Former Archbishop Roger Mahony and a top adviser discussed ways to prevent law enforcement from learning about molestations of children by clergy more than a decade before the abuses became public knowledge, according to internal Catholic church records released today.
Communications penned in 1986 and 1987 by Mahony and Msgr. Thomas Curry, then the archdiocese’s chief adviser on sex abuse cases, document efforts by the diocese to keep law enforcement in the dark, the Los Angeles Times reported on its website.
In the confidential letters filed in connection with a civil court case — and obtained by The Times — 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 the clergymen from seeing therapists who might alert authorities.
In one instance, Curry suggested that a priest be sent to “a lawyer who is also a psychiatrist” to keep their discussions “under the protection of privilege,” The Times reported.
Curry also suggested they send the priests to other states to further thwart law enforcement, according to the documents. In one case, he suggested that a priest remain out of state to avoid the possibility that a young victim would spot him and contact police, according to The Times report.
Mahony issued an apologetic statement today in response to the report, saying he had been “naive” in his response to the problem.
“Various steps toward safeguarding all children in the church began here in 1987 and progressed year by year as we learned more about those (priests) who abused and the ineffectiveness of so-called treatments at the time,” Mahony said.
“Nonetheless, even as we began to confront the problem, I remained naive myself about the full and lasting impact these horrible acts would have on the lives of those who were abused by men who were supposed to be their spiritual guides,” he said. “That fuller awareness came for me when I began visiting personally with victims.”
Mahony said he visited with about 90 priest abuse victims from 2006-08.
“Those visits were heart-wrenching experiences for me as I listened to the victims describe how they had their childhood and innocence stolen from them by clergy and by the church,” Mahony said. “At times we cried together, we prayed together, we spent quiet moments in remembrance of their dreadful experience. At times the victims vented their pent up anger and frustration against me and the church.”
Mahony’s statement concluded, “I am sorry.”
The confidential files of at least 75 more accused abusers are slated to become public in coming weeks under the terms of a 2007 civil settlement with more than 500 victims.
Archdiocese spokesman Tod Tamberg said the archdiocese admitted in a 2004 “Report to the People of God” and in other venues that it had failed to “fully understand and effectively deal with priests accused of sexual abuse.”
“The information in these cases is decades-old, and does not reflect the abuse reporting and prevention policies and procedures employed in all of our parishes and schools for the past 11 years,” Tamberg said.
“Through our Victims Assistance Ministry, we also continue to reach out to help victims and to pray for their healing.”