Okay, I confess, I am a Catholic. I was born into a Roman Catholic family, baptized into the faith about six weeks after birth as is their tradition, and brought up in the shadow of Holy Mother Church. I attended Catholic Parochial School from 1st through 8th grade and a Catholic High School for 2 and a half years before being “transferred” out because of certain transgressions. But I was not the lone transgressor, there were nine of us “transferred” out on the fateful day in February of 68. I guess we just weren’t very good Catholic young men. But if our transgressions were so severe as to warrant our removal why not expel us ?
Why indeed? Could it have been a cover-up? After all, the Catholic Church is pretty good at that aren’t they? You see, at the time the incident our principal Father Kiefer was in the process of being named a monsignor. You can imagine what a scandal involving 9 students expelled for drugs might have done to his chances of making monsignor. Yeah it wouldn’t have fared well for him at all if the newspapers had caught wind of it, it may have cost him, so just to be on the safe side, with no fanfare, he simply “transferred” the 9 of us to other schools.
I’ll never forget how upset my mom was, not only with me, but with the way the situation had been handled by the principal. If in fact there was a problem shouldn’t help in the form of counseling have been offered to these wayward boys she argued, but to no avail, her plea fell on deaf ears. She even threatened to go to the newspaper herself if nothing was done, but that was an idle threat. Believe me, I had already caused her far more embarrassment in our small community than she could deal with. She never made the call, she couldn’t. So in the end both the school and principal retained their lily white name and in a few short months the principal became a monsignor. That was my first experience with church politics and cover-ups.
Yes, the Catholic Church has proven itself quite adept at cover up and controversy as we have learned, attested to by the flood of sexual abuse allegations and clandestine back room agreements made with victims that the Church managed to keep under wraps for decades. Occasionally word leaked out and reported on in the newspapers, but they were far and few between. It wasn’t until the last twenty years or so that the true depth of their cover up began to reveal itself. By 2000 the Churches “dirty little secret” exploded onto the scene as an endless parade of victims came forward demanding justice. Up until that time sex offending priests and other clergy were dealt with by the local hierarchy of of the church diocese, namely Cardinals and/or Bishops, suddenly Rome became very involved.
And just like that the period of protecting their own began to weaken. Gone were the days of clandestine back room agreements reached with victims, and the “transferring” of offending predator priests from parish to other nearby parishes or out of the state or country began to wane as lawsuits, criminal charges and mandates from the Pope himself brought the problem to the forefront. The change was long overdue. Can you imagine a pedophile priests or priest like the group of five priest who gang rape a 16 year old girl and impregnating her, are dealt with by giving them a couple of sessions of counseling then “transferred to other parishes to resume their priestly duties and still work with children. It’s criminal but what is even more criminal is the way Cardinals like Cardinal Mahony here in Los Angeles abused his power and embarrassed Catholics everywhere by protected his predator priests from the law. I’m sure in his mind he did what he thought best for the church and believed that these offending clergy would be dealt with by a greater authority when their earthly stay was over. But a greater authority will also be dealing with his transgressions.
Yesterday our local newspaper ran a four page special report on Cardinal Mahony and the churches “dirty little secret”. There were also stories about several priests, their transgressions and what resulted when they were finally found out. I find it repulsive that many of these predator priest got away with their crimes because so much time has passed before they were caught. I cant believe that Mahony devised and executed this massive cover up and ignored the cries of school children, altar boys,teens concerned parishioners and clergy. How could he in good conscience do nothing. He was at the center of the entire scheme, handling complaints internally, caring more for the abuser than the victim, moving abusers here, there and everywhere. The result of his actions and others like him across the nation have cost the Church billions and billions of dollars in settlements, and even more in bad press. but he’s sorry, they all are.
Even today Mahony continues to offer his apologies for what he did and claims that he prays everyday for each and every victim that they will be filled with God’s grace and be healed. Too little too late if you ask me. He is guilty of lying and aiding and abetting these predators, concerned more for the image of the church rather than the welfare of her children. But don’t find fault with the entire church because of the actions of the few. Even the good fall down sometimes. There are good priest out their doing God’s work, good church leaders, Cardinal and Bishops, who are working for the betterment of the Catholic community. Those who abuse and prey on the weakness of others are the minority. Hopefully they will be dealt with properly and by the letter of the law. Hopefully the worst is behind us now and the church is on the road to recovery and a brighter more Godly future. Only time will tell.