Dedicated to Success
MORE THAN 30+ YEARS OF EXPERIENCE
The Catholic Church sex scandal continues to haunt the institution. Even in 2013—years after the church began to acknowledge the widespread abuse—new information is coming to light especially regarding how allegations of molestation were handled in Los Angeles. At the heart of a recent Los Angeles Times piece is a rhetorical question for the former Archbishop of Los Angeles, Roger Mahony: “You need years of reflection to realize that the rape, abuse, betrayal and psychological exploitation of children by their spiritual leaders is both devastating and unconscionable?” (Lopez). This slap-in-the-face to Mahony arises after the cardinal recently issued another public apology. He now claims that years of reflection have shown him what he missed before: sexual abuse of children by their church leaders is more devastating than he first understood. This apology is supposed to help the public understand that the cover-ups and denials were the result of his misunderstanding?
Several sources in the article echo the same thought: after guilt has been determined, an apology seems quite hollow. Mahony’s latest apology comes after a document was released from the late 1980s showing that,as archbishop of Los Angeles, he condoned a cover-up involving priests known to be a sexual predators of children. One priest—Father Michael Baker—had admitted to Mahony that he had molested children. But instead of embracing transparency and perhaps sparing more children the horrors of rape, Mahony condoned a cover-up to, ostensibly, protect the church’s image. Documents between Mahony and Monsignor Thomas J. Curry from the time include several similar examples.
Many times when Mahony and Curry did reveal concern about the evil being perpetrated against children, they showed no empathy for victims and instead made comments that clearly indicate that the church’s image was paramount. Curry was Mahony’s chief investigator of sex abuse allegations at the time. The two shared candid thoughts about the abuse and their fear of legal repercussions if the abuse became public knowledge. Protection of children and justice for victims was far from being a priority.
As a result of thousands of civil suits, the Catholic Church continues to pay out billions of dollars to victims of sexual abuse, yet people like Mahony and Curry seem to be immune from prosecution.What they have done is clearly immoral and unethical but charging them criminally may be impossible. Loyola Law Professor Laurie Levenson says “ ‘If Mahony lied under oath in a lawsuit or grand jury or lied to a federal investigator, and the documents show something to the contrary, they might be able to bring charges on perjury or false statement’ ” (“Church sex abuse charges unlikely to lead to charges, experts say”). The people directly responsible for abuse have often been held individually responsible but their supervisors have almost always eluded justice.
Several priests have been convicted of molestation and child endangerment in the last decade but the higher ranking officials often escape unscathed or worse. As a cardinal, Mahony is one of the highest ranking members of the church. Curry is currently a bishop in Santa Barbara. Not only have these men not been punished, they have been promoted.
The sex abuse in the Catholic Church stretches back decades and likely much longer. In recent years the church in the United States has taken aggressive action to minimize the risks of molestation and lawsuits have led to substantial compensation for victims. The organization Bishop Accountability keeps detailed information on the scandal and reports that the church has paid over $3 billion as the result of settlements and judgments involving sex abuse and the church. In 2003, California put in place a “window” that gave alleged victims of sexual abuse one year to file a civil suit. 550 alleged victims took that opportunity. The new documents may open the window once again if people like Mahony and Curry are found to be criminally liable. Many victims and their advocates hope that this will open the window for civil suits once again. It may.
With recent changes in policy at the Boy Scouts of America, the Catholic Church, and places like Penn State, more is being done to minimize the risk to children. But too often the solutions arrive far after the harm has occurred. Ideally, the perpetrators of such horrible conduct will be held responsible. By holding them accountable, the public can encourage other organizations to actively protect children. Waiting for tragedy to occur often results in forced apologies and new safety standards that do little to assuage the pain of those already victimized.