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L.A. Cardinal Mahony Relieved Of Public Duties After Shielding Pedophile Priests

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Cardinal Roger Mahony at a May Day march in 2010 (Photo by Salina Canizales via the LAist Featured Photos pool)
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Has hell frozen over? Archbishop José H. Gomez has taken the unprecedented stop of relieving Cardinal Roger Mahony of his public duties, following the release of church records that document in blunt detail how he helped pedophile priests escape prosecution.

Gomez posted a letter on the diocese website describing the recently-released church files as "brutal and painful reading." He said that Mahony would be relieved of public duties and Mahony's advisor on sex abuse cases at the time Bishop Thomas Curry would be stepping down from his current position as a regional bishop in Santa Barbara:

My predecessor, retired Cardinal Roger Mahony, has expressed his sorrow for his failure to fully protect young people entrusted to his care. Effective immediately, I have informed Cardinal Mahony that he will no longer have any administrative or public duties. Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Curry has also publicly apologized for his decisions while serving as Vicar for Clergy. I have accepted his request to be relieved of his responsibility as the Regional Bishop of Santa Barbara.

An archdiocese spokesman told the Los Angeles Times that Mahony's day-to-day life as a retired priest residing at a North Hollywood parish won't be changed. He's still a "priest in good standing" and he will be eligible to vote for a pope until he turns 80.But church critics still say the move to publicly censure Mahony and remove him from public duties, including confirmations, is unprecedented. Terrence McKiernan, president of bishopaccountability.org, told the TImes, "Even when Cardinal [Bernard] Law was removed in Boston, which was arguably for the same offenses, this kind of gesture was not made."

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Rev. Thomas Doyle, a canon lawyer and Dominican priest, said the Vatican would have "absolutely" been consulted on a decision like this: "This is momentous, there is no question. For something like this to happen to a cardinal.... The way they treat cardinals is as if they're one step below God."

The confidential files of accused abusers were made public over the last few weeks as a part of a 2007 civil settlement. Initially, the names of church hierarchy were supposed to be redacted, but a Superior Court judge—thankfully—ruled that they should not be blacked out.

Mahony and Curry bluntly described how they would protect priests accused of molestation from prosecution in letters from the 1980s. They discussed how to prevent therapists from reporting the allegations to authorities. They encouraged one priest to avoid the state of California to avoid prosecution. They refer to a victim as a "sex partner" of the priest.

The records have sparked calls for criminal prosecution.

Related:
Cardinal Mahony Fires Back At Archbishop Who Rebuked Him Over Pedophile Cover-Up