Sunday, February 3, 2013

Cardinal Roger Mahony defends his legacy on church child abuse

Retired Roman Catholic Cardinal Roger?Mahony?defended his tattered legacy one day after Archbishop Jose Gomez stripped Mahony?of his administrative duties and released thousands of pages of confidential files on sexually abusive priests.

By Gillian Flaccus,?Associated Press / February 2, 2013

Frank Zamora holds an old photo of his son Dominic sitting on the lap of his abuser as Zamora joins the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) outside the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles. Cardinal Roger Mahony was stripped of his duties in an unprecedented move by his successor Archbishop Jose Gomez, who described the church's actions during the growing sex abuse scandal as evil.

Damian Dovarganes/AP


Retired Roman Catholic Cardinal Roger?Mahony?defended his tattered legacy Friday in a sharply worded letter to his successor, one day after Archbishop Jose Gomez stripped him of his administrative duties and bowed to a court order to release thousands of pages of confidential files on sexually abusive priests.

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In a letter posted on his personal blog, Mahony challenged Gomez for publicly shaming him and said he developed policies to safeguard children after taking over in 1985, despite being unequipped to deal with the molester priests he inherited.

Mahony?had apologized two weeks ago after another release of similar files showed he and other top aides worked behind the scenes to protect the church from the growing scandal, keep offending clerics out of state and prevent public disclosure of sex crimes committed by priests.

Gomez was well aware when he took over in 2011 of the steps?Mahony?had taken to develop better clergy sex abuse policies and never questioned his leadership until Thursday,?Mahony?wrote.

"Unfortunately, I cannot return now to the 1980s and reverse actions and decisions made then. But when I retired as the active archbishop, I handed over to you an archdiocese that was second to none in protecting children and youth,"?Mahony?wrote.

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The letter was remarkable because it revealed infighting between two highly placed church leaders when members of the Roman Catholic hierarchy rarely break ranks publicly, said the Rev. Thomas Doyle, a canon lawyer who worked for the Vatican's Washington, D.C., embassy.

"It is so rare because they stick together like glue," he said. "The fact that Gomez said what he said, this had to have been cleared by the Vatican, they had to have discussed this with the Vatican.?Mahony?took the fall."

Gomez declined an interview request from The Associated Press.

The exchange also indicates the stress?Mahony?is under following several weeks of damaging disclosures of priest personnel files that reveal he and a top aide, Thomas Curry, who is now a bishop, maneuvered to shield priests from prosecution, kept parishioners in the dark, and failed to call police about sex crimes against minors.

Gomez's public rebuke of?Mahony, 76, for failing to take swift action against abusive priests adds tarnish to a career already overshadowed by the church sex abuse scandal, but it does little to change his role in the larger church.

The archbishop also accepted a resignation request from Curry, who most recently served as auxiliary bishop in charge of the archdiocese's Santa Barbara region.

The fallout will get worse as parishioners themselves begin to read the thousands of pages of documents that are now posted on the archdiocese website.


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