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Catholic Church must break silence on abuse

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Posted: Saturday, February 2, 2013 12:00 am

Decades have passed since I actively practiced Roman Catholicism. But curiously, the church is still a large part of who I am.

When I was about eight, my Protestant mother decided that the family should convert to Catholicism so that we could practice my father's religion. We took catechism classes, both as a group and individually. I went to daily Mass and attended Catholic schools until I was a high school junior. During those years, I was an altar boy and active in other church functions.

During the last 10 years, as revelations about Church leaders' involvement in and cover up of the pedophilia scandals come out, I've been deeply disturbed to realize that an institution which was once such an important part of my life has members who are so corrupt and callous. Equally disturbing is that the deceit about allowing known sexual perverts to remain in close contact with potential child victims goes on uninterrupted.

Still at the storm's center is the former Bishop of Stockton and Los Angeles Archbishop, Cardinal Roger Mahony. Since at least 1980, Mahony has actively hidden the truth about the perversions that priests in his diocese perpetrated on innocent children.

For years, Los Angeles Archdiocese lawyers have fought to suppress key files that could reveal the extent of Mahony's criminal and immoral duplicity. But last week, internal church files released as part of a civil lawsuit show that Mahony and his chief aide Monsignor Thomas J. Curry knowingly failed to report to law enforcement that dozens of priest admitted to them that they abused young California boys. Many of the children were illegal immigrants whom the priests threatened to turn over to immigration authorities if they implicated their abusers.

In one high-profile case, Mahony ordered Monsignor Peter Garcia to stay out of California after he was released from a New Mexico treatment center that specialized in trying to rehabilitate pedophile priests. In a 1986 letter to the center's director that underlined Mahony's desire to avoid prosecution, the Cardinal wrote: "... I believe that if Monsignor Garcia were to reappear here within the archdiocese, we might very well have some type of legal action filed in both the criminal and civil sectors."

Little wonder that Mahony was concerned. In a follow-up letter to Mahony, Curry confirmed that the danger if Garcia returned was high because "... There are numerous — maybe 20 — adolescents or young adults that Peter was involved with in a first degree felony manner. The possibility of one of those seeing him is simply too great."

More ugly details will likely follow soon. About 75 formerly confidential files of accused abusers will be released in the coming weeks.

In 2011, Mahony reached the mandatory retirement age, 75. Despite the scandal that surrounds him, Mahony remains highly visible in the Los Angeles community as an activist for illegal immigrants. Mahony lives comfortably in a recently renovated yellow house behind his childhood parish. He should be in jail.

Curry was transferred out of Los Angeles and is now serving as the Santa Barbara Archdiocese auxiliary bishop. Curry should be Mahony's cellmate.

The advocacy group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests called upon current Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez to condemn the priests' crimes as well as Mahony and Curry's stonewalling. Gomez has said nothing.

The scandal continues in a shroud of silence as Mahony, Curry and Gomez, the enablers, refuse to tell the whole truth. Justice delayed is justice denied.

Note from Joe Guzzardi: In breaking news that developed since I originally wrote and submitted this column, Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez removed his predecessor Cardinal Roger Mahony from all public duties, including advocating on behalf of various social causes. And in a separate development, Bishop Thomas Curry resigned from his Santa Barbara position.

Both moves were as more documents are being released that shed more light on the pedophilia cover-ups that began nearly 25 years ago, in which Mahony and Curry appear to have been instrumental.

Joe Guzzardi retired from the Lodi Unified School District in 1986. He occasionally attends the all-Latin Mass at St. Boniface Church in Pittsburgh. Contact Joe at guzzjoe@yahoo.com.

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