal, he can be defrocked.

Lenihan, who was ordained in 1969, will be paid by the Diocese of Orange until his removal gets final Vatican approval. He will receive a standard pension, church officials said.

Brown said he was pleased that the special investigation into his priests' backgrounds is complete.

"I'm quite confident now that there is no one active in ministry who [based on past incidents] poses a threat to minors," he said.


Bishop Accountability © 2003