Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Trading a scarlet cassock for an orange jumpsuit?
After a lengthy legal fight, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles says it will soon turn over 30,000 pages of confidential priest personnel files without blacking out the names of church leaders who made key decisions about how to handle priests accused of sexual abuse.
And how many of those personnel files will be evidence of Roger Cardinal Mahoney's culpability in sex abuse scandals?
I recall being at dinner for the school board of my old parish in Southern California, back in about 2006. The topic of Cardinal Mahoney and the sex abuse scnadal came up. Our pastor at the time, fueled by a couple of Bombay Sapphire-and-tonics, turned to me suddenly and said, vehemently, "If there was any justice in the world, that man would be wearing an orange jumpsuit," alluding, of course, to the color of the prison uniforms worn locally.
Expect some revelations. Some have occurred even before the unredacted documents are released.
“Sounds good — please proceed!” the cardinal, now retired, instructed in 1987 after the aide, Msgr. Thomas Curry, cautioned against therapy for one confessed predator — lest the therapist feel obliged to tell authorities and scandalize the archdiocese. The two discussed another priest, Msgr. Peter Garcia, who admitted specializing in the rape of Latino immigrant children and threatened at least one boy with deportation if he complained. Cardinal Mahony ordered that he stay out of California after his release from a New Mexico treatment center out of fear that “we might very well have some type of legal action filed in both the criminal and civil sectors.” Monsignor Curry worried that there might be 20 young people able to identify the priest in “first-degree felony” cases.
That reminds me of the smoking gun that brought down Napster, when an internal memo admitted that it knew its customers were pirating copyrighted music. But the stakes are much higher here.
The California Code of Civil Procedure section 340.1 provides a statute of limitations for sexual abuse cases of three years after discovery of the causal connection between the abuse and the resulting injury. And the release of these documents could start the tolling. And lawyers such as John Manly will be ready to take those cases where a clear nexus exists between Mahoney's management of his archdiocese and abuse.
And this needs to be done, even if it means that a cardinal might trade the scarlet for the orange. As Catholics we know in the power of Reconciliation and forgiveness for our sins is ours for the asking. But remember that it is not merely a recital of sins: it requires true repentance and penance. Forgiveness does not come without consequences. But the good news is that with such "house cleaning." if you will, a stronger, more faithful church emerges. I would suggest that victims have a duty to Mother Church to step up and protect her by bringing to light these sins of Her leaders.