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New documents detail abuse cover-up in L.A.

Newly released documents detailing how far church leaders in Los Angeles went to conceal clergy sexual abuse in the late 1980s help fill in the story of the scandal and how it developed at the highest level of the nation's largest diocese. As reported in the Los Angeles Times:

Fifteen years before the clergy sex abuse scandal came to light, Archbishop Roger M. Mahony and a top advisor discussed ways to conceal the molestation of children from law enforcement, according to internal Catholic church records released Monday.The archdiocese's failure to purge pedophile clergy and reluctance to cooperate with law enforcement has previously been known. But the memos written in 1986 and 1987 by Mahony and Msgr. Thomas J. Curry, then the archdiocese's chief advisor on sex abuse cases, offer the strongest evidence yet of a concerted effort by officials in the nation's largest Catholic diocese to shield abusers from police. The newly released records, which the archdiocese fought for years to keep secret, reveal in church leaders' own words a desire to keep authorities from discovering that children were being molested.

The documents also show that in addition to hiding cases from police, an effort was made to avoid having predatory priests get counseling within the state because the California therapists would need to report the abuse to authorities. These scenes from internal records of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles offer further evidence that a coverup was orchestrated at high levels of the church. There is no sense that Mahony and his vicar were misled by therapists. They knew the abusive priests' conduct was criminal. They may not have known the full scope of the sexual abuse that existed, but they knew it was a gigantic problem and sought to keep it secret.Federal prosecutors in Los Angeles had conducted a grand jury investigation into the way officials in the archdiocese handled allegations of clergy sexual abuse. According to news reports in 2009, they were investigating whether the federal "honest services" law was violated. The theory was that a crime may have been committed if church officials were dishonest in their dealings with the Catholic faithful - that they defrauded Catholics of their "honest services." No charges were brought; the following year, the U.S. Supreme Court put some major restrictions on prosecutors' use of the "honest services" law.These documents surfaced in a civil suit, with more to come.

About the Author

Paul Moses, a professor of journalism at Brooklyn College/CUNY, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009) and An Unlikely Union: The Love-Hate Story of New York's Irish and Italians (NYU Press, 2015).



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Who is really surprised that Mahony, Auxiliary Thomas Curry and others failed to protect children from priest abusers?The pattern of chancery non-responses was repeated in many dioceses whose documents have been released by court order. Nothing new. It is thanks to survivors who filed civil suits, grand jury investigations, attorney general investigations and prosecutors who actually indicted that we know what we do.The fact that only two officials (Finn and Lynn) have been criminally convicted is the great shame in all this. Plea deals aborted other cases, and so bishops, archbishops and cardinals basically got away with everything. Since clergy sexual abuse is not limited by geography, I believe there is sufficient evidence to indicate that any diocese forced to release its files would not be exempt from obstruction of justice, criminal child endangerment or even perjury.Where is the implementation of the federal RICO statute? The list of acts of racketeering activity includes mail and wire fraud. "One can press a RICO claim by showing that a conspiracy existed among individuals or other organizations during which two telephone calls in furtherance of the conspiracy were made in ten years," according to a former White House lawyer. How many bishops have arranged for abusers to be placed in another diocese, or as in LA, sent out of state for treatment so that the crime would not be reported in-state?One Justice Dept official with knowledge of the records of many dioceses was amazed at the consistent approaches of bishops, as though all acted from the same playbook. Indeed.No wonder bishops fight page by page up to the US Supreme Court to keep documents secret. They know the record is damning. Congratulations to the CA judge and all judges who have brought us the truth. We know better than to expect church officials to speak truthfully.

Is this (the beginning of) 2002 revisited? I fear it is.

There is discouraging news out of Philadelphia. The priest whom Msgr. Finn was convicted of shuffling around has recanted his admission that Msgr. Finn was in cahoots with him. This weakens the case of Finn, who is the only Church administrator who has been convicted of a crime of cover-up. I expect to see him sprung. However, there is evidence that he was involved in other cases.

I believe that Cardinal Mahony should resign as a voting member of the College of Cardinals. There is precedent, as late as 1927.

Ann,Lynn is the monsignor from Philly; Bishop Finn from Kansas City. Avery is the priest who retracted his guilty plea. I wonder if some defense lawyers might have gotten together and gummed up the works?

