I’ve interviewed and written many stories about Cardinal Roger Mahony, the Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels, and Catholicism. But the recent, court ordered release of some 12,000 documents that show how Mahony shuffled pedophile priests from one parish to another – never reporting them to law enforcement-was horrific reading. The memos, letters and depositions display a deep betrayal by Mahony, who led the Los Angeles Archdiocese for 25 years until his retirement in 2011.The files showed how the hands that violated children were of those that held up the sacred Holy Communion host during Mass on Sundays. Victims of those priests had long said that churches were shielding pedophiles. In 2007, members of Survivors Network for Those Abused by Priests won a $660 million settlement from the Los Angeles Archdiocese. But the Archdiocese fought to release those files. Below is my story from 2007, (I’m sitting in front, in the black, short sleave shirt) which offered a glance of what Mahony was hiding.
From my story (Daily News, July 2007):
Calling sexual abuse by clergy a “terrible sin and crime,” Cardinal Roger Mahony apologized Sunday to hundreds of people who claim they were molested by priests in the nation’s largest archdiocese.
The apology came during a news conference following Sunday Mass and a day after the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles agreed to pay a record $660 million in a settlement with 508 victims.
“There really is no way to go back and give them that innocence that was taken from them,” Mahony said. “The one thing I wish I could give the victims … I cannot.
“Once again, I apologize to anyone who has been offended, who has been abused. It should not have happened and it will not happen again.”
Mahony said he has met with dozens of victims of clergy abuse in the past 14 months and those meetings helped him understand the importance of a quick resolution to the lawsuits.
The cardinal is scheduled to be in court this morning to go over the final settlement. He said the church’s decision to settle on the eve of the trials – which were set to begin today – had nothing to do with keeping him from testifying.
“My own testifying would not have been a problem,” he said.
Mahony said the settlement will not have an impact on the archdiocese’s core ministry, but said the church will have to sell buildings, use some of its invested funds, and borrow money. He said the archdiocese will not sell any parish property.
Those claiming to be victims of the abuse have said the settlement was unsatisfying because they wanted their day in court. They also wanted a more sincere apology from Mahony, who they say helped transfer molesters from parish to parish and shield others.
“It’s hard to take his apology seriously,” said David Clohessy, national director for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP.
“There’s such a disconnect between his words and his deeds.”
Above, is a photo of members of SNAP with a quilt showing photographs of child victims. Below is the story of one priest I wrote about who was shuffled around from parish to parish. His story is one of many found in the files in our special report (Daily News, Jan. 2013):
As a young priest, Eleutorio Ramos once wrote a strong letter to a co-pastor, defending the Latino parishioners at St. Thomas Church in Los Angeles.
“My greatest displeasure is over the way you have been mistreating and hurting so many of our people,” Ramos wrote in the 1967 letter. “Some of the Spanish-speaking people at the parish have expressed to me their feeling that you are prejudiced against us Latins.”
But that very same spirit of defending Latinos dissolved when it came to his own desires. Instead of protecting the young parishioners, Ramos desecrated their innocence, according to old and recently released personnel files from the archdiocese.
Ramos admitted to police in Orange County that he had molested at least 25 boys over the span of a decade. It was, according to published reports, the largest single admission of child abuse in the history of the Orange County diocese.
One by one, victims came forward as his name was reported in newspapers.
One victim told police he was 11 when Ramos took him to a San Diego motel and allowed three men to tie him up, blindfold him and rape him, according to published reports. Ramos denied those charges.
Ramos was ordained in 1966. In two decades of priesthood, he had been transferred 15 times because of reports of sexual abuse that had escalated in the 1970s and 1980s.
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles transferred him to a church in Placentia, Orange County, in 1975. He lasted only four months. But Ramos continued to be placed in parishes all around the area, including Santa Ana and Anaheim until he was sent to parishes in Tijuana.
Archdiocese files show that from 1983 to 1989, Ramos took one boy to a mountain cabin in San Bernardino County, to a hotel near Disneyland, at a hotel near Universal Studios, and various times to the city of Tijuana.
While some of the complaints against Ramos had been made public in the 1990s — including a lawsuit against the Diocese of Orange in 1994 — others came out later after more attention had been given to the issue of priest abuse. Some complaints in the archdiocese personnel files were received in 2003 and 2004, where victims came forward to allege incidents of molestation dating back to the 1970s, after the issue received greater public attention.
One victim said he had been given alcohol and marijuana by Ramos when he was 13 around 1971-72 and that Ramos at various times had groped him and exposed himself and masturbated in front of him. The incidents continue to affect the victim’s adult relationships, the victim said.
Ramos was suspended from priestly duties in 1991, but was never charged with a crime because a Supreme Court decision in July invalidated California’s statute of limitations on sex crimes, according to published reports. Ramos died in 2004.
My other stories featuring Cardinal Roger Mahony:
1) LA Archdiocese: Cardinal Mahony relieved of public duties (Daily News, Feb. 2013).
2) Cardinal Mahony hands over the reigns of L.A. Archdiocese ( Daily News, Feb. 27, 2011).
3) Future LA Archbishop Gomez welcomed in Mass (May, 2010)