Will Cardinal Mahony Obey Court Ruling?
The prosecutor has been trying to obtain 14 church counseling records dealing with allegations of child molestation. Similar records are also being sought in hundreds of lawsuits filed by sexual abuse victims, including more than 500 in California alone. The records might contain details from the priests’ confessions and treatment.
Cooley stated today that “It’s unfortunate that it took four years of litigation to reach this day of justice for victims. The U.S. Supreme Court’s denial to review this matter establishes an important principle that evidence of criminality be made to appropriate authorities.”
Cardinal Mahony has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of church funds to fight this case, and there is no indication yet that he will not continue the legal battle to protect what he has claimed is “privileged” information, despite that fact that there is no such “privilege” is either civil or canon (church) law. It exists only in the minds of the Cardinal and his attorneys.
Meanwhile, Father Baker continues to sit in county jail, after having been arrested at the airport, returning from a trip to Thailand.. Retired Father Miller was arrested at his home in Oxnard in 2002 and held on $500,000 bail. Baker had confessed his actions in 1986 and was sent for counseling for six months, and returned to his ministry in 2002.
A spokesman for the Catholic Church said today that the court ruling “will have no effect on the ongoing efforts of the Archdiocese to settle the civil cases through mediation.” Does that mean, if the church can come up with enough money to pay off the hundreds of lawsuits, the church won’t have to release the records? Not likely. The victims and their attorneys have gone beyond the point of simply seeking restitution.
The experience of the Boston Archdiocese, much smaller than Los Angeles, presents a good profile of what we can expect in the near future. Boston Cardinal Bernard F. Law had taken the position that reports of pedophilia were simply “isolated incidents,” but as more and more victims came forward, it soon became clear that the clergy abuse was a systemic problem, kept out of the public eye by an elaborate culture of secrecy, deception and intimidation. Victims were either ignored or paid off.
Accused priests were quietly transferred from parish to parish, or sent for brief periods of psychological counseling. Cardinal Law and his deputies had detailed information on the archdiocese’s most serious molesters. By the end of 2002, over 1,200 priests had been accused nationwide, and five U.S. prelates, including Law, had been forced to resign.
What happed to Law? He is now head of a Basilica in Rome and an active member of several Papal commissions. Meanwhile, 550 abuse victims in Boston were paid $85-million in a 2003 settlement.
But it could be worse. The Maine Supreme Court last Friday ruled that the state must release its investigative records of 18 pedophile priests to the newspapers, in a suit brought by the Portland Press Herald. Although much of the criminality is beyond the statute of limitations, the fallout of this information is expected to have an adverse effect on the local parishes.
As for Cardinal Mahony, he is caught between what he believes to be a bishop’s duty to be a father to his priests, and to be especially compassionate to them, and his responsibility to his community and its laws designed to protect those to whom his priests minister.
He has lost sight far too long of the gaping wounds inflicted on vulnerable young people, their families and the confidence and trust of the laity. Some of his shepherds ran with the wolves.