It's too bad that there was no initial Federal investigation of the cover up because the feds have a statute making it a crime to lie to Fed agents and prosecutors. Say hello to Martha Stewart, Scooter Libby and a slew of WS frauds. Lying to locals and in state courts is a scot-free sport.See Philly case above.

Mahony and perjury?See Cardinal Untruths by Attorney Jeff Anderson instance, despite new, damaging evidence, Mahony insists he did not lie when he testified in a civil trial in 1998 that he dealt with just one priest accused of molestation while he was the bishop of Stockton from 1980 to 1985. He says he simply forgot about memos in his own hand in 1981 and 1984 that show him lowering the boom on two previously undisclosed priests accused of molestation. Meanwhile, in 1984, he transferred a pedophile priest to a new parish where he molested again. After his sworn testimony, lawyers accused him of perjury, and sent a transcript to prosecutors in Northern California for investigation"No amount of public relations can turn this into a poor memory," says A.W. Richard Sipe, a psychotherapist, author and former priest. "For a man of his background and administrative capability to make such a claim is disgusting. Were scratching at the surface of his character here. And you are seeing the philosophy of the Catholic hierarchy, which is, I only lie when I have to. "

Oops -- Thanks, Carolyn. I switched their names.

Earlier this month I'd seen the story that thanks to papers filed by lawyers for the Los Angeles Times and the Associated Press, a judge had ordered the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to release the names of church officials in memos about sex abuse - the church had redacted all the names "to avoid further embarrassment to the church" - I wonder what more will be revealed when the memos are released ...

Oh, I see that's mentioned in the story cited in this post.

I have to wonder what other things these Church leaders are lying about. I mean, do these people even really believe in God? How can you and still do these things?

Thank you Paul for writing this thread. Like Carolyn, I am not surprised, of course. A year or so of following the stream of news archived on the "bishop accountability" website was eye-opening in that regard. But I suppose that each new wave of information about the sexual abuse scandal gets more people on board of the call for transparency and accountability. Since change won't come from the top (Pope Benedict gave me false hopes, but his time is now past), perhaps it will come with more and more widespread clamors for reform from the people.

I left the church over this issue. I cannot stay in a church that allows/cover up the sexual abuse of children. Would we accept these coverups from our political leaders? No. From teachers? No. From any other leader? No. So why would acceptI cannot understand why the people of the church will tolerate this.Why do people tolerate these supposed leaders of the church? How can people accept moral authority from these leaders?What does this say to the children of the church?

Would we accept these coverups from our political leaders? If we were in an absolute monarchy, and the court was turning a deaf ear to our complaints, we'd be similarly stuck. How does one go about "not accepting" in that kind of regime? Go into exile? Foment a revolution? Keep clamoring for reforms, apparently to no effect? Tend to our own gardens and ignore the scandal as best as we can? This is the kind of choices we have. There is no good choice.

As Claire notes, Catholics have no voice in their church and thus are left with two bad choices - stay in the church and enable the corrupt imperial structure of all-powerful hierarchy and totally powerless laity, or leave the church and refuse to continue to enable these men. Like Diane, I decided that if I stayed, I was enabling the continuance of the corruption that permitted the molesting and rape of tens of thousands of young people after the molesters could have been stopped. And in enabling, once I fully understood the depths of the horror of the participation of the bishops and of the pope himself as head of the CDF in protecting these criminals, I decided that if I continued to support them I would become a participant in the sin by upholding the sinful structure that exists to this day with no action from Rome that could stop similar horrors in the future. And like Diane, I do not understand how so many Catholics can look to these men for "moral" guidance when it is clear that they have not even the most basic understanding of moral right and wrong.That standard replies are: the church is holy but all men are sinners and Catholic church history is full of examples of these sins and sinners (so... we just keep supporting it?); and - "the Catholic church has the eucharist and so I stay". Christ can be found outside the eucharist. So what is the real meaning of the eucharist which is supposed to help transform us to going out to be Christ to the world - including to innocent children - if attachment to it causes us to continue to enable the structure that permitted such evil to the young? Jesus overturned the tables of the corrupt temple leaders who defiled the temple with commerce. What do you think he would do in our churches and cathedrals today if he saw us continuing to support the temple leaders who permitted thousands of priests to defile the young?

Anne - I do not enable sexual abuse. I do not identify the entirety of the church with the sexual abuse scandal. There is more to the church, even just the contemporary church, than sexual abuse and dysfunctional church governance. Going to Mass and participating in some ministries does not automatically make me support cover-ups or enabling enablers. In your disgust, you are conflating the part for the whole (or something like that.)

