Sadly and unfortunately.
When I first read about what Bishop Gomez did by removing Cardinal Mahony from public duties with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, I was cheered. I also read some of the priest personnel files. Sure, I would hope more is done regarding the Cardinal, since covering up the sexual abuse of minors is reprehensible and Bishop Gomez did what he could.
That was before I read the Cardinal's response to the Bishop.
Friends in Christ,
This morning I sent this letter to Archbishop Jose H. Gomez giving the history and context of what we have been through since the mid-1980s. There is nothing confidential in my letter. I have been encouraged by others to publish it, so I am do so on my personal Blog. I hope you find it useful.
Dear Archbishop Gomez:
In this letter I wish to outline briefly how the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and I responded to the evolving scandal of clergy sexual misconduct, especially involving minors.
Nothing in my own background or education equipped me to deal with this grave problem. In two years [1962—1964] spent in graduate school earning a Master’s Degree in Social Work, no textbook and no lecture ever referred to the sexual abuse of children. While there was some information dealing with child neglect, sexual abuse was never discussed.
Shortly after I was installed on September 5, 1985 I took steps to create an Office of the Vicar for the Clergy so that all our efforts in helping our priests could be located in one place. In the summer of 1986 I invited an attorney-friend from Stockton to address our priests during our annual retreat at St. John’s Seminary on the topic of the sexual abuse of minors. Towards the end of 1986 work began with the Council of Priests to develop policies and procedures to guide all of us in dealing with allegations of sexual misconduct. Those underwent much review across the Archdiocese, and were adopted in 1989.
During these intervening years a small number of cases did arise. I sought advice from several other Bishops across the country, including Cardinal John O’Connor of New York, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago, and then Bishop Adam Maida of Green Bay. I consulted with our Episcopal Conference frequently. All the advice was to remove priests from active ministry if there was reasonable suspicion that abuse had occurred, and then refer them to one of the several residential treatment centers across the country for evaluation and recommendation.
This procedure was standard across the country for all Arch/Dioceses, for School Districts, for other Churches, and for all Youth Organizations that dealt with minors. We were never told that, in fact, following these procedures was not effective, and that perpetrators were incapable of being treated in such a way that they could safely pursue priestly ministry.
During the 1990s our own policies and procedures evolved and became more stringent. We had learned from the mistakes of the 1980s and the new procedures reflected this change. In 1994 we became one of the first Archdioceses in the world to institute a Sexual Abuse Advisory Board [SAAB] which gave helpful insights and recommendations to the Vicar for the Clergy on how to deal with these cases. Through the help of this Board, we moved towards a “zero tolerance” policy for clergy who had allegations against them which had proven true.
In 2002 we greatly expanded the SAAB group into the new Clergy Misconduct Oversight Board. They were instrumental in implementing the Charter for the Protection of Children and Youth and served as an invaluable body for me and our Archdiocese. They dealt with every case with great care, justice, and concern for our youth.
From 2003 to 2012 the Archdiocese underwent several Compliance Audits by professional firms retained for this purpose. Most Auditors were retired FBI agents, and extremely competent. Every single Audit concluded that the Archdiocese was in full compliance with the Charter.
When you were formally received as our Archbishop on May 26, 2010, you began to become aware of all that had been done here over the years for the protection of children and youth. You became our official Archbishop on March 1, 2011 and you were personally involved with the Compliance Audit of 2012—again, in which we were deemed to be in full compliance.
Not once over these past years did you ever raise any questions about our policies, practices, or procedures in dealing with the problem of clergy sexual misconduct involving minors.
I have stated time and time again that I made mistakes, especially in the mid-1980s. I apologized for those mistakes, and committed myself to make certain that the Archdiocese was safe for everyone.
Unfortunately, I cannot return now to the 1980s and reverse actions and decisions made then. But when I retired as the active Archbishop, I handed over to you an Archdiocese that was second to none in protecting children and youth.
With every best wish, I am
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Cardinal Roger M. Mahony
Archbishop Emeritus of Los Angeles
I am disappointed to hear a prince of the Church take the low road and "fire back" at Bishop Gomez for the public rebuke. I had heard earlier about Mahony's statement that he kept the names of victims on "3x5 cards" on the "altar of his small chapel" and he prayed for them daily. It seems to me that revealing that much information - the size of the cards, keeping them on his private altar - goes a little overboard, and hopefully is simply benign window dressing by a man who knows he has been caught.
And his letter to Bishop Gomez, the publicity of it on his blog - nothing he wanted to do, mind you, but done at the encouragement of others - seems to display an enormous ego of a man who feels he has been victimized by the press, the Bishop, and the circumstances in general. I said I was sorry, time and time again, what more do you want from me?! Don't forget, boyo, I handed over a helluva archdiocese to you, and this is how I am rewarded?!
I think Bishop Gomez did the right thing, but perhaps it too was only done because the court ordered the files released. I can appreciate that Bishop Gomez found the files to be "brutal and painful reading" - but when did he read them? In 2010 - and still allow Mahony to perform public duties for the archdiocese? That would be disheartening, if his rebuke of Mahony was forced by publicity and not by true concern for the people of the archdiocese.
I sometimes think the hierarchy of the Catholic Church fails to comprehend fully how the people of the faith are wounded when priests behave badly. I will admit, yesterday it was one year ago when a priest, John Moneypenny - who I thought was my closest friend, who confided in me secrets he kept even from his family, who was treated by my husband and I like a younger brother and was involved in my family's traditions - very brutally and callously terminated our relationship. It hurt a great deal then and it still hurts, especially since his conduct flew in the fact of the person I knew as a friend and priest - before he did this, in correspondence he related how he wished to be judged with a "totality of circumstances" as a gentleman, a Catholic, a good friend, a pastor, a brother, and a human - so it made his conduct all the more painful to me, and subsequently gaining access to emails in which he mocked me and had a good laugh at my expense was tough. We don't expect our priests to be supermen, but we do expect them to remember that they are held to the same degree of civility and fair dealing as we all are. And yes, given the unique role they have chosen for themselves - ordination is voluntary, after all - there is a greater duty imposed to act in persona Christi, and not just at Mass. However, I wish to state here, unequivocally, that there was nothing involving sexual abuse with this priest, and nor would I want anyone to think my inclusion of this story in the same posting as Cardinal Mahony's story implies that. I will point out, though - unlike John, at least the Cardinal has apologized.
Unfortunately, l'affaire Mahony resurrected unwelcome memories and I think I will deal with them with a little shooting and a good, long swim. A good friend advised me to hug a Corgi for relief. My Corgi, Josie (great, named by the aforementioned priest . . . okay, never mind), aka Her Majesty, reminded me that one does not simply hug a Corgi, unless one comes bearing a rawhide chip . . .
The good news? Of the priests I have known and befriended - the good guys still outnumber the bad. Deo gratias. But it still doesn't mean I wouldn't want to kick John's ass - metaphorically in a sisterly fashion (please, no need for a restraining order) - and tell him, "Straighten up and fly right, little brother, and you'll be a lot happier."