Child abuse? Bad. Sloppy baptismal records? Worse.

That, at least, is the attitude on display in some of the documents released this week in the burgeoning Los Angeles abuse scandal.  The Los Angeles Times explains: 

In some cases, the behavior that drew the greatest ire of the hierarchy involved breaking church rather than criminal laws. After first learning of Michael Baker’s abuse of boys in 1986, church leaders sent the priest to therapy, then returned him to ministry believing his word that he would stay away from children.

Yet in 2000, information that Baker was performing baptisms without permission set off a new level of alarm among the church’s top officials. They discussed launching a canonical investigation, and for the first time in Baker’s checkered years with the church, officials raised the prospect of contacting police.

They mulled getting a restraining order to keep him away from churches.

“Please proceed — this is very bad!” Mahony scrawled across the bottom of a memo on starting a church investigation into the baptisms. Ultimately, church officials did not seek a restraining order.

Archdiocese officials finally contacted police about Baker’s abuse of children when the scandal erupted in 2002.

Father Lynn Caffoe was sent to a Maryland treatment center in 1991. In a letter to the center, Dyer said that “apart from Father Caffoe’s behavior with minors” the church was also concerned about his failure “to record any of the 60 additional baptisms … and … there have been nearly 100 marriages he has not documented.”

“In the matter of failure to record sacramental events — this is not just unprofessional, but a terribly serious matter in parish life,” Dyer said, adding that Caffoe had told a supervisor the records were “in a box somewhere” but never produced them.

That’s the tip of the iceberg. Read more. 


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