The Roman Catholic Church has certainly had its fair share of bad press and scandals over the past decade. The latest fiasco comes out of the Los Angeles archdiocese, where cardinal Roger Mahony is accused of participating in a sex scandal cover-up of numerous Los Angeles-area priests. Declassified church documents were released Monday as a part of an active lawsuit against the L.A. archdiocese. Mahony’s involvement serves as another indication of the Catholic Church’s failure to preserve its moral foundations.
Mahony served in the church for over 25 years and retired two years ago. However, he is now receiving unwanted attention as the documents reveal his efforts to protect abusive priests who may be subject to legal action. One letter shows Mahony’s correspondence with a treatment center in New Mexico. Mahony in 1986 wrote on behalf of Monsignor Peter Garcia, one of many abusive priests.
“I believe that 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.
Mahony’s failure to take action and report offending priests to authorities presents a significant injustice. Troubled church members were often sent to treatment facilities out of state in order to avoid legal consequences in California. Another instance in which Mahony protected a child offender involves Reverend Lynn Caffoe. In 1991, Caffoe was sent to a treatment center out of state. Mahony did not remove Caffoe from the church until 2004. As a result, Mahony’s inaction put more children at risk.
Beyond Mahony’s scandal, he had a relatively successful career. He became a prominent figure of the Los Angeles Catholic community. Unlike many of his conservative counterparts, Mahony advocated for the rights of immigrants. With that in mind, his negative exposure may repel yet more Catholics.
Cardinal Mahony illustrates the Catholic Church’s downward spiral into corruption. An institution that is supposed to promote morality has, rightly or wrongly, become the poster-child for pedophilia. Los Angeles is one of many American cities to have its archdiocese come under fire for sexual misconduct, as Boston and Philadelphia have also been active in the press as well.
Although Mahony influenced the Los Angeles community in many positive ways, these recent revelations will likely overshadow that. As for the Catholic Church, major reform needs to be made if the institution wants to keep and amass a following.