Reports of newly released files showing concerted efforts by a major US Catholic church to conceal child abuse by its priests has prompted fresh demands from victims to bring church officials to justice.
Despite numerous calls over the past decade to bring the church’s top leader Cardinal Roger Mahony and his top deputies to criminal prosecution for actively trying to hide sexual abuse of children by its clergy, none of the several legal efforts on such cases resulted in “charges against he archdiocese’s hierarchy,” The Los Angeles Times reports Wednesday.
“At least three grand juries, two district attorneys and a US attorney have subpoenaed documents and summoned witnesses,” the report emphasizes, adding that all the legal measures failed to win conviction for officials of the California church.
While the Los Angeles County district attorney vowed to review and evaluate all of the newly-revealed documents “for criminal conduct,” the daily cites “legal experts” as insisting that the massive quantity of files “were unlikely to lead to charges, let alone convictions.”
“A nearly insurmountable barrier,” the report adds quoting experts, “is the statute of limitations.”
The paper reported Tuesday that nearly 25 years have passed since Mahony and his top aide for sex abuse cases, Thomas Curry, wrote memos “outlining strategies to prevent police investigations of three priests who had admitted abusing boys.”
One such case involved a priest named Peter Garcia, who had admitted to “preying for decades on undocumented children in predominantly Spanish-speaking parishes.”
Citing the newly released files, the report further noted that following Garcia’s release from “a New Mexico treatment center for pedophile clergy,” Mahony ordered him to keep his distance from California “for the foreseeable future” in a bid to evade “legal accountability.”
“I believe that if Monsignor Garcia were to reappear here within the archdiocese we might very well have some type of legal action filed in both the criminal and civil sectors,” the archbishop was quoted as writing to the treatment center’s director in July 1986.
Garcia returned to California later that year although the archdiocese did not give him ministerial duty since he “refused to take medication to suppress his sexual urges,” according to church documents cited in the report.
It adds that Garcia was never prosecuted and died in 2009.
The files, however, show that he admitted to a therapist that he had sexually abused boys “on and off” since his 1966 ordination.
“He assured church officials his victims were unlikely to come forward because of their immigration status. In at least one case, according to a church memo, he threatened to have a boy he had raped deported if he went to police,” the report further said.
According to the daily, an attorney for the Catholic church, Michael Hennigan, described the newly unveiled documents as “part of the past,” claiming that the church’s policy in the late 1980’s was to let the families of the victims decide whether to contact the police or not.
The daily further stated that in the coming weeks, personnel files of 75 other Los Angeles area Catholic priests will be released as part of a 2007 civil settlement with 500 abuse victims.