Originally published at LatinoPOV. Republished by permission.
The recent disclosure that retired Catholic Cardinal Roger Mahony of the Los Angeles Diocese and his subordinates covered over the sexual abuse of young children by priests for more than thirty years is not surprising. What is new is that the church's history of hiding these sexual crimes from the police in a conscious and planned way has finally been exposed to the public.
This disclosure of hidden church files was not done voluntarily. A judge ruled that the public has a right to know who the child abusers are and ordered defiant church authorities and their lawyers to disclose the names and files of the thirty or more priests who had a history of molesting and raping little boys within the "holy" confines of different churches.
In the coming weeks, thousands of pages of files that the church had sealed from law-enforcement and victims in order to protect the "privacy rights" of these pedophile priests will be made public. This is a result of a settlement from a 2007 civil suit filed by more than 500 alleged victims of sex abuse by priests from the Los Angeles Archdiocese.
Cardinal Mahony, present Archbishop Gomez and church attorneys, have fought hard to obstruct criminal investigations and civil suits filed by past victims for these numerous sexual assaults by priests. To obstruct justice, Mahony and his hierarchy transferred pedophile priests out of state to escape prosecution, threatened undocumented parents and children and outright lied by denying
Young people who were sexually abused by priests have been discarded by the church
responsibility for these sexual attacks against minors. Many of these young victims were undocumented Latino boys whose parents had trusted and supported the church. In return, their children were preyed upon by certain priests who took sexual advantage of them and even threatened to deport those who were undocumented if they reported the abuse.
Thomas Curry who is now the auxiliary archbishop for Santa Barbara was previously Mahony's advisor on sex abuse cases. His role as abuse advisor was to formulate the strategies that were used to cover over the crimes of pedophile priests and to block any criminal investigations and civil suits from being lodged against these priests and the church.
Cardinal Mahony approved these unjust and obstructive actions which were intended to avoid criminal prosecution. He has claimed that church clergy were not legally required to report suspected child abuse until 1997 and therefore they were not responsible for reporting these hundreds of crimes against children to the police.
Mahony has relied upon this flimsy defense in order to rationalize his immoral decisions and behavior. He has also recently apologized publicly to these hundreds of victims for his harmful actions and stated that he has a list of the children who were sexually abused by clergy under his watch and will now pray for them.
This moral and abusive cancer of sexually molesting children that is ingrained within the Catholic Church is not simply a local or recent problem. It has permeated the L.A. archdiocese for close to fifty years and perhaps longer as these sexual assaults by predatory pedophiles became a common occurrence. These assaults by certain Catholic priests have also occurred in Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Kansas City, Missouri and Florida. Internationally, other abusive priests have preyed upon innocent children in Germany, Australia and other countries. Meanwhile, Pope Benedict has not spoken out and acted forcefully enough to thoroughly eliminate these crimes that are being committed against children in many church dioceses.
Thousands of pages from Los Angeles archdiocese files that are to be released will help to raise the public's consciousness in regard to these sexual assaults on young people and will include the files of many more abuser priests. However, in most likelihood, none of this vital and repulsive information will result in any convictions or justice for the hundreds of victims as the child rapers and criminals will most likely go free. The many years of obstruction, stonewalling and cover-up by Mahony's lawyers and his clergy have allowed the perpetrators of these crimes to avoid prosecution due to the passage of time and the statue of limitations.
A conscious and dishonest decision was made by Cardinal Mahony and certain other church officials in other cities to ignore the welfare and safety of children and to instead focus on damage control that protected the church's reputation. Many honest priests who protested this abuse and cover-up over the years were ignored or silenced by the church. This immoral decision by these supposedly pious "men of god" also focused on defending the finances of the church from criminal litigation and civil suits for damages.
While Mahony has done much in the past to defend immigrant's rights, it is this permissive and allowable sexual abuse of their children by the clergy that will tarnish and negatively define his legacy. Thus, the morality of the church was not utilized to defend the interests of the children from sexual predators. Instead, a hypocritical and opportunistic policy and morality was followed whose actions involved criminal wrongdoing, lies and the defense of money and pedophiles. Christian ideology was tossed aside and a degenerate and secular ideology of greed, pedophile lust and disregard for children has prevailed.
There is an underlying pattern in most of these cases of child abuse where church officials have consistently obstructed an exhaustive investigation and prosecution by law enforcement of predator priests who were under suspicion. This obstruction of justice would normally get people fired or criminally charged such as in a school district. Thus, certain church officials feel that they are above the law while law-enforcement has not made a serious enough attempt to criminally charge these child molesters and those who protect them.
These years of abuse by hundreds of priests across the country have left a trail of shattered lives for thousands of victims many of whom are now adults. The depth of psychological and financial problems that have plagued these children who were loyal believers of the faith have been ignored and dismissed by many church authorities who have assumed no responsibility for the actions of the abusers within their midst.