In answer to Anne Chapman; I became aware of the cover-up in 1990... I stay with the Church/Faith because a failing leadership cannot and will not cause me to bolt. The USA has faults that Canada does not have but I'm not immigrating to there either. My extended family has faults and fuzzy leadership [mine] and I am not leaving them either. The Eucharist by the way is a lot thicker than patriotism, family and personal comfort. . .

John Page and Carolyn - f/u on John's post. Mahoney's statement yesterday explained that he was *naive* in 1984 and onwards. He spent most of his statement on his experience of meeting victims and ended by saying: *I am sorry!*.Not to be cynical but a few things have changed since 2002 and Boston (could another Boston happen is what John Page posed) - public/media has been aware and dealing with sexual abuse and clerics now for years- LA settlement is years away (thus, details, cases, etc. have been forgotten)- LA priests never organized in the same way as the Boston priests who actually forced the issue- Mahoney is retired now; Brown is retired now (Law was in power in 2002)- Boston archdiocese had both financial issues and decreasing catholic populations (LA is very different on these fronts)Given this; given that the settlement required release of records which the archdiocese than delayed and fought for another 5+ years, it would not be too far afield to see a legal archdiocesan defense process in play.- force a huge, one time settlement that spreads the damage over the archdiocese and other religious communities- fight and delay what the settlement ordered to get beyond SOLs, get to Mahoney's retirement, get attention away from the negative facts, images, etc.- hope that in these years, the media's attention is drawn elsewhere; there is much less intensity; victims have been paid off and more time has passedSo, knowing that at some point in time, the facts and process would be made public, the archdiocese spent millions in legal fees to delay, deny, and protect Mahoney, Brown, etc.Will it be another Boston? Only if the media again captures the same intensity; only if the priests of LA, Orange take issue; only if the victims regain a passion that can not be ignored.Wonder, too, if the public will not think that the victimis have been dealt with and, yes, these are scandalous revelations; but there are internal church documents and this affair has been settled.

Ed, as citizens of the US we have a voice - we can vote for candidates who represent our views so at least there is hope for change and there is the possibility that we can influence change - that our voices might be heard because we vote. In the church we have no voice, no influence on "policy" - unless we stop supporting the bishops financially. That is hard to do while giving at the parish level since all parishes are "taxed" by their dioceses. If one stays because of the wider church, or at the micro level, because of the parish, perhaps there are ways to avoid financially supporting the hierarchy. Some Catholics I know give "time and talent" but not treasure. However, the parish staff has to be paid, the lights need to be kept on, etc. Parishes have expenses and it's not easy to support those without also supporting the bishops who protected criminals who molested the young. If you have better ideas of ways to hold the bishops accountable and no longer continue to enable the dysfunction of the system, I would be grateful to hear them.I don't know much about these matters personally (fortunately) but I have read enough to know that very often experts in addiction etc advise family members to stop enabling the dysfunction by continuing to support the addict without demanding a behavior change. Sometimes families are urged to walk away in the hope that when the addict that is causing the dysfunction "hits bottom" that maybe this will push a change. There is nothing to "force" the dysfunctional hierarchy to change and thus begin to lessen the dysfunction. The bishops have "gotten away with it." Rome has gotten away with it. And they have because the millions of Catholics in the pews have let them. I KNOW the church is much more than a few thousand bishops and the curia and Rome. However, in the future, there may be more Los Angeleses. more Bostons, more Kansas Citys, more Philadelphias (we know that the abuse is still being enabled in at least some of those places), more Irelands, more Germanys, more Austrias.....because the people have let the bishops off the hook - they continue to support them without any REAL change - no policies in place to discipline bishops who protect criminals. All of the changes, the "guidelines" impact only lower clergy and laity who must have background checks, be fingerprinted, and who face spelled out consequences. There are no such policies for bishops. As we know, the pope actually promoted and rewarded several bishops who were among the worst offenders, sending a clear message to ALL bishops that they are expected to continue to put the institution ahead of the kids.

Why stay? Because leaving a problem behind doesn't solve it. Better to stay and try to change things no matter how slow the process. And there has been notable change, though not nearly enough.

