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Mahony fires back at Gomez, letter suggests Mahony not truly sorry despite previous comments

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
February 4th, 2013
Catholic Online (

Cardinal Mahony has fired back at Archbishop Gomez, in a letter designed to play up his role in taking initial steps to protect children in the wake of several sexual abuse scandals in the 80's. However, critics say the letter only worsens the public relations situation for the archdiocese.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The letter from Mahony to Gomez is said to be sharply worded and represents Mahony's attempt to defend his legacy from tatters. Mahony's legacy is already in grave jeopardy after court files came to light revealing that he both knew about cases of pedophile priests serving in the archdiocese and that he moved them to cover up the situation.

Mahony also accused Gomez of publicly shaming him.

Mahony, 76, had previously issued a public apology for his role in covering up cases of abuse. Mahony was apparently concerned that reporting the crime to police would only increase the harm done to all parties, especially the archdiocese which would be embarrassed by the charges. To avoid embarrassment, Mahony simply sent accused priests to counseling, then reassigned them. In some cases, these priests reoffended when they arrived at their new assignments.

Expired statutes of limitations combined with closed-lipped church officials ensured that prosecutors could not arrest some of the accused after their cases came to light.

The scandal represents one of the greatest failings of the Catholic Church in its modern history and has drawn attention from all quarters, even the Vatican, which has condemned these cases and their handling.

Yet Mahony has remained steadfast, claiming he initiated procedures that laid the groundwork for better protections for children today in response to the crisis. Mahony initiated a special commission to develop new means of protecting the youth.

Mahony wrote in his letter, "Unfortunately, I cannot return now to the 1980s and reverse actions and decisions made then. But when I retired as the active archbishop, I handed over to you an archdiocese that was second to none in protecting children and youth."

The Los Angeles Times has already run several pieces commenting on the letter, offering an opinion in one piece that the letter "was remarkable because it revealed infighting between two highly placed church leaders when members of the Roman Catholic hierarchy rarely break ranks publicly," quoting Canon lawyer Rev. Thomas Doyle.

Despite Mahony's protestations, Steve Lopez in writing for the L.A. Times responded to Mahony's claim that he was never trained to handle such incidents, and that "nothing" in his "background" had prepared him  to deal with pedophile priests.

"Nothing?" Lopez wrote. "Not common sense? Not the master's degree in social work? Not the earlier experience of the molestation scandal in Stockton, where Mahony was assigned before his move to Los Angeles? Do you need special training to know that the rape, abuse and psychological torture of children has to be stopped immediately? Or that your first responsibility when you hear about a child being molested isn't to protect the church's reputation, but to get help for the victims and make sure the priest is brought to justice? Mahony would have you believe that the mid-1980s were the Dark Ages. They were not," Lopez concluded.

He's right. Mahony made a terrible mistake by even appearing as though he is defending himself. Mahony's best play would have been to make nothing less than a full disclosure followed by a public apology tour. People can forgive a mistake, even an egregious one - but for that to happen, the penitent must first be truly sorry, and, in such an egregiously matter of such public concern, make that unequivocally clear.

Mahony may not appear to be truly sorry to many observers.

In fact, he even fired back at Archbishop Gomez for taking two years himself to review the files. It may be a valid point, but nothing that will save Mahony; he owns the scandal, not Gomez.

Only Mahony can save himself, and it requires a full 180 degree reversal and an unprecedented level of honesty and cooperation, and humility. Ultimately, this case is not about Mahony, or Gomez, or even the archdiocese itself.

At the end of the day, this is about children who were forced to remain silent because they were horribly abused and left to suffer by some mebers of the clergy who actively and knowingly conspired to keep them so.

The greatest focus then, should be on helping survivors of this horrendous abuse, and taking real steps to ensure children never, never, never face such abuse in the church again.

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