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October 14, 2005


The Stonewalling Shepherd

No one should be fooled by Cardinal Roger Mahony's latest attempt to sanitize the scandal of the pedophile priests who ravaged schoolchildren for decades in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Other prelates have cooperated with criminal prosecutors as the American church has reeled with disclosures that have led to the dismissals of more than 700 rogue priests in a three-year period. Cardinal Mahony continues to resist court orders for the disclosure of church personnel documents to criminal investigators.

The archdiocese has made absurd constitutional claims that the state should stand aside because the confidentiality between priest and bishop is paramount to the free exercise of religion. Polls show that worried parents and other laity hardly agree.

In the latest sham offering of candor, the cardinal has released a summary accounting of 126 accused molesters that mainly confirms the now well-known extent of the scourge; the archdiocese faces damage claims from more than 500 Catholics. The summary falls far short of the full accounting repeatedly promised by Cardinal Mahony. It is of no use to the prosecutors he continues to stonewall.

The exercise fails as a public relations attempt to head off disclosure of the devastating details that accusers are vowing to pry from church files in court. It is a reminder of the warning last year by a scandal review board appointed by the American hierarchy that "there must be consequences" for the missteps of the bishops, and not just the priests, involved in the long-hidden scandal.

The board report singled out a few ranking leaders for criticism, including Cardinal Mahony and Cardinal Edward Egan of New York, both of whom stoutly defend their past management of accused priests.

Zero tolerance of priestly misbehavior is now the proclaimed church standard. The bruised and wary laity are entitled to equally forthright behavior from church leaders if the deep wounds of the pedophile scandal are ever to be healed.