October 13, 2005

Unpardonable Sins

Los Angeles City Beat

Our local Catholic diocese finally went to confession this week, with the release of edited personnel files for 126 clergymen accused of sexual abuse. As first reported Wednesday by The New York Times, the files show a pattern of denial and secrecy dating back to the 1930s, with church leaders sending accused priests to “counseling” and new assignments elsewhere. Too often, young victims were left on their own.

This scandal is nothing new. That Catholic priests have sexually abused children is now a given. But the previously unknown details revealed in the confidential files (with accusers’ names edited out) suggest a pattern of poor judgment by local church leaders and a seeming lack of concern for victims and – maybe most alarming – those potential new victims left within reach of problem priests.

Los Angeles isn’t a special case. The epidemic of sexual abuse in the Boston church is the nation’s most notorious, leading to Cardinal Bernard F. Law losing his position and being reassigned to the Vatican. And last year, the Catholic diocese in Orange County paid out $100 million to settle another 85 cases. But as the largest Roman Catholic diocese in the country, the L.A. church faces staggering financial losses, with potential payments to 560 plaintiffs. The edited files are being released as a step toward just such a settlement.

For the majority of Catholics who have not been personally affected by this tragedy, these new revelations can only be deeply disheartening. The church leadership not only failed to protect the victims, but also the church itself. Secrecy may have worked wonders in the Middle Ages, but isn’t much comfort or help in modern Los Angeles.

Posted by kshaw at October 13, 2005 09:31 AM