Los Angeles Catholic Church Leaders Covered Up Abuse

The New York Times has a devastating article about how Catholic Church leaders in Los Angeles covered up abuse and protected priests from punishment (Link has been updated):

Cardinal Roger Mahony

Retired Cardinal Roger Mahony and other top Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles officials maneuvered behind the scenes to shield molester priests, provide damage control for the church and keep parishioners in the dark, according to church personnel files.

The confidential records filed in a lawsuit against the archdiocese disclose how the church handled abuse allegations for decades and also reveal dissent from a top Mahony aide who criticized his superiors for covering up allegations of abuse rather than protecting children.

… Mahony received psychological reports on some priests that mentioned the possibility of many other victims, for example, but there is no indication that he or other church leaders investigated further.

“This is all intolerable and unacceptable to me,” Mahony wrote in 1991 on a file of the Rev. Lynn Caffoe, a priest suspected of locking boys in his room, videotaping their crotches and running up a $100 phone sex bill while with a boy. Caffoe was sent for therapy and removed from ministry, but Mahony didn’t move to defrock him until 2004, a decade after the archdiocese lost track of him.

It’s only more disappointing when you realize most people will ignore this article entirely because this sort of behavior has become so commonplace. We’re no longer surprised when Catholic priests abuse children. We’re even less surprised when when Catholic Church leaders try to cover it up.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Cecelia Baines

    Oh, but look at all the GOOD the Catholic Church does……”God” has forgiven them, why can’t YOU?

    *snark and sarcasm is Spades*

    RICO charges need to be brought against the US end of the Vatican and Catholic Church. This is clear conspiracy that goes across state lines. RICO the fuck outta these evil pricks, strip them of tax free status, and dismantle this evil and archaic club.

  • MGP

    And once again we have a situation where if this were any other type of organization other than ‘faith’ it would have been prosecuted and completely dismantled. As it is, this conduct is more than likely still continuing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rusty.yates.7 Rusty Yates

    I have few beliefs but I do believe the Catholic Church is one of the most evil organizations on earth. But what do you expect they worship the most evil god ever imagined.

  • C Peterson

    It’s only more disappointing when you realize most people will ignore
    this article entirely because this sort of behavior has become so

    I don’t think people will ignore the article, they simply won’t invest much time in it, nor feel much shock or outrage. And why should they? As you say, this has become commonplace. There is really no news here.

    This attitude isn’t disappointing at all; I see it as a positive thing. It reflects the simple reality that people now take for granted the moral decrepitude of the Catholic Church. It reflects the degree to which the Church has lost its moral authority, and the large lack of respect it has engendered in so many people. These are good things, and necessary steps on its continued road to irrelevance.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger?feature=mhee GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    It amazes me that lots of otherwise ethical people will continue to give their money to support an organization that so pervasively and systematically protects those who sexually molest little children.

  • Octoberfurst

    My sentiments exactly!

  • Octoberfurst

    You know just once I’d love to hear of a Catholic Bishop who DIDN’T cover up sexual abuse charges against one of his priests. Just ONCE! It’s such an epidemic. Priests from LA to Boston to Miami molest boys and the Church does nothing. As I once heard someone say, “The Catholic church is the worlds largest pedophile ring,” and I agree with that statement 100%. I have no idea why millions still support this archaic, misogynistic, pedophile-loving organization. I really don’t. The sooner the Catholic church goes into the dustbin of history the better it will be for all of us.

  • C Peterson

    You introduce an interesting concept: “otherwise ethical people”. There’s an entire PhD thesis in philosophy to be found in that!

  • Brudder

    Any other organization, except the Boy Scouts of America.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dennis-Blankenship/2359238 Dennis Blankenship

    Los Angeles Catholic Church Leaders Covered Up Abuse
    In other news, water is wet, and puppies are cute…

  • ggsillars

    This all sounds so familiar; I can’t imagine why.

