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By MICHELE M. BETTI | b&a opinions | http://bettiandassociates.com

Church personnel files, once again, show how the Catholic Church is guilty of covering up the names of predator priests who for decades systemically abused children.  Top officials in the Los Angeles Catholic Archdiocese, including Cardinal Roger Mahony, criminally moved and shielded priests who they knew molested children for decades.

Some 30,000 pages were supposed to be made public.  The Archdiocese of Los Angeles agreed to give the files to more than 500 victims of priest abuse in 2007 as part of a settlement over five years ago.  A judge recently ordered the church to release them without blacking out the names of church higher-ups.

The documents reveal what other Dioceses nationwide have shown — how church leaders for decades shuffled predator priests from parish to parish, covered up reports of abuse and never reported the abuse to the police.

The records disclose that retired Cardinal Roger Mahony was disturbed about the abuse and sent problem priests for treatment, but did not take steps to remove such priests from ministry.  Mahony received psychological reports on some priests that mentioned the possibility of many other victims, for example, but there is no indication that he or other church leaders investigated further.

What the release of the confidential files clearly show is that despite the Church’s knowledge that the allegations of child sexual abuse by its clergy were true, the Church did everything in its power to shame the victims, accuse them of lying about their abuse, and used unscrupulous tactics to get victims to run past the statute of limitations.

In 1987, Mahony wrote to the Rev. Michael Wempe who was a priest undergoing in-patient therapy at a New Mexico treatment center run by the Servants of the Paraclete.  “Each of you there at Jemez Springs is very much in my prayers and I call you to mind each day during my celebration of the Eucharist,” Mahony wrote to the priest, adding that he supported him in the experience.

The church’s sex abuse policy was to send priests out of state for psychological treatment because they revealed more when their therapists were not required to report child abuse to law enforcement as they were in California.

Top church officials in Missouri and Pennsylvania were criminally convicted last year for their roles in covering up abuse, more than a decade after the clergy sex abuse scandal began to unfold in Boston.

On September 6, 2012, Bishop Robert Finn, was the first American bishop to be criminally charged in the clergy sex abuse scandal and was found guilty of a misdemeanor count of failing to report suspected child abuse.

On June 22, 2012, Philadelphia Monsignor William Lynn was found guilty of endangerment, making him the first U.S. church official ever convicted of covering up child sex abuse claims.  He and other top Church officials protected pedophiles.  They knew these priests were predators, but were much more concerned with the institution then the victims of sexual assault.

For 12 years, Mon. Lynn was responsible for investigating child sexual abuse allegations against priests in Philadelphia and recommending priest assignments.  Mon. Lynn protected pedophile priests when he transferred them from parish to parish.

Mon. Lynn compiled a secret list in 1994 of 35 priests accused of committing child sexual abuse including three diagnosed pedophiles.  A copy of the list was found in a safe in the Archdiocese headquarters, i.e., their secret files.

The files show how Mahony corresponded with abusive priests while they underwent treatment out of state and worked to keep them out of California to avoid criminal and civil trouble.

One case involved the Msgr. Peter Garcia, a molester who admitted raping an 11-year-old boy and later told a psychologist he molested 15 to 17 young boys.  “If Monsignor Garcia were to reappear here within the archdiocese, we might very well have some type of legal action filed in both the criminal and civil sectors,” Mahony wrote to the director of Garcia’s New Mexico treatment program.

The files also show how Mahony wrote about the “extremely grave and serious situation” when he sent Fr. Baker for psychological treatment after the priest told him in 1986 that he had molested two brothers over seven years.

But, Baker returned to ministry the next year with a doctor’s recommendation that he be defrocked immediately if he spent any time with minors.  Despite several documented instances of being alone with boys, the priest was not removed from ministry until 2000, some 14 years later — leaving him to have access to other children.

Church officials discussed announcing Baker’s abuse in churches where he had worked, but Mahony rejected the idea.  He wrote in an October 6, 2000 memo, “We could open up another firestorm — and it takes us years to recover from those.  Is there no alternative to public announcements at all the Masses in 15 parishes???  Wow — that really scares the daylights out of me!!”

Msgr. Richard Loomis, who was the Vicar for Clergy, said in a memo in 2001 to his successor that Baker’s attorney disclosed the priest had at least 10 other victims.  Msgr. Loomis wrote, “We’ve stepped back 20 years and are being driven by the need to cover-up and to keep the presbyteriate & public happily ignorant rather than the need to protect children.”

To view the documents go to http://www.bishopaccountability.org.

Copyright 2013, b&a opinions.

–Michele M. Betti of the Law Offices of Betti & Associates is an advocate for survivors of childhood sexual abuse.