Rather than sermons on Sundays that honestly described these problems of sexual abuse and their elimination, only silence has been heard. What is even worse is that there has been no principled attempt by Mahony, his successor Archbishop Gomez and other dioceses to voluntarily compensate these victims nor to bring their alleged sexual predators to justice by cooperating with the police to prosecute them for their crimes.
The Christian theology and dogma with its pronunciation by Jesus that young and innocent children should be protected is in profound contradiction with the prevailing hypocritical ideology being practiced by Cardinal Mahony and the church which ignores the welfare and safety of children and defends admitted abusers. Mahony's top priority has been to look after the financial interests of the church and avoid any scandals rather than protecting young lives and assuming responsibility for these children who were ignored and discarded by church officials like some form of disposable human rubbish.
One of the factors contributing to this epidemic of child abuse by priests is the rigid church regulation forbidding clerical marriages. Priests and Popes were allowed to marry until the eleventh century, then the Second Lateran Council approved a new church rule against marriage and upheld "strict" celibacy for the priesthood. This was done to supposedly separate them from the sinful world of sex, but the real reason was an economic one as the numerous sons fathered by married priests were inheriting too much church property and finances.
So, to stem this loss of church property a new rule from the Vatican banned the children of priests from receiving any more inheritances. Of course, this did not automatically stop sexual activities among church members as human nature prevailed over flimsy rules. However, the sexual abuse of children that was common during the Middle Ages by those who held positions of power cannot be condoned within our present society.
The second factor is the present shortage of priests within the church as the number of young men who want to commit to a life of religious celibacy is decreasing. The expulsion from the church of a large number of child-molesting pedophile priests would make this shortage of keepers of the faith even more acute. So, for church officials, expediency in maintaining enough clergy to preside over parishioners and their donations has overcome the morality of protecting children.
Thirdly, after fifteen centuries of accumulating wealth, the Catholic Church is one on the largest and richest financial institutions in the world with massive investments in corporations, banks, real estate and gold bullion. The feudal structure of the church is like a pyramid with the Pope at the top, an upper clergy with titles just below him, and thousands of priests at the parish level. At the bottom of this vast religious and financial pyramid are the millions of parishioners referred to as the flock, a name usually used to refer to sheep.
The years-long struggle waged by Mahony and his aide Thomas Curry to defend and conceal these wayward priests from law-enforcement and avoid criminal charges is fundamentally motivated by the desire to defend the church's vast financial empire from civil suits involving millions of dollars in damages.
Lastly, in other occupations such as teaching, coaching and to a lesser extent the Boy Scouts, pedophile predators are eventually caught and punished. Over the years, the word has gotten out to pedophiles that they can enter the priesthood and be surrounded by little boys who they can molest to their heart's content with no fear of being stopped, exposed or arrested. It is no coincidence that this surge of child abuse has occurred as it is directly related to the increase of pedophiles who are attracted to the priesthood due to its tolerance for this type of criminal activity.
A thorough purge is required of the church's ranks in order to remove the predator priests who have violated little boys and even girls. They need to be exposed and turned over to the police for criminal prosecution just like any other adults who commit these type of crimes. Continuing to protect such predators means allowing them to
Legally, the hundreds and hundreds of pending civil suits against the church by many of these victims who are now adults need to be settled in an honest manner and compensation paid for the anguish and years of suffering inflicted upon them. Many of the young and adult abuse victims still experience pangs of guilt as most believe that they were somehow responsible for these sexual assaults inflicted upon them by deviant priests and therefore need extensive psychological assistance.
A moral cleansing of the church's hierarchy and clergy is needed as well as a return to the original teachings and practice of the church that espoused the defense of the poor and innocent and particularly children. While these crimes against children are being exposed, we must make it clear that not all priests are responsible for these acts, but those who have kept quiet while children were harmed are just as guilty.
Allowing most priests to marry is a partial solution to this problem of abuse as human sexuality cannot be artificially restricted by a feudalistic rule. However, pedophile priests don't want to get married to women as they are sexually attracted to little boys and need to be expelled from the church. It is contradictory for the church to publicly condemn birth control, women's rights, abortion and gays as sinful, and yet silently continue to allow children under its supervision to be sexually assaulted by its members and then dishonestly hide it.
In conclusion, the parishioners of the many churches and especially those in cities where these incidents of religious-child molestation have occurred need to stand up and be heard. Keeping quiet and passively looking the other way objectively endorses this decadent and criminal behavior against children.
Every Sunday, church members finance the clergy and their lawyers with donations who then use these funds to defend and hide pedophile child abusers from prosecution. The millions of church members must not continue to maintain an immoral silence while children are harmed.
Parishioners have a right and duty to stand up and speak out against this existing ethical and financial corruption. They must demand a moral cleansing of the clergy and criminal prosecution of the abusers so that the children whose lives have been negatively affected may at last receive justice.