  • baal

    I agree that there are a number of otherwise ethical folks still giving that monstrous organization cash but I do know several Catholics who will not go to any other church (‘wrong churches’) but will not give $$ or attendance to the RCC until they stop engaging in cover ups and abuse.

  • ortcutt

    Why is this here on Friendly Atheist but not on any of the Patheos blogs on the Catholic Channel? I still see a reluctance among Catholics to face this issue squarely. Instead we get avoidance and excuses. Children were raped because of deliberate neglect by the Church and all Catholics seem to think about is “

  • Question Everything

    I’m not so sure about this. Yes, it has become commonplace, and yes, that’s why it’s not exactly big news.. but that hasn’t stopped a rather large number of Catholics from continuing to go to their churches, giving money to their churches, and either turning a blind eye to the abuse, or defending it in some obscure way that usually falls apart when they’re pressed on it.. but they keep going, and keep giving, and keep defending, an organization like this.

    Even if it’s commonplace, I still want to know, and I want more people to pay attention to the problem and do something about it – stop giving to the church until they come clean. Press representatives to investigate claims. Speak out against it. Not just yawn and say ‘another day, another priest scandal.. well, what are we wearing this Sunday?’

  • http://exconvert.blogspot.com/ Kacy

    Yes. I just skimmed it. My thoughts were something like: “Not surprising…same old, same old…How is this organization still surviving?”

  • The Godless Monster

    Bravo…well said. I couldn’t agree more. The RCC is nothing less than an organized crime syndicate.

  • C Peterson

    They are Catholics. That means they are theists and religionists, and therefore irrational. So I’d expect the process of fixing that to be difficult and long-term. What we should be interested in are those that have left, those that no longer support the Church, those that no longer look to it for their morality. There are many, even if there are many more yet to find this path. The marginalization of the Catholic Church is a process, and completing it may take another generation or more. But it will happen and is happening now.

  • http://twitter.com/Opinionatedcath Opinionated Catholic

    The article has a line in it that is a pet peeve of mine that needs some clarification. That is of “defrocking” The fact of the matter is for a good bit of time because of all the procedures most Bishops did not go through the procedure of “defrocking” or to put in Catholic terms laicization of Priests that left the Catholic Priesthood voluntary or involuntary. Usually the process ended at removal of public ministry

    The 2004 date mentioned is important because it reflects actions of Cardinal Ratzinger at the request of mostly American Bishops to make the process much more simple and faster

  • trj

    Exactly. Imagine if some huge multinational corporation was revealed to have engaged in sex crimes and systematic cover-ups on the scale of the Catholic Church. It would be immediately boycotted by almost every consumer, the offenders and responsible leaders would be prosecuted and thrown in jail, and politicians would be clamoring on top of one another to demand investigations and trials. And everybody would agree these steps were moral, just, and necessary.

    The Catholic Church deserves to be treated no differently. Yet it blatantly is.

  • http://twitter.com/Opinionatedcath Opinionated Catholic

    Thats partially incorrect since the Public School system and other Govt agencies that deal with youth as a matter of routine exempt themselves when such things as the Statute of Limitations are extended. Example see Hawaii last year

  • Question Everything

    “and therefore irrational” isn’t a conclusion I’d suggest based on their faith. They may be irrational about being theists, but not irrational about other things.. say.. child abuse. Reminding them of this fact may help more leave the church when they try to bring up flimsy arguments defending it.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    This is pretty much par for the course now.

    Is there any way, legally, to take down the RCC for conspiracy to commit child rape and the (ongoing) obstruction of justice (with the coverups, denials, shuffling pedo-priest off to another unsuspecting parish)?