...unless we stop supporting the bishops financially. That is hard to do while giving at the parish level since all parishes are taxed by their dioceses.I do that. No financial support for my bishop. No financial support for my parish either, until I see a financial report. I give a small coin at collection, to signify my desire to give, but that's it. My parish is poor and the church is insufficiently heated, to the point where we feel chilled after Mass, but I don't participate. Once when I was traveling, a priest drove 25 miles to come and say the Mass, and I was the only one there beside him. After Mass as I was leaving he mentioned that there was a collection basket by the door, and I said: "Sorry, but I don't give money." He did not understand... Even my friends say that I'm too harsh, that priests do so much (and, in my area, for minimum wage) that I should not take such an adversarial stance. They do not understand... No one else seems to care. They have other priorities. So, first, (in my opinion), people need to become aware of their responsibility to take the time to participate in the governance of the parish.

Anne...Yes the hierarchy have escaped .. the lower Church clerics and lay have suffered. When Singapore fell in 1942 the disgraced highest ranks left on a boat to Australia and left the lower ranks to brutal retaliation by the Japanese victors. But the end came and justice was somewhat restored. hang on..

Ed - actually the British general, Percival, in charge of Singapore surrended with his 80,000 troops despite Churchill's orders and the fact that the troops could have put up a spirited defense (Singapore was known as the Gibralter of the East). He suffered through Japanese captivity (the Bridge over the River Kwai story) and survived. Upon returning to Britain, he was ignored by the people of England and he became a non-person for the rest of his life.Phillipines - MacArthur escaped to Australia but other generals were captured - Corregidor and Bataan.

Mahony is the epitome of the arrogance of the church's hierarchy. They STILL believe they are above the law and are not responsible -- they speak words from their mouths that have no internal meaning to themselves. Mahony at one point was "mugged" outside the cathedral as he was walking to the mail box -- he had the AUDACITY to say that he then knew what a victim felt! He has no heart. For ten years he's been saying "I'm sorry" -- but for those same 10 years he's had lawyers fighting in court to cover his a$$. The big "settlement" was more than a settlement - it was a PAY OFF to vicitms to keep him from having to speak the TRUTH in a court of law. I am a priest AND a victim of clergy abuse - I CANNOT call myself a "survivor" as long as the hierarchy continue in their egotistical, arrogant and haughty attitude.

"Is this (the beginning of) 2002 revisited? I fear it is."The ecclesiastical coverup of priestly pedophilia is like a social disease. The immediate symptoms might be removed, but the long term side effects can be unknown and ofttimes deadly.

"And you are seeing the philosophy of the Catholic hierarchy, which is, I only lie when I have to. I'm beginning to think that the philosophy of these boyos is more like "I only tell the truth when I have to."

One small way to keep parish contributions out of the tax base to be tapped by the ordinary (in my Archdiocese we wish that he was just ordinary, rather than ornery!) is to make designated offerings which, I am told, are not subject to the taxation. That could include specific contributions to be used to pay staff salaries and benefits, heating and light bills, miantenance and repairs, etc.

Anyone who remains in a dysfunctional family/system and believes that things will get better is deluding himself or herself. The Vatican and its lackey bishops have every reason to maintain the status quo. It's all about keeping institutional power and control. The hierarchs, in addition to wanting to retain their perks, power, and privileges, can justify their despicable behavior by claiming they merely wanted to protect Holy Mother Church from scandal, that they wanted to preserve the One True Church That Christ Founded. I didn't leave at age 58-1/2 because of the sex abuse coverups/etc., but they are just one more reason I would not return to the Church of Rome absent major --- and I mean big-time --- changes in church governance and the understanding of ordained ministry. As long as we have "JPII bishops" ordaining "orthodox" men to presbyteral positions that are "ontologically" superior to the laity, it'll be the proverbial "cold day in hell" before I return.The decision to stay in or leave the Church of Rome is a deeply personal one, but I do ask my fellow Catholics remaining within the fold to divert their parish contributions to other worthy causes that (1) help people in need and (2) cannot be touched by the hierarchs. I think kids' safety in a healthy functioning church is more important than bricks and mortar, etc. If the parish has a decent pastor, perhaps parishioners can give him gift cards, food vouchers, etc. to help him meet his needs. If he has his own residence, perhaps folks can help him pay down his mortgage or pay his monthly rent. Anne Chapman et al, thanks for your comments. You speak for me.

