Church leaders address clergy sex abuse scandal at Sunday services

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Speaking to parishioners gathered at Catholic churches across the city, church leaders on Sunday read a letter from Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez made public last week regarding the mishandling of the clergy child abuse scandal and expressed their own concerns.

“We have been reminded about sin in our church. … The important thing for us to remember is that there are victims in this,” said Monsignor Robert J. Gallagher of St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in North Hollywood. Gallagher thanked the roughly 100 parishioners for their prayers in what he called one of the darkest periods in his 40 years with the church.


St. Borromeo is the home of retired Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, who is at the center of the controversy. Mahony was not present during the 7:30 a.m. service.

After the service, Gallagher said he was pleased that Mahony had met with more than 90 child sex abuse victims to ask for forgiveness for himself and the church. He said he recently had dinner with Mahony, who told him that he was meeting with another victim Monday.

In a church bulletin, Gallagher wrote a letter to parishioners expanding on his feelings about the child abuse scandal: “The real victims are those who were robbed of their childhood, whether by a priest or some other trusted adult. They are the ones who deserve our prayers, our apologies, and any other gesture that will invite them to be restored to the conviction of God’s love for them.’

Eric Nielsen, 52, a parishioner at the church since 1981, said after Sunday services that ‘this will probably be my last time coming here’ because he was unsettled by the child abuse scandal.

‘I take my hat off to the archbishop,” Nielsen said. “He got on the ball and did what needed to be done.”

‘It’s a shame,’ he added.

In a move unprecedented in the U.S. Catholic Church, Gomez announced Thursday that he had relieved Mahony, his predecessor as archbishop, of all public duties over his handling of clergy sex abuse of children decades ago.

Gomez also said that Auxiliary Bishop Thomas J. Curry, who worked with Mahony to conceal abusers from police in the 1980s, had resigned his post as a regional bishop in Santa Barbara.

The announcement came as the church posted on its website tens of thousands of pages of the previously secret personnel files of 122 priests accused of molesting children.

‘I find these files to be brutal and painful reading. The behavior described in these files is terribly sad and evil,’ Gomez wrote in his letter, addressed to ‘My brothers and sisters in Christ.’

The release of the records and the rebuke of the two central figures in L.A.'s molestation scandal signaled a clear desire by Gomez to define the sexual abuse crisis as a problem of a different era -- and a different archbishop.

‘I cannot undo the failings of the past that we find in these pages. Reading these files, reflecting on the wounds that were caused has been the saddest experience I’ve had since becoming your archbishop in 2011,’ Gomez wrote.


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-- Matt Stevens