  • Carmelita Spats

    And they should NOT be exempt, not at all. The difference is that if a teacher is caught molesting children and the supervisor (principal, superintendent, school board, etc) PROTECTS them, the supervisor will lose his license and he will end up in JAIL along with the pedophile teacher. Priests are the WORST type of child predators because they have an organized crime syndicate, the Roman Catholic Church, that uses its power, including diplomatic courier, to HIDE their CRIMINAL acts. The Dallas Morning News ran an award-winning series of articles back in ’03 titled “Runaway Priests”, describing how these ANIMALS go abroad to escape prosecution. Patrick J. Wall is an EX-PRIEST, a canon lawyer, and one of the good guys. Patrick fights to hold the filthy bishops CRIMINALLY LIABLE for the sexual torture of children under THEIR watch. Patrick has a blog that you can access if you want to read more about what the good guys are doing to keep ALL children safe. Hell, even party clowns advertise that they have gone through background checks and there is no Party-Clown-Vatican to shield them…I would feel safer leaving my child with Penny-the-Clown than with Father-Chester-Molester or Father Buckeye-the-Hairless-Nut who sodomizes children and then consecrates the Eucharist (See Also, Father Marcial Maciel…He was notorious for masturbating boys and then going out to celebrate Mass). Here are some resources…

    1. BIshops Accountability: This site has mug shots of the perverts, court documents, the status of each priest and a handy map to help you investigate whether your local parish priest is a registered sex offender.

    2. Party Clowns with background checks…They have gone through RIGOROUS background checks which is more than Pope Bendmydick XVI can say for his maladjusted virgins (priests):

    3. Father Marcial Maciel…Mexico’s notorious pedophile priest:

    Your cult’s poll numbers are falling faster than an altar boy’s pants in a Catholic rectory. Praise!

  • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

    Carmelita, I can’t help noticing your constant use of the word “virgin” as a pejorative. There’s nothing wrong with being a virgin. It shouldn’t be used as an insult. Plenty of people are virgins for personal reasons. There’s no reason for them to be ashamed of it. People who are virgins are not more likely to be maladjusted or to rape children.

    Now of course the RCC does have a very warped view of human sexuality, and no doubt many of their priests are malajusted due to guilt, shame and repression. We should go after the RCC for its unhealthy teachings, but that doesn’t mean it’s appropriate to use the word “virgin” as some kind of slur. Not to mention, since all of these men were having sex with children, they weren’t virgins at all.

  • pagansister

    Good question–why isn’t this on one of the Catholic blogs? Is reality too much to handle? Yep. I expect that many say that “their wonderful priest would never do this to a child”, and ignore the fact that thousands of others have molested and continue to molest children. Where are their parents? Why would they actually leave them alone with one of those “holy men?”

  • pagansister

    Wonder why some of the nuns haven’t been brought out for mistreating children also?

  • pagansister

    A few priests have gone to jail for their crimes—and one was killed while there, by other inmates. Even hardened criminals won’t tolerate those that molest children. Unfortunately the Church still hasn’t done their due diligence—-and the priests continue to take advantage of the children. Rumor has it that they are screening men who wish to be priests more closely. Right. They also wish to rule out any “gay” men—can’t have those gay guys messing with each other—-

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    Seems to be a function of ChildrenAre Innocent.

  • Jennifer

    Really? I can’t help but be skeptical of this story. Who could do such a thing?


  • DavidPun

    So….you’re saying that you admire rapists and thieves and murderers just because you don’t like priests? That’s bizarre.

  • DavidPun

    Glad you pointed out the US part of the equation. Just finished reading an article. Apparently the US has now reached the distinction of being the # 2 country in the world for child sex abuse. It is even ahead of Russia apparently. And its not just the church. The number 1 country is apparently Thailand, but apparently that’s only #1 because it provides a rip roaring business in child sex for American and Russian businessmen who can’t get enough at home.

