To those familiar with the protocols of the Catholic hierarchy, the news was stunning. The archbishop of Los Angeles publicly rebuked his predecessor, a cardinal, for his failures in dealing with the priest sex abuse scandal. The action by Archbishop Jose Gomez, relieving Cardinal Roger Mahony of "any administrative or public duties," was remarkable on two levels, writes NCR Online in an editorial.
First, it broke with the unspoken but nearly ironclad rule of the culture of Catholic hierarchy that bishops do not publicly criticize other bishops. That courtesy extended even to the most egregious examples of ecclesial malfeasance - the deliberate and persistent hiding of criminal activities by priests.
No-one to this point had uttered a word against a predecessor, not in New York or Connecticut, not in Philadelphia or Milwaukee, not in Seattle or Santa Fe. There were "mistakes made," they would say, and offer vacuous apologies. For whatever reasons yet unknown, Gomez broke the code.
Second, the language Gomez used was blunt and unqualified. The behavior he found in the files, he said, was "evil." The acts themselves and the handling of these matters, as the files revealed, showed more than mistakes made, they showed a "terrible failure."
"I find these files to be brutal and painful reading. The behavior described in these files is terribly sad and evil. There is no excuse, no explaining away what happened to these children. The priests involved had the duty to be their spiritual fathers and they failed," wrote Gomez, who also referred to Mahony's sorrow "for his failure to fully protect young people entrusted to his care."
Gomez's words are a direct contradiction of the weak defense that Mahony has advanced for years, all the while spending untold sums in attempts to keep the truth hidden. It is the same list of explanations that he repeated in a lengthy and testy response to Gomez's statement.
"Nothing in my own background or education equipped me to deal with this grave problem," Mahony wrote. In studying for his master's degree in social work, he said, no lecture or textbook ever referred to the sexual abuse of children.
FULL STORY In Los Angeles, a victory for truth (NCR)