About a dozen readers have sent their reactions to The Times' front-page story Tuesday reporting that Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, archbishop of Los Angeles from 1985 to 2011, plotted to conceal child molestation by priests from law enforcement. While several of the letters raise legal questions for Mahony, many also call out the former archbishop for his moral failure to protect children. Others blame Roman Catholic Church policy for setting the conditions that led to child sex abuse.
Here is a selection of those letters, some of which may be printed later this week on The Times' letters page. Check latimes.com/letters this week for more reader reaction.
Melonie Magruder of North Hollywood says Mahony acted as if protecting the church was more important that protecting children:
"Mahony's claim that clergy weren't 'legally required to report suspected child abuse until 1997,' and, therefore, he was absolved from responsibility to do so, is staggeringly self-serving. It's as if he's saying, 'It was other people's job to report child sexual abuse,' with the implicit caveat that his responsibility was to protect the institution he served.
"The fact that Msgr. Thomas J. Curry, who was Mahony's chief advisor on sex abuse cases, is still serving as the archdiocese's auxiliary bishop for Santa Barbara tells me everything I need to know about the Catholic Church: It still doesn't understand the horror priests perpetrated on their victims, the flock they purport to lead and protect."
Jeannette Dreisbach of Palm Springs also finds Mahony's self-defense lacking:
"While it was no shock to learn that Mahony covered up crimes against children, I was stopped in my tracks by his vacuous explanation that he did not report the abuse because he did not know the names of the children. How pathetic.
"Reporting crime is what good citizens do. Investigating those crimes and identifying victims is what good police do. If Mahony had reported as soon as he was aware of child abuse, many children would have been spared harm. Obviously, while Mahony was not a good archbishop, he was also not even a good citizen.
"Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez has a duty to denounce Mahony, strip him of all titles and remove him from any priestly function."
Horace Gaims of Los Angeles urges the church to reverse its policy on priest celibacy:
"The paradox of how intelligent persons such as Mahony become ensnared by scandal can be linked to the Roman Catholic Church's institutional stupidity. Consider its age-old clerical celibacy rule, which is so well known to have originated as a medieval bit of commercial chicanery that I will not rehash its history here.
"I would, were I of that faith, do my best to encourage lay Catholics to plead with Pope Benedict XVI to expunge this blot from their church."
Michael Carter of Alhambra plays the gender card:
"I wonder: If the Catholic Church had allowed women to become priests, would it even be having this ongoing sexual abuse problem? Maybe the Holy Spirit is trying to tell the Magisterium something, but I doubt most of these folks would be listening to her anyway."