Los Angeles, Calif., Jan 31, 2013 / 11:05 pm (CNA).- Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez has relieved retired Cardinal Roger Mahony of his remaining duties after the release of personnel files of priests accused of sexual abuse decades ago.
“We need to acknowledge that terrible failure today. We need to pray for everyone who has ever been hurt by members of the Church,” the archbishop said in a Jan. 31 statement.
"And we need to continue to support the long and painful process of healing their wounds and restoring the trust that was broken.”
Archbishop Gomez noted that “effective immediately, I have informed Cardinal Mahony” – who served the archdiocese from 1985 to 2011 – “that he will no longer have any administrative or public duties.”
The statement additionally announced that Bishop Thomas Curry of Santa Barbara has stepped down.
“Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Curry has also publicly apologized for his decisions while serving as Vicar for Clergy. I have accepted his request to be relieved of his responsibility as the Regional Bishop of Santa Barbara.”
“To every victim of child sexual abuse by a member of our Church: I want to help you in your healing. I am profoundly sorry for these sins against you,” the archbishop said.
“We will continue, as we have for many years now, to immediately report every credible allegation of abuse to law enforcement authorities and to remove those credibly accused from ministry.”
On Jan. 21, the Los Angeles Times published a story saying that 25 years ago, in the late 1980s, archdiocesan officials tried to hide sex abuse cases from police. The paper's story is based on personnel files dating from 1986 and 1987 which were filed as evidence in pending litigation involving two former priests.
Much of what the L.A. Times discussed were memos between Cardinal Mahony, and then-Monsignor Curry, who was vicar of clergy at the time. Msgr. Curry was consecrated a bishop in 1994, and since that time had served as one of the auxiliary bishops of the Los Angeles archdiocese.
In his statement Thursday, Archbishop Gomez confirmed the release of files of priests who sexually abused children while they were serving in the Los Angeles archdiocese.
Most of the documents have already been made public as part of the “Report to the People of God” created by the archdiocese in 2004. The documents include psychiatric records, investigative reports, letters of complaint, and private correspondence, many of which are now 20 years old.
“These files document abuses that happened decades ago. But that does not make them less serious,” Archbishop Gomez said.
“The behavior described in these files is terribly sad and evil,” he added, “there is no excuse, no explaining away what happened to these children. The priests involved had the duty to be their spiritual fathers and they failed.”
“Reading these files, reflecting on the wounds that were caused, has been the saddest experience I’ve had since becoming your Archbishop in 2011,” he wrote.
Archbishop Gomez also announced that in the weeks ahead, “I will address all of these matters in greater detail. Today is a time for prayer and reflection and deep compassion for the victims of child sexual abuse.”
The 2013 public release of the files of clergy who were subject of the 2007 global settlement, “concludes a sad and shameful chapter in the history of our Local Church,” Archbishop Gomez explained upon the release of the personnel files.
The archdiocese is releasing 124 files with names. Of this number, 82 files have information on allegations of childhood sexual abuse and 42 files have no information on allegations of childhood sexual abuse. However, “proffers” – which are summaries of personnel files that were determined by the Court to be complete and accurate – have been provided in those instances.
There are approximately 12,000 pages in the files being released, in compliance with the court orders. According to the archdiocese, “media reports that there were 30,000 or more pages were inaccurate.”
The archdiocese has made the clergy files publicly available on its web site, and noted that “sad and shameful as the past history of sexual abuse is, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles can point to more than a decade of modern child protection efforts that are among the most effective in the nation at preventing abuse and dealing with allegations of abuse.”
Each one of the 287 parishes and schools has a Safeguard the Children Committee, and all adults who supervise children are required to undergo VIRTUS abuse prevention training, and must submit to background checks and screening.
Catholic school students and children in religious education programs also undergo age-appropriate abuse prevention instruction.
Priests, deacons, school faculty and administrators, and other staff members in parishes and schools are mandated reporters, and regularly receive training in how to report suspicions of child abuse or endangerment to civil authorities.
Additionally, the Archdiocese continues to reach out to victims of abuse and their families through our Office of Victims Assistance Ministry.
In his Facebook page, Archbishop Gomez wrote late on Thursday: “Friends, today is a time for prayer and reflection and deep compassion for the victims of child sexual abuse. I entrust all of us and our children and families to the tender care and protection of our Blessed Mother Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe and Our Lady of the Angels.”