The big news in Los Angeles this past week has been the discipline the current Roman Catholic Archbishop has placed upon his predecessor, Cardinal Roger Mahony, for his protection of priests engaged in sexual abuse of members of their parishes, many of them children. This was an extraordinary move by the Archbishop because in terms of the ecclesiastic hierarchy, Mahony as a Cardinal outranks Archbishop Gomez. The move was occasioned by a court ruling that files on the issue be presented without redaction of any sort and those files are devastating.
David Horsey has a very temperate column up on the issue, one that I don't quite agree with.
For a decade now, the sex abuse scandal has rocked the Roman Catholic Church in city after city. The scandal in Los Angeles led to a settlement between the church and 500 abuse victims in 2007, but the archdiocese had resisted opening personnel files. Now, though, the files are wide open and the stark evidence of a cover-up has brought to disgrace one of the most powerful and admired men in the church, Cardinal Mahony. The good works of a lifetime are tainted by the fact that he saw evil, had the authority to stop it and, instead, tried to keep it in the darkness by giving offending priests out-of-state assignments and barring them from talking to therapists who might blow the whistle on their misdeeds.
It goes without saying that the Catholic hierarchy from Rome on down has long been engaged in a cynical effort to protect the institution of the church by hiding pedophile priests. Still, there is also an element of Christian idealism at work here. At the heart of the faith is the principle that any sinner, no matter how wicked, can be redeemed by God’s forgiveness. That goes for priests, too. In the context of church teaching, there is logic in allowing clergy to repent and ask forgiveness, rather than turning them over to the police. But it is a naïve logic that depends on a miracle cure for a disorder that even years of therapy cannot always remedy. ...
Of course, the files describe things that happened in the 1980s and the church insists steps have been taken to prevent such things from happening today. We all pray that is true. But, as they say in politics, the cover-up is more damaging than the crime, at least to the powerful men who try to keep terrible secrets. Cardinal Mahony is the latest to learn this lesson. [Emphasis added]
It is hard for me to believe that "Christian idealism" was at work. I think it was more a case of protecting the ecclesiastical authority of the church from top to bottom. Priests who uttered a phrase deemed inconsistent with church teachings received a harsher punishment than those sexually abusing children (both boys and girls) and women. The sexual abusers were just shuffled off to another parish, another state, with no warning to the parish, thereby enabling them to continue the behavior. Roger Mahony just washed his hands of the problem, just as another authority did 2,000 years ago.