Cardinal Roger Mahony forced as many as a dozen priests suspected in cases of sex abuse in the Los Angeles Archdiocese to retire or to suspend their duties. While Mahony has publicly stated that it is the policy of the Archdiocese to “cooperate fully with civil reporting procedures governing sexual abuse,” the LA Times reports that the names of the priests ordered to leave their duties have not been disclosed to law enforcement or to the Los Angeles Country District Attorney. Further, priests over the age of 62 received generous severance packages when they were asked to retire because of their involvement in incidents of sexual abuse.
Over the last five years, there have been at least 50 incidents of sexual misconduct in the Los Angeles Archdiocese. Last year, the Archdiocese along with the Orange, California settled a molestation lawsuit for $5.2 million. As part of the settlement, the Archdiocese is required to fire priests engaging in molestation. It is unclear why the recently ousted priests were not forced out before this time. All of the priests had participated in psychological counseling, but experts have repeatedly warned that priests who have abused children in the past are at high risk for continuing their abusive behavior.
Following the actions taken by the Los Angeles Archdiocese, Tod Brown, Bishop of the Orange Diocese, removed Michael Pecharich from his duties as priest yesterday. Pecharich has been accused of child molestation. Brown, like Boston’s Cardinal Bernard Law, has hired a public relations specialist to help administer damage control. Nationwide, however, the reputation of the Roman Catholic Church is suffering an enormous blow. Allegations of sexual abuse by priests have surfaced in Boston, Dallas, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Tucson, Manchester (NH), Worcester (MA), and Portland (ME). The scandal also costs in the millions. For example, the Archdiocese in Boston is expected to pay more than $40 million to settle close to 150 pending sexual molestation claims, and the Diocese of Dallas recently settled a molestation suit for $23 million – a jury had previously awarded $119 million to the 11 victims, former altar boys.
Media Resources: LA Times, 3/5/02 & 3/4/02; Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Pastoral Statement, Cardinal Roger Mahony, 2/21/02; Boston Globe, 3/3/02 & 1/6/02