Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A shameful day for justice and Catholics

With an unctuous, pompous apology and a check for $660 million, Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony told parishioners it's time to move on from the most notorious of the Catholic Church's predatory priest sex scandals. Forgive and forget, Cardinal Mahony seemed to be saying.

Forgive and forget? This pompous prelate is guilty of criminal behavior and should be in prison.

Mahony covered up sexual assaults on children by diocesan priests for years, transferred them from parish to parish, and for five years blocked financial settlements with victims because he was afraid to open files on priests and lurid details of assaults on children.

However, the first trial involving 508 victims was to begin Monday involving a priest accused of molesting 18 boys. Rather than face cross-examination about his grubby complicity in cover-ups, Mahony bought his way out with a $660 million check on top of an earlier $114 million settlement. Of the total $774 million, $250 million came from diocese coffers, including modest Sunday tithes by simple parishioners.

Mahony was an outright accessory to criminal conduct. But in announcing the settlement, he acted as some detached, innocent observer utterly unaware of the flood of allegations of young people who were being sexually molested.

"It should not have happened," sniffed Mahony on Sunday.

Oh? According to the Los Angeles Times, 75 percent of the diocese's 288 parishes at one time were served by clerics accused of molesting. Mahony didn't lift a finger to cleanse parishes of predators. He now washes his hands of the molesting epidemic.

Consider Father Michael Stephen Baker. He told Mahony he'd abused two or three boys. Rather than calling police, Cardinal Mahony sent Baker to New Mexico for treatment, then rotated him among nine parishes, where Baker then molested 23 more boys and girls. Belatedly, Baker was arrested and faces 15 criminal charges. But not Mahony.

Mahony has been costly to Catholics. On top of the $774 million settlement, five dioceses are in bankruptcy; 10 bishops and archbishops have resigned, parishes and schools have been closed and ministerial programs suspended. The largest share of $2 billion in U.S. Catholic settlements is the Los Angeles diocese's 38 percent.

If California authorities won't charge Mahony, the Vatican should strip Cardinal Mahony of his princely lifestyle and raiments and pack him off to exile—as was Boston Cardinal Bernard Law, who's faded into Vatican obscurity—where he can never again conspire to cover up the indescribable pain of innocent young people being sexually desecrated by wicked men posing blasphemously as disciples of God.

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