  • DavidPun

    I’m no fan of the Catholic Church, but I do like facts rather than bigotry and fiction. The last I read, the Catholic Church …at least the American Catholic Church …I don’t know about the rest….had roughly the same incidence of sexual misconduct as the general US population. So does that not imply that the child abuse is more of an American thing than just a Catholic thing? In fact the allegations of sexual abuse of minors is almost 10x higher in the US Juvenile Detention system than the allegations in all the churches and Boy Scouts and schools combined. I’m not a Catholic, but frankly I don’t see any evidence that the RCC is any worse than any other American organization that involves kids.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    At least the rapists, thieves, and murderers have standards…

  • Carmelita Spats

    For the umpteenth time….If a teacher is CAUGHT having sex with a five-year-old, her SUPERVISORS will be prosecuted if they are caught covering up the rape. It’s the institutional COVER UP that makes the Roman Catholic Church an organized crime syndicate subject to RICO statutes in the U.S…the same statutes that were applied to organized crime. Since you love facts, SEE ALSO:

    1. Patrick J. Wall, an ex-priest and canon lawyer, who has been FIGHTING to hold these filthy bishops criminally LIABLE…Read his blog…http://patrickjwall.wordpress.com/

    2. Read “Crimen Sollicitationis”, an organizational document that instructs Catholic clergy on how to hide the sexual torture of children. This is a smoking gun:

    3. The bishops who covered up the crimes…Mug shots, court documents, victim statements and continuous updates…http://www.bishop-accountability.org/

    4. RICO statutes…http://www.justice.gov/usao/eousa/foia_reading_room/usam/title9/110mcrm.htm

    This is enough homework for one night. You are welcome.

  • DavidPun

    OK. Their standards are “do whatever I want to maximize my personal gain at the expense of other people at any point in time.” In most cases the only reason they did not rape a child was because they didn’t happen to have a sexual impulse to do that. As a betting man, I would place a wager on the fact that if any one of those men happened to have a sudden homosexual pedophilic impulse, you wouldn’t be able to stop them rushing to the nearest little boy and raping them. So I think you are fooling yourself with this line of argument. You might also want to go and try to explain to a woman who has been raped, why you think her suffering and pain is any less than that of an abused child….I would advise you to keep your distance however, or get one of your principled jailbird buddies to stand between you and the woman.

  • DavidPun

    I don’t want to get into an argument over the fact that there are indeed some irrational people in religious groups. Of course there are . But I don’t understand why you say that a person who is (I presume you mean) a deist is irrational.

  • DavidPun

    Perhaps I should say a little more. The whole debate over whether people who base their behavior on what we might call a-rational (rather than irrational) principles versus those who place their trust in empirical principles based in science has been resolved a long time ago. A.J.Ayer was the philosopher who brought it to a head when he generated the “Truth” principle behind the secular minset. He said “You can only say that a statement is true if it is empirically verifiable” (i.e provable by the scientific method). In one of the most embarrasing incidents in the history of philosophy, he was immediately shot down when another philosopher asked him how he could verify the truth of his own principle. Of course he couldn’t!
    Thas the fundamental problem with basing all truth on science. This problem was put on steriods when complex system theory was developed and showed that even in cases where the scientific method could be used, for example to describe say atomic theory, complex system theory shows beyond any doubt that once you try these principles in the real world, althoug the principles remain valid, the ability to use them to predict anything becomes severely limited, due to the evolution of complex systems.
    So while, as a scientist, I place great trust in science to help me answer specific questions about the universe that I interact with, the only rational conclusion I can reach is that the universe is infinitely more complex than I can understand and even perceive. This is the basic principle of deism. It is not a belief in Big FAtherly divinities sitting in heaven with a big white beard. It is a belief that any level of intelligibility must result from a higher more complex level.

  • DavidPun

    You might want to add the US Juvenile Detention System.

