As former priests face litigation over sexual abuse, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles has renewed its commitment to protect the young people of the Church.
“No institution has learned more from mistakes made decades ago in dealing with priests who have abused young people than the Archdiocese of Los Angeles,” said a Jan. 22 release from the archdiocese.
“The past cannot be changed, but we have learned from it. We are justifiably proud of our record of child protection in the 21st century, and we remain vigilant against all that would harm our children and young people.”
The Los Angeles Times published a story Jan. 21 saying that 25 years ago, in the late 1980s, archdiocesan officials tried to hide sex abuse cases from police.
The paper's story is based on personnel files dating from 1986 and 1987 which were filed as evidence in pending litigation involving two former priests.
“We have apologized for the sad and shameful actions of some priests,” the archdiocese stated, “as well as for our inadequate responses in assisting victims and in dealing with perpetrators.”
“For more than a decade, however, few institutions have done as much as the Los Angeles Archdiocese to promptly report abuse allegations to civil authorities, to screen all those who supervise children, and to train adults and children in the latest abuse prevention procedures.”
Much of what the L.A. Times discusses are memos between Los Angeles’ former archbishop, Cardinal Roger Mahony, and then-Monsignor Thomas Curry, who was vicar of clergy at the time. Msgr. Curry was consecrated a bishop in 1994, and since that time has served as one of the auxiliary bishops of the Los Angeles archdiocese.
Cardinal Mahony stated Jan. 21 that his “thoughts and prayers” are with the victims of the “sinful abuse” committed by Catholic clergy.
He wrote that the archdiocese took steps towards safeguarding children beginning in 1987 and that they progressed “as we learned more about…the ineffectiveness of so-called ‘treatments’ at the time.”
The cardinal, who retired in 2011, recounted his meetings with the victims of abuse. He said he offered them his “personal apology” and “took full responsibility…for my own failure to protect fully the children and youth entrusted to my care.”
He said he keeps the names of victims and their abusers on the altar of his private chapel and that “every single day” he prays for the victims, each of whom is “precious in God’s eyes and deserving of my own prayer and sacrifices for them.”
Bishop Curry also released a statement, saying Jan. 22 that he wishes to “apologize for those instances when I made decisions regarding the treatment and disposition of clergy accused of sexual abuse that in retrospect appear inadequate or mistaken.”
He also expressed sympathy for the victims of abuse by clergy and said he has “come to a fuller understanding over the years of the causes and treatment of sexual abuse.”
Bishop Curry noted that in his pastoral region, Santa Barbara, he has “fully implemented…the Archdiocese’s policies and procedures for reporting abuse, screening those who supervise children, and abuse prevention training for adults and children.”
Cardinal Mahony concluded, “It remains my daily and fervent prayer that God’s grace will flood the heart and soul of each victim, and that their life-journey continues forward with ever greater healing.”
The ex-priests facing pending litigation are, according to the L.A. archdiocese, Nicholas Aguilar Rivera and Michael Baker. Rivera served in Los Angeles in 1987 and 1988, when he returned to Mexico, where he was from. Baker was ordained in 1974, and resigned from the priesthood in 2000.