Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony approved a record clergy abuse payout, opened the files of Roman Catholic priests involved, looked into the cameras and apologized last week for the victims’ treatment. And it still might not be enough to satisfy some.
To fund the archdiocese’s share of the $660 million settlement, the cardinal will have to sell property, liquidate investments and cut spending.
Critics question whether the cardinal should have done more to rein in predatory priests in the nation’s largest archdiocese.
“He acknowledged he made some mistakes, he apologized,” said the Rev. Thomas Reese, a fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University. “Now the people of Los Angeles are going to have to weigh the good that he’s done over the last 22 years versus the bad things he did and decide whether they can continue to accept him as their bishop.”
Last week’s deal was made on the eve of a civil trial in which Cardinal Mahony would have been grilled about why he left some abusive priests in churches without telling parents or police.
As part of the settlement, the archdiocese agreed to release the personnel files of accused clergymen, which could reveal any direct links between Cardinal Mahony and the guilty priests he supervised. But each priest tied to the 508 Los Angeles cases can challenge his records’ release — another potential obstacle to full disclosure.
Cardinal Mahony, 71, has acknowledged the suffering of victims. He was among only a handful of bishops who revealed the names of suspected clergy so the public could be protected from them.
At the same time, his lawyers fought disclosure of priests’ files to prosecutors all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. They also challenged California’s one-year window, which allowed abuse claims to be filed no matter how far back they dated. None of the maneuvers succeeded, but they contributed to delays in reaching a settlement, which took four years to negotiate.
After a California judge approved the settlement Monday, Cardinal Mahony received support from an unlikely source — a lead lawyer for the victims. Attorney Raymond Boucher praised the cardinal for meeting with victims and for working to convince religious orders to sign onto the deal.
“We particularly appreciate the sensitivity and personal efforts of Cardinal Mahony in bringing important parts of this settlement together,” Mr. Boucher said.
But some Catholic commentators, advocates for victims and editorial writers said the payout protected Cardinal Mahony at the church’s expense.
Phil Lawler, editor of the conservative Catholic World News, said Cardinal Mahony should resign. Mr. Lawler called the cardinal’s legal strategy “self-serving” and argued it was meant “to prevent the disclosure of embarrassing information.”
Anne Barrett Doyle of BishopAccountability.org, a Massachusetts group that has amassed thousands of documents on abusive priests and their bishops, questioned how much would be accomplished if Cardinal Mahony resigned.
“The only real way to hold Mahony accountable,” Miss Doyle said, “is to prosecute him through the courts.”