Fifteen years before the clergy sex abuse scandal came to light, Archbishop Roger M. Mahony and a top advisor plotted to conceal child molestation by priests from law enforcement, including keeping them out of California to avoid prosecution, according to internal Catholic church records released Monday.
The archdiocese’s failure to purge pedophile clergy and reluctance to cooperate with law enforcement has previously been known. But the memos written in 1986 and 1987 by Mahony and Msgr. Thomas J. Curry, then the archdiocese’s chief advisor on sex abuse cases, offer the strongest evidence yet of a concerted effort by officials in the nation’s largest Catholic diocese to shield abusers from police. The newly released records, which the archdiocese fought for years to keep secret, reveal in church leaders’ own words a desire to keep authorities from discovering that children were being molested.
In the confidential letters, filed this month as evidence in a civil court case, Curry proposed strategies to prevent police from investigating three priests who had admitted to church officials that they abused young boys. Curry suggested to Mahony that they prevent them from seeing therapists who might alert authorities and that they give the priests out-of-state assignments to avoid criminal investigators.
This is particularly outrageous b.s.:
In a 2010 deposition, Mahony acknowledged the archdiocese had never called police to report sexual abuse by a priest before 2000. He said church officials were unable to do so because they didn’t know the names of the children harmed.
“In my experience, you can only call the police when you’ve got victims you can talk to,” Mahony said.
When an attorney for an alleged victim suggested “the right thing to do” would have been to summon police immediately, Mahony replied, “Well, today it would. But back then that isn’t the way those matters were approached.”
Since clergy weren’t legally required to report suspected child abuse until 1997, Mahony said, the people who should have alerted police about pedophiles like Baker and Wempe were victims’ therapists or other “mandatory reporters” of child abuse.
“Psychologists, counselors … they were also the first ones to learn [of abuse] so they were normally the ones who made the reports,” he said.
This is what they always fall back on: We didn’t know how bad this stuff was back then, and that’s why we didn’t call the police. That’s a self-serving lie. These files show that Mahony and his top adviser knew all too well that these clerical molesters had broken the law by raping and molesting children — and they consciously conspired to keep the police from finding out about it.
Note well: this was not a case of them not thinking they should call the cops. They actively sought to prevent the police from discovering crimes.
More from the story:
Federal and state prosecutors have investigated possible conspiracy cases against the archdiocese hierarchy. Former Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley said in 2007 that his probe into the conduct of high-ranking church officials was on hold until his prosecutors could access the personnel files of all the abusers. The U.S. attorney’s office convened a grand jury in 2009, but no charges resulted.
During those investigations, the church was forced by judges to turn over some but not all of the records to prosecutors. The district attorney’s office has said its prosecutors plan to review priest personnel files as they are released.
I hope they nail Mahony and Curry, and the two men end their days wearing liturgical orange.