Breaking News Blog

Thursday, Jan 31 2013 07:16 PM

LA archbishop relieves retired Cardinal Mahony of duties

BY GILLIAN FLACCUS Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez has relieved retired Cardinal Roger Mahony of his remaining duties and a former top aide to Mahony has stepped down from his current post, on the same night the church released thousands of pages of personnel files of priests accused of sexual abuse.

"I find these files to be brutal and painful reading," Gomez said in a statement Thursday night, referring to the newly released files made public by the church just hours after a judge's order. "The behavior described in these files is terribly sad and evil. There is no excuse, no explaining away what happened to these children."

Gomez announced that he has "informed Cardinal Mahony that he will no longer have any administrative or public duties."

Mahony, who retired in 2011 after more than a quarter-century at the helm of the archdiocese, has publicly apologized for mistakes he made in dealing with priests who molested children.

Gomez also said Thomas Curry, former vicar of the clergy under Mahony who was the cardinal's point person in dealing with priests accused of molestation, has stepped down from his current job as auxiliary bishop for the archdiocese's Santa Barbara region. Curry also issued an apology earlier this month.

Earlier Thursday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Emilie Elias ordered the diocese to turn over some 30,000 pages from the confidential files of priests accused of child molestation without blacking out the names of top church officials who were responsible for handling priests accused of abuse.

The judge gave the archdiocese until Feb. 22 to turn over the files to attorneys for the alleged victims, but they were released almost immediately.

The archdiocese, the nation's largest, had planned to black out the names of members of the church hierarchy who were responsible for the priests, and instead provide a cover sheet for each priest's file, listing the names of top officials who handled that case. The church reversed course Wednesday after The Associated Press, the Los Angeles Times and plaintiff attorneys objected in court.

A record-breaking $660 million settlement in 2007 with more than 500 alleged victims paved the way for the ultimate disclosure of the tens of thousands of pages, but the archdiocese and individual priests fought to keep them secret for more than five years.

A first round of 14 priest files made public in Los Angeles nearly two weeks ago showed that Mahony and other top officials maneuvered behind the scenes to shield molester priests, provide damage control for the church and keep parishioners in the dark about sexual abuse in their parishes. Those documents, released as part of an unrelated civil lawsuit, were not redacted and provided a glimpse of what could be contained in the larger release.

The files, some of them dating back decades, contain letters among top church officials, accused priests and archdiocese attorneys, complaints from parents, medical and psychological records and -- in some cases -- correspondence with the Vatican.

Similar document releases in other dioceses, including Boston, have shown top church officials shuffled molesting priests from parish to parish, failed to call police and kept parishioners in the dark.

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