Former L.A. archbishop disciplined over handling of sex abuse allegations

Roger Mahony, former archbishop of Los Angeles, was cited for serious shortcomings after abuse victims came forward.

Los Angeles (CNN) — In what activists describe as unprecedented, the Catholic archbishop in Los Angeles has relieved a retired cardinal of his public and administrative duties for his mishandling of “painful and brutal” allegations of sexual abuse by priests.

Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of the Los Angeles Archdiocese disciplined his predecessor, the now retired Cardinal Roger Mahony, after a California judge forced the archdiocese to release about 12,000 pages of church documents revealing how it handled allegations of priest sexual abuse.

There were 192 priests and bishops named in litigation, the archdiocese said.

“The cases span decades,” Gomez said in a statement Thursday.Some go back to the 1930s. The documents were released on the Archdiocese’s website.

“But that does not make them less serious. I find these files to be brutal and painful reading,” he said.

Gomez cited Mahony for serious shortcomings after victims came forward during his tenure.

“Effective immediately, I have informed Cardinal Mahony that he will no longer have any administrative or public duties,” Gomez said in a statement.

David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abuse by Priests, described Gomez’s decision as unprecedented, but it amounts a mere slap on the wrist long after the fact.

“I can’t think of any instance in which a current Catholic prelate — and that would include bishops and cardinals — restricted or, in this case, promised to restrict their predecessor,” said Clohessy, who has spent 24 years monitoring sex abuse allegations against priests.

Clohessy said that between the ages of about 11 and 16, he was sexually abused by a priest in Missouri.

“But to say to a retired employee that we’re going to give you fewer roles, it’s a symbolic gesture and a pretty shallow one at that,” Clohessy added.

“A meaningless gesture. He should have been demoted or disciplined by the church hierarchy, in Rome and in the U.S.,” he said.

But Mahony was not as much as denounced when he was in power, Clohessy said.

Mahony “expressed his sorrow” for the alleged abuse, which victims reported during his tenure as archbishop from 1984 to 2011, the archdiocese said Friday.

But Clohessy feels that he and other church officials knew too much and did too little, and that there have not been enough consequences to deter future abuse or cover-ups.

“If you successfully conceal your wrongdoing, you can keep your job,” he said.

The archdiocese published the names of accused clergy in a 2004 report, but the release of Thursday’s documents will allow the public to trace how the church handled the allegations. It may bring to light some cases in which accusations were kept under wraps and the accused were kept out of the sight of the law or accusers.

The documents were evidence in 508 civil cases by sex abuse victims that were settled in one stroke in 2007. Victims received $660 million in the landmark judgment.

Most of the documents were inner-church correspondences about accused clergy. The archdiocese fought to purge the names of the accused from the papers until Thursday, when Judge Emilie Elias ruled that they be made public by February 22.

The church published them shortly after the ruling. There are 124 personnel files in total, 82 of which reveal sex abuse allegations against minors.

The release “concludes a sad and shameful chapter in the history of our Local Church,” the archdiocese said.

It warned that although the names of the abused have been deleted, some may recognize their cases.

“We understand this experience may be a difficult one,” it said.

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