Yes indeed, Joseph Jaglowicz.Providing health insurance that might possibly be used to obtain birth control = cooperation with intrinsic evil.Ignoring or covering up sexual abuse of children and thereby enabling more of it = protecting Holy Mother Church from scandal.The latter course did not actually work so well. But looked at in that dim light, it not only was not culpable. It was praiseworthy!Who would not be eager to support such a Church?

The release of these files out of LA chancellory is another sad, sad chapter in the betrayal of the people by Catholic hierarchs.Mahony is only emblematic of a hierarchy that has corrupted their priesthood and high office by being complicit in child rape, sodomy and exploitation. All we need is a brave prosecutor somewhere to add "criminal" to that list of seemingly indelible characters for the hierarchs.If Mahony comes across as one slippery dude, there is a reason that his nickname among even LA clergy is "Rodger the Artful Dodger!" Only because of $billions in its portfolios, the LA archdiocese can surround its hierarchs with wall upon wall of insulating protection from the legal consequences of its corruption.The hierarchs' trust is not in the Lord. It is in their legal defense fund.

Just in case anyone here would think that Cardinal Mahony just slipped up very few times, here is my favorite Rodger "the Artful Dodger" Mahony illustrative story:Back in 1993, notorious pedophile priest Oliver O'Grady who had savagely assaulted scores of children was visited in jail the night before he was to testify that LA Cardinal Roger Mahony, while he was the bishop of Stockton CA, had complete knowledge that O'Grady was a child sexual predator and yet continued to transfer O'Grady from parish to parish providing O'Grady with fresh victims.When morning came, O'Grady refused to testify against Mahony. Instead, O'Grady did serve seven years in CA prisons whereupon his release on parole he left the US and returned to his native Ireland fortified with a handsome pre-funded "retirement" package worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.O'Grady essentially was set free in Dublin without supervision, without notice to Irish officials, set-up in his own comfortable apartment, from where he could continue to prey on small children - his preferred sexual victim - all of which was financially underwritten by Catholics whose contributions supported the LA archdiocese. Isn't it great to be a feudal lord with a bank account in the $billions???Some sunshine, some rain in Ireland: In January 2012, O'Grady was sentenced to three years in an Irish prison for being in possession of child pornography - one of those small daily testaments to the existence of a God!

And let's not overlook the honorable bishop of the Kansas City - St Joseph diocese, Robert W. Finn, a convicted criminal, still sitting on *his* episcopal throne. Tell the pope you're open to discussing women's ordination, and get fired. Refuse to notify law enforcement of possession of child porn by one of your clerics, get convicted, and remain in place.Pope Bennie's supposed concern for children's safety is a bunch of hogwash.

Thanks for the correction Bill DeHaas.. Commanding Gen Percival was a POW but the next ranks down did flee.. Think Law and Mahoney."Bennettalong with some of his staff officerscaused controversy when he handed command of the 8th Division to a brigadier and commandeered a small boat. They eventually made their way back to Australia".

Claire, Jim, Ed et al, I have thought a lot about the financial support problem. Mahoney, like other bishops, has spent millions of $ to try to keep files secret - one bishop in Connecticut fought it all the way to the Supreme Court - and lost. Millions that could have been spent on feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, money that COULD have been spent doing the work of the church in caring for the "least of these" instead was used by the bishops to try to hide their sick secrets.One possibility would be for the people in the parishes to set up 501(c) non-profits that members of the parish could contribute to instead of putting money in the collection on Sundays. The sole raison d'etre of the non-profit would be to pay the bills of the parish - from staff salaries and benefits to utilities to the roof fixing fund. These bills would be paid by the officers of the non-profit rather than by the parish itself. This would be one way to continue to support the needs of the parish while still keeping the money out of the hands of the chancery. Many Catholics I know who are of the "hang in" there camp also send donations directly to the causes they wish to support without the money being filtered through the chancery, where some is skimmed off before reaching the soup kitchens and homeless shelters and others who need it. By doing this the people in the pews can provide the help while they avoid Bishops' Appeals and the bishop's tax on parish donations. This money is meant to go to the needy and rather than to buy cognac for the bishop's next dinner party. But, that still leaves the parishes hanging - parishes need to pay their bills. So maybe some of the parish's lawyers and accountants could look into the 501(c) option.

