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Special Report

Sex abuse scandal hits Los Angeles

Los Angeles

The Los Angeles archdiocese has declined to comment on a Los Angeles Times March 4 article that claimed possibly a dozen priests accused at some time in the past of sexual abuse have lately been dismissed.

No specifics are being supplied as Cardinal Roger Mahony apparently implements promises made in a Feb. 21 statement that declared: “If the archdiocese determines that a priest or deacon has engaged in [sex abuse of a minor] that person will be removed from all clerical offices and all pastoral or educational ministry and will not be reassigned. Since he will never return to active ministry, he will be encouraged to seek a dispensation from the obligations of the priesthood or diaconate and return to the lay state.”

Further, Mahony said, “comprehensive steps are being taken to make certain that those being ordained are men of personal integrity [who] will serve as trustworthy ministers.”

Seen in the media as a ripple effect from the Boston archdiocese’s pedophilia scandal, Los Angeles now joins Philadelphia as another major Catholic center to hit the headlines (NCR, March 8).

Soon after former Boston priest John Geoghan was jailed in February for sexual abuse of a child, Philadelphia released a list of priests involved in 35 “credible cases” of sexual abuse in the previous 50 years.

In Los Angeles, the Times stated that six to 12 priests have been forced to leave active ministry: Those over 62 were persuaded to retire; those under 62 were persuaded to resign. A financially “generous severance package” was provided in the latter instances, the story said. Those priests, in face-to-face interviews with Mahony, were asked to consider laicization. None of the alleged sexual incidents was purported to be recent, the Times states.

Los Angeles and the neighboring Orange, Calif., diocese are in a serious financial pinch stemming from a joint $5.2 million payout last year to Ryan DiMaria. The huge settlement came from DiMaria’s allegations that he had been abused by a priest in a Catholic high school. Meanwhile, in San Bernardino County, which abuts Los Angeles and Orange counties, an open letter from Bishop Gerard Barnes to his parishes March 3 reiterated diocesan policy of not tolerating abusive priests.

According to the Los Angeles Times, it was uncertain whether the names of those priests being dismissed from the archdiocese would be given to the police. Mahony’s spokesperson declined to elaborate.

Arthur Jones is NCR editor at large. His e-mail address is ajones96@aol.com

National Catholic Reporter, March 15, 2002