  • DavidPun

    I see you feel strongly about this, but you sound like a conspiracy nut to me.
    1. To depict the RCC as a covert pedophile ring with a bunch of evil perverts running a monstrous evil secret organization is just pure conspiracy theory from beginning to end.
    2. I don’t know Patrick Wall so I can’t judge what he says or why he says it. Why is he an ex-priest?
    3. Re Crimen Sollicitationis. I talked to a friend of mine at Dusquesne Univeristy who specializes in church history and the REALITY based explanation of what motivated Crimen Sollicitationis and why its eventual form got corrupted inside the Catholic magisterium is actually quite fascinating and bears not the slightest resemblance to your Internet conspiracy theory explanation.Yes,in fact its original motivation was to encode in canon law the ability of the Church to handle internal crimes without having to make the crimes public. In fact befor CSol, apparently the Canon Law required these type of offences to be openly exposed in the church through the churches legal system requiring a trial which was not guranteed to be private. However, since the church operates in every country on the planet, in countries in particular where the Govt was hostile to the Church, open accusations of sexual crimes like rape and illegitimate sexual solicitation could have serious consequences. For example in many Muslim countries if a woman was raped in confessional by a priest, and this was discovered by the govt, both the priest AND the woman would receive the death penalty. Sometimes the priest was wrongly accused sometimes not. The church was trying to find a way in its own legal system to hush this type of thing up. But I agree with you that the dangers of this for hushing up crimes to save face were enormous, and the church should have solved this in a different way particularly i countries had a just legal system.
    4. I agree 100% we must protect children and the law is the law. Perpetrators must answer for crimes and those who knowingly tried to hide perpetrators should also be held accountable. But that is not most of the bishops, and in some cases the bishops involved were acting more on an incredible level of naivete about sexual issues, and simply just didn’t get it that some “sins” like pedophilia were not just about saying sorry and trying not to sin again. The church had always viewed itself an organization that tried to help people acknowledge failure and attempt to live up to higher standards. But that wasn’t going to cut it with pedophiles unfortunately. But I really do think that was actually more of the motivation rather than seeing the clergy as a secret society that had to be protected at all costs. But to be fair, I don’t know for sure that all bishops were in that class and I absolutely agree that concern for the victims safety seemed to be remarkably absent. But I really bishops were the evil creatures you portray.

    4. If criminal charges are appropriate for any individual , it should be done through the proper legal system and not in the court of public opinion in the US. Also there needs to be serious investigation into the mental health issues involved in sexual addiction including pedophilia. The US has a disgraceful mental heath system….called prison. Here where I live the Governor is passing a law that requires a doctor to report any person comng to him with a mental health problem to law enforcement. That peson will then be investigated to determine whether they are gun owners, but the police have refused to guarantee that they will not use these records for the purpose of determining possible suspects in future non-gun crimes.

    5. RICO. I would fight people like you tooth and nail on this. It just becomes a mechnaism for bigots to attack groups that they don’t like. It is a threat to freedom in this country.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    Uh, what? Pointing out that Even Evil Has Standards is somehow excusing or supporting or condoning the evil acts?

    I survived abuse at the hands of a former partner, so don’t you dare fucking pull that “you obviously support rapists, murderers, and thieves” bullshit on me — I do not now, and NEVER HAVE supported abusers.

  • DavidPun

    I apologize if I offended you. My intention was not to say that you support abusers. But I understand now why you feel the way you do. However, unfortunately you hit one of MY hot buttons. A female relative of mine was raped around ten years ago and then committed suicide. In my angrier moments I would be happy to go round all US prisons and execute all rapists. Also, the only group that gave my cousin’s family ANY comfort or support for a long period was the Catholic Church. I 100% support holding any people who abuse others, legally accountable. But I’m not a stupid person. I recognize rabid anti-Catholic and anti-religious hatred and bigorty when I see it, and although I am not personally Catholic (more of desit I suppose) I feel that someone has to make an effort to present a different perspective.

  • Llibres Dor

    I was speaking this morning to three well-informed Roman Catholic
    clerics (Father Gaylord, Father Saint Priapus, and Father Paedophilos),
    all of whom assured me that the church was doing “EVERYTHING possible”
    to get rid of “the FEW rotten apples in the barrel.”