Anne... we 'hang in there crowd' recognize that the dioceses get their pound of flesh but the schemes to avoid it are too complex to be effective at the parish level. . The people are leaving, the parishes are closing/merging, schools are closing, native priests are disappearing ,, the decline is on the way big time.. The point I wanted to make about Singapore was that that mess was the first of the TOTAL decline of the British Empire. The Church wall is coming down. The Soviet structure collapsed while I was having lunch 23 years ago. Read the signs of the times...

Anne - during the Rudy Kos trial in Dallas in the 1990s, some pastors organized and did form 501c non-profits to protect the funds given by their parishioners; protect their schools, etc. This was an effort to get around the legalities of *corporation sole*. Bishop Grahamann deplored this tactic and did everything in his power to get back at those pastors later in his episcopal career.

Thank you all for your comments. It is heartening progress to see the bulk of comments recognize the corruption of so very many bishops when it comes to protecting predators and abandoning children to their abusers. To put it another way, how many files of the 70,000 or so in the public domain on show prompt, effective response??For myself, not one dime goes in the collection plate, but to SNAP, and VOTF. If there are parish cutbacks, so be it. Expecting all services to remain intact so that there are no consequences anywhere is simply unrealistic. Actions should and do matter. Let me pass on the advice of that former White House lawyer I mentioned above: expecting bishops to respond to lay concerns is foolhardy since the laity has no way from within to hold them accountable. Our sense of powerlessness has been vividly made clear by hierarchs trained in the clerical system. They remind us that the church is not a democracy. Damn right it isn't. (Is that acceptable language here?)The lawyer's advice: leverage the power of institutions that do have the ability to force the church to act; namely, law enforcement, legislatures, prosecutors, the media, etc. Talking to your bishop is mostly a bloody waste of time, in my experience; notwithstanding platitudes and mumbling about releasing names of credibly accused priests. But watch how bishops sit up straight when the attorney general or grand jury come calling. A subpoena can be a marvelous thing (when not quashed), as is a court order to produce unredacted documents. SOL reform with window legislation would open more files to the truth than I can imagine.Now, chanceries are skilled manipulators of the legal system as we know, but at least there is hope that a judge, prosecutor, legislator or editor has spine enough to act. There is a federal royal commission investigation in Australia now; could the US Congress imitate that example? RICO anyone?Unfortunately, passivity and docility are ingrained in many Catholics, and getting a large enough group to be vocal is very, very difficult. I hear, "this or that bishop is so nice," but as one Benedictine scholar noted: Nice is NOT a moral category.So, use levers of power that have power, and eliminate the deference to bishops in which we were raised. My activism is for the future; at least I was not silent. And let's not give bishops power to determine what our spiritual lives will be. I've been watching the PBS series, The Abolitionists. I heard tonight how they worked for 40 years and felt defeated just before victory came. Who knows what lies ahead?

Ed Gleason: Re: "The Church wall is coming down...Read the signs of the times..."A wonderful leaven to all the negatives in church governance are the columns of Eugene Kennedy here The wit and humor are laugh-out-loud funny, great for perspective and comic relief.Along the line of walls collapsing:"That noise you hear coming from the Vatican, according to Robert Mickens, one of the most experienced and trustworthy observers of the church, arises not from the clang of cell doors on papal butlers taking one for the system, but from the implosion of the system itself. Mickens, former editor of the London-based Tablet, tells us that, we are witnessing the collapse of an entire system, structure, ethos, and culture. In a talk to the City Club of Cleveland, whose members know first-hand the rumble of a distressed diocese, Mickens said that the falling plaster drifts down from the sumo wrestler-like contests watch out for the crockery and mothers picture on the mantle of green-eyed prelates vying for red-dyed promotions.It comes as well from the metastasized corruption; cronyism among the usual suspects of bishops and cardinals; the Keystone Cops flavor of laffaire Vatileaks; the number of Catholics heading for what P.T. Barnum termed the egress; and crises that have burdened good priests with the burdens left by those less good, those carriers of clericalism, the infection that causes swelling of the head and untreatable growths on the ego."Enjoy:

I don't see the hierarchical structure of the Church crumbling. It remains an absolute monarchy without even advisory elements to restrain it, and there are no signs whatsoever that the monarch and his henchmen are willing to submit themselves to systematic criticism by the non-monarchical elements of the Church, i.e., the lower clergy and the laity. Its power to appoint groveling, yes-man bishops remains intact, and it uses that power. Secrecy is still its cover. What is crumbling is the respect for it by the laity and some of the ground-level clergy. Both laity and priests are leaving or are otherwise alienated from our "shepherds", Still the corrupt, self-perpetuating old structure hangs on tenaciously. Unhappily, there is no way, no channel within that structure that the lower clergy and laity to begin to effect meaningful change. And there don't seem to be any bishops within the hierarchy who are willing to initiate structural change. But who knows. Deus providebit? God help us all.

