Cardinal Sins

Downloaded June 17, 2003


Abuse: Keating got too close to the truth.

So the Catholic Church's repugnant cover-up continues.

By forcing the resignation last weekend of the outspoken head of a panel that was assembled to investigate sexual abuse by priests, Cardinal Roger Mahony and other high- ranking church leaders have shown, once again, that they are far more interested in stonewalling and damage control than seeking justice and reform.

Sadly, the goals the panel set out to achieve openness, transparency, and ultimately punishment for any criminal acts not yet revealed seem more elusive than ever.

Mahony and other church leaders pushed former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating to resign Saturday from the church watchdog panel he was assigned to lead last summer. His crime? Telling the truth about the scandalous pattern of cover-up by the church.

Keating, himself a devout Catholic, became frustrated by Mahony's refusal to abide by his own words. Last summer Mahony had told the press that "we want every