Mahony Comes up Short

Los Angeles Times [Los Angeles CA]
Downloaded February 20, 2004

Cardinal Roger M. Mahony has insisted throughout the allegations of priestly abuse of minors in the Los Angeles Archdiocese that his top priority was the protection of victims. Unfortunately for all involved in this heartbreaking affair, the available evidence finds him still dragging out the process.

Even in Mahony's welcome and heralded "Report to the People of God," issued this week, there's little that's new. For instance, although the report states that 244 priests, deacons and others associated with the Catholic Church have been accused of abuse, only the 211 names already made public by the press or in court proceedings are given in the report. Providing authorities with the names of the other 33 people accused of misdeeds, no matter what the archdiocese deems the quality of the accusations, would have been new and worthy. Instead, through litigation the archdiocese continues to block the release of personnel files that would move all such cases forward.

Handing over needed information to authorities would not dismiss a presumption of innocence. It would, however, show a commitment to protecting children from possible continued abuse by allowing civil authorities to decide on the allegations' worth. For more than 20 months the district attorney's office has sought archdiocese records regarding allegations of child sex abuse. Through its legal resistance, the archdiocese, under the umbrella of protecting the possibly innocent, sends a message that its clergy carry more weight than protecting and providing justice to children.

Mahony should release to authorities the files of accused church employees as well as ensure that all those facing credible accusations who are still employed by the archdiocese are suspended from the ministry or from other church-related employment until their cases are cleared.

Mahony no doubt sees himself as torn between two responsibilities, to his priests and to the faithful, but this is a case in which the cardinal must place his faith in civil authority. The innocence of priests accused of pedophilia is not for Mahony or church lawyers to decide.


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