US Catholic Faith in Real Life

The LA Archdiocese's response to sex abuse cover up: Too little, too late?

By Scott Alessi | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

When the Archdiocese of Los Angeles was required by a court of law to hand over internal documents related to past cases of sexual abuse by priests, it was pretty clear why the archdiocese never wanted them to see the light of day. The documents show that the archdiocese, and specifically now retired archbishop Cardinal Roger Mahony, deliberately covered up the sexual abuse of children and sheltered priests who were guilty of abusing children from legal action.

Sadly, with all we've learned about how the church for years hid these atrocious crimes, that part wasn't surprising. But this part is: Current Archbishop Jose Gomez issued a public statement that Cardinal Mahony, his predecessor, would be removed from all involvement in archdiocesan administration and would no longer be active in public ministry. Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Curry, who also was implicated in past cover ups of abuse while working under Mahony, has tendered his resignation from archdiocesan administration as well. (In another surprise, Mahony has issued a public response that attempts to save face by indicating how he cleaned up the archdiocese's handling of abuse cases in more recent years.)

It is worth reading Gomez's statement, and I think he deserves to be commended for taking this stance. It is rare to see bishops condemn one of their own, and taking public action against Mahony is a bold move that shows Gomez isn't taking the matter lightly. It is a positive and necessary step for a church that has a long way to go to repair its reputation on this issue and to prove that the sins of the past will never be repeated.

But taking action against Mahony now, when he's already settled into retirement, won't be enough to satisfy all the critics. Many are still waiting for something to be done about Bishop Robert Finn, who still serves as bishop of Kansas City-St.Joseph, Missouri in spite of being found guilty in a court of law for not reporting a priest who was in possession of hundreds of inappropriate photos of children. Finn's actions were a black eye on a church that couldn't afford to take another hit, as one bishop's recent failing to report a priest that may have posed a danger to children calls into question the church's generally strong efforts over the past 10 years to create a safe environment for young people. It also didn't help that the Philadelphia archdiocese failed to publicly condemn Msgr. William Lynn when he was found guilty last year for his role in covering up past abuse. In fact, the archdiocese even continued to fund his legal bills throughout the trial.

The church needs more leaders like Archbishop Gomez, who are willing to take a stand even when it means taking action against their fellow priests and bishops. No one is above the law, and when it comes to crimes against children, there's simply no excuse or justification from a moral standpoint for not taking action. The crimes of the past can't be undone, but there's still time to take whatever steps are possible to hold those who committed them accountable, and to prove that such actions will never be tolerated in the church--no matter how high ranking the perpetrator may be.