I don't contribute financially anymore either. The revelations about sex abuse cover-ups are just some of the more contemptible aspects of what seems like total systemic moral failure ... an example today in the news, How the Vatican built a secret property empire using Mussolini's millions.

Anne Chapman, thank you for your suggestion.Ed, if the Church wall is coming down, the laity can hasten the destruction. I'm hoping against hope for a "Berlin Wall" moment in the Church of Rome.Ann, I agree with you that the hierarchs are not going to work for reform. Why should they? They are "company men", and they've accumulated tons of money from nearly 2,000 years of (quote)Sacred Tradition(endquote), not to mention from present-day laity still tossing their shekels into weekly collection plates.For the pope and his lackey bishops:Lay Indifference + Lay Ignorance + "Orthodoxy" = Monetary Income

For those people who have left the Church because of the conduct of some of its leaders, may I ask that you consider the following words: " Could I love without the commandments or the Creed? Maybe. But fumbling and stumbling as I do already, I'd hate to try it> Could I love without Scripture> Not a chance. Toss out the Sacraments? I cannot fathom how hopeless I'd be. As a baby, I was baptized in the essential living waters of Christ. In the Eucharist, that very ancient tradition, I receive what is most essential--God's love for me in Christ. Christ who is EVER ANCIENT and EVER NEW. In with the old and in with the new. I am a better lover because of it."This comes from Mary Stommes, the editor of "Give Us This Day." May I add in my own words, that I do understand how some people can come to conclude that they can no longer believe in Jesus and the Creed of the Church. But I do not understand how one can think that he or she becomes a better follower of Jesus by leaving the Church.

I do believe in Jesus and in the Creed of the Church. I do try to abide by the commandments. I do read sacred scripture. I embrace my baptism into the Christian faith.And I could no longer stay.

People can love and do good and even have relationship with God without being church-going Catholics.

I hope that everyone has read the comments of Ann Chapman above (1/22/13; 9:31 PM)!!!The establishment of independent, parishioner-controlled, non-profit trust foundations to receive and dispense the charity contributions of Catholics in support of ministries that enjoy the confidence of the faithful, should be underwritten by all Catholics still populating the pews. These foundations would constitute the golden path out of the corrupt morass that the hierarchs have led Catholics to over the last 4 decades of pastoral decline and scandal. In a real sense, it would be a "starve the beast" kind of strategy for sure. Of course, the hierarchs have salted away $billions in their investment portfolios as a hedge against this very thing coming to awareness among the people - so we are talking long term strategy. But since the hierarchs depend more and more these days on the cash donations of parishioners to maintain their daily operations, even this small dent in the hierarchs' cash flow would have significant effects, perhaps even determinative. [Stick this pig, and the hierarchs will squeal like piglets!]And when you couple this with the growing disinclination of Catholics to encourage their sons to priestly vocations, the double whammy effect on the hierarchs could be devastating to continued political hegemony over the rest of the church. The priestly caste in the Catholic Church is dependent on new recruits from among the people. But no parent these days would encourage their sons [or daughters, for that matter] to a life that is increasingly alienated and irrelevant to the lived experience of Catholics in the broader society. Catholics want their children to have a chance at happiness - when they look at the state of the priesthood these days there is not much to recommend it to their children.Catholic men and women could have almost immediate influence and effect upon the ministerial priorities that have been the sole prerogative to date of the hierarchs. Parishioners could very deftly exert final approval for the appointment of priests or other ministers which effects them directly in their lives. When hierarchs isolate themselves and become too autocratic, Catholics could just squeeze them financially until corporate headquarters [read: the Vatican] decides it is in the best interests of their business model to make a change. Crude, but effective.This will not be an easy road to walk. Catholics have little tradition when it comes to self-determination - but I think Catholics are smart enough to learn quickly. When Catholics make a mistake, as they certainly will, at least it will be their mistake which they can then correct. Or, that particular parish may just not survive.I know that so many people react negatively to the idea but it is the truth: The problems in the Catholic Church are NOT theological, or even pastoral, but more often than not POLITICAL! It is the governance of the Catholic Church that is corrupt and compromised. The Gospel still speaks to people in the 21st century.The golden rule of politics is: THEY WHO HAVE THE GOLD, RULE! It's way past time that Catholics manage the finances and put their priests and bishops, lost in a church-turned-business corporation, back to preaching and teaching.

Eugene Kennedy's column, quoted in Carolyn Disco's comment (01/23/2013, 12:37 am), describes Robert Mickens as "former editor" of the Tablet. He is not a former editor, and is currently the Tablet's Vatican correspondent.

Will Archbishop Mahony now become a contributor to Commonweal?

Thank you, Gene.Ann O., A most extraordinary archive on Avery and Lynn in Phila has just been posted on LA or Phila - makes no difference really.A must-read for anyone following the trial. What does superbly is to gather a mountain of material in digestible form. This is public service of the highest order. The list of Avery files and documents do indeed speak for themselves. Avery not guilty????Sample of Exhibit C-40: Letter to Lynn from St. John Vianney's Dr. Wayne Pelligrini, Ph.D., stating: A recommendation of continued inpatient treatment. Avery has made a great deal of progress since the confrontation session with [James], "but there remains concerns about the existence of other victims." Avery expressed a great deal of shame, and he acknowledged that the incident "must have happened" because of [James]'s reaction, and not because of his recollection. Avery "is at a point in treatment in dealing with his shame that necessitates continued inpatient treatment to prevent further acting out."The first trial

Mark,I find your sense of moral equivalence seriously distorted. It's Cardinal Mahony, sorry to say.

Carolyn ==I hope that the new Avery claim doesn't affect the Lynn jury's decision. But I wonder. Was there much evidence of Avery's guilt presented at Lynn's trial beyond Avery's own admission of guilt? If not, it would seem to be shakey to this non-lawyer. Could Lynn be re-tried for the same crime?

"SOL reform with window legislation would open more files to the truth than I can imagine."Unjustly.

Carolyn --Oops -- I see that all sorts of evidence of Avery's guilt apart from his own admission to the Court. Satill, I'm still wondering, though -- the quotations in the documents are not direct testimony in Court. Given Avery's retraction, could that cause a mistrial? I hope not.

Jim P,I recall old exchanges and I'm smiling because I even thought of you as I wrote that. Different opinions, alas.

I was quite surprised by the recent Pew report that said that a large majority of Catholics are "satisfied" with the hierarchy. Where have these people been the last 30 years, I kept wondering. But maybe the L.A. documents are starting finally to convince them of the criminality of some of the bishops. Here's one indication. The extremely conservative New Advent aggregator of Catholic news sites directs us today to The Bad Catholic Blog for Bingo Catholics -- a self-described conservative one. The BCB post is titled, "I'd Like to Visit Cardinal Mahoney in Prison". The writer is now finally completely convinced that the Cardinal belongs in Alcatraz. Let us pray that more eyes are finally being opened., I read some conservative sources. Only fair.)

I read some conservative blogs too. Especially daunting is the UK Catholic Herald ...

Ann Olivier:Conservative, traditionalist voices have always judged Cardinal Mahony as too tolerant of "dissent." Recall Mother Angelica's fierce criticisms of him on EWTN fifteen or more years ago. (Cardinal Mahony took that to Rome, and won.) And, when the East Coast cardinals attacked Cardinal Bernardin for launching the Common Ground Initiative, Cardinal Mahony tellingly did not join them. I have always found the Archbishop Emeritus of Los Angeles something of an enigma.

"I recall old exchanges and Im smiling because I even thought of you as I wrote that. Different opinions, alas."Quite right :-)

Jim Jenkins (1/23/13 @ 5:36 pm), you speak for me!Ann Olivier, I'm not surprised that Pew would find a large majority of Catholics "satisfied" with the hierarchy: I'm of the impression, at least, that most (still) churchgoing Catholics have not a clue about papal and episcopal shenanigans. They don't care. They don't know what's going on and don't want to know what's going on. They may or may not read their local *sanitized* Catholic newspapers. Show up at weekend mass, get your ticket punched, and leave. These folks are pew potatoes. Perhaps it's a matter of Pew conducting a valid survey, only to discover the respondents represent a homogeneous group? Sure seems like it.

John Page ==Maybe he doesn't really care about anything, except his own retention of power. There are such people.

Carolyn--What moral equivalence do you think I'm making?

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