Sexual Abuse Victims Confront Cardinal Mahony
Religion: Protesters in Camarillo quietly reproach
Mahony for not doing enough about the problem of molestations by
By Richard Winton and Christine Hanley, Los Angeles Times Staff
March 25, 2002
For the first time since sexual-abuse allegations began to rock
the Roman Catholic Church, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony was confronted
by victims and their supporters outside a Palm Sunday service in
As Mahony greeted parishioners after helping say a Mass at St.
Mary Magdalen church in Camarillo, a few protesters had short, quiet
conversations with him.
Several said they told Mahony that he had ignored the problem for
too long and had not been forthcoming enough. Armed with banners
and leaflets they gave parishioners, the two dozen victims and their
families mostly stood quietly as Mahony passed by in and out of
In the leaflets, they called on the archdiocese to release the
names of several priests recently dismissed over sexual abuse of
minors. They also asked that victims be released from settlement
agreements binding them to confidentiality so they can speak out
about their abusers. In addition, they ask parishioners to stop
contributing money until the church is more forthcoming with information.
"The cardinal needs to release the names of all the perpetrators
so they cannot move on and abuse children elsewhere," Ray Higgins,
whose son was sexually abused in Santa Barbara by two priests, told
Carrying a sign that said "Break The Silence," Jim Falls
said he hoped his presence might "save a child" from what
he endured. Falls, now 34, said he was molested when he was 15.
"I am a survivor of abuse," he said. "I've lived
with this for decades and it feels good to be able to confront those
who have for so long ignored our plight."
The archdiocese recently dismissed six to 12 priests for sexually
abusing minors, according to church sources. The archdiocese has
refused to provide any details about their identity, location or
number, although Mahony has written in the archdiocesan newspaper
that a "few local priests" had been removed from the ministry
for harming minors.
On Sunday, Mahony made no public statement to the protesters, did
not address the issue at the service and would not answer questions
from reporters outside.
But in Orange County, Bishop of Orange Tod D. Brown told those
at Holy Family Cathedral that it was especially important during
Easter week for the Catholic Church to accept responsibility for
the "terrible, terrible crimes" committed by priests against
children and to seek forgiveness for wayward clergymen.
Brown, leading Mass at the service, made his strongest public remarks
to date about the growing sex scandal in a short but direct homily,
characterizing it as a cross that the church and its people must
bear in order to heal.
"We know now of the terrible trauma our church has been experiencing
since the events in Boston earlier this year," Brown told parishioners.
"We know that, unfortunately, some among us, even members
of our clergy, infinitesimal in numbers, but nevertheless real,
have been perpetrators of terrible, terrible crimes, throughout
the country, in our state, in our own county."
Brown concluded by saying that the church must seek forgiveness
and pray for strength to "carry the cross of suffering that
God has given to us" to "emerge into a new era of Easter
a stronger, holier, more complete church."
Palm Sunday commemorates the day Jesus Christ triumphantly entered
Jerusalem, where worshipers placed palm fronds before him as he
arrived. It marks the first day of Holy Week, the most solemn observation
of the Christian calendar.
Brown said this was the first chance he had to acknowledge the
sexual abuse scandal from the pulpit.
In Camarillo, a spokesman for Mahony said the cardinal did not
see the occasion as appropriate to address the issue.
Tod Tadberg, spokesman for the cardinal, said that the archdiocese
is cooperating with law enforcement and that individual clergy are
complying with a state law that mandates they report sexual abuse
Mahony, he said, addressed clergy abuse in Friday's issue of the
archdiocese newspaper, Tidings.
Mahony wrote that the church is going through a period of purification.
The cardinal wrote that some victims have called an archdiocese
clergy abuse hotline.
But as he stood outside the Camarillo church Sunday, Falls said
Mahony is not doing enough.
"We're here to stop Cardinal Mahony protecting child molesters,"
"By getting rid of these priests without naming them, he is
saying, 'It's not my problem if they molest another kid,'"