October 17, 2005

An issue of accountability

Chicago Tribune

Published October 16, 2005

Last week the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles disclosed summaries of personnel files of 126 priests accused of sexually abusing children, in some cases decades ago. It's a sickening litany of subterfuge as the hierarchy tried to evade rather than confront the problem. At least 245 priests in the nation's largest archdiocese have been accused of sexually abusing children. The cost to the archdiocese of settling an avalanche of lawsuits could reach $1 billion, according to the Los Angeles Times.

These instances of pedophilia are not merely an internal church matter. Each is a criminal offense. As such, each should have profound consequences for the offender--and also for any church official who was aware of these crimes but enabled them to continue rather than promptly calling police and prosecutors.

Instead, just as similarly horrific failures of management played out elsewhere in the U.S., the Los Angeles archdiocese quietly moved abusive clerics through cycles of counseling, parish work, further offenses and ... more counseling. Child molestation or rape was documented in personnel records with such euphemisms as "boundary violations" or behavior that raised questions of "moral fitness." And some parents of victimized children evidently were asked to keep silent.

Cardinal Roger Mahony took over the leadership of the archdiocese in 1985. He has said a policy adopted in 2002 stipulates that "no priest who had ever abused a minor, no matter how long ago, would be allowed to hold an assignment." But what about Mahony's responsibility for those incidents when they were taking place on his watch? The question is important: Several profiles of pedophile clerics posted on a special archdiocesan Web site reveal a routine of rotating known abusers through different parishes.

Posted by kshaw at October 17, 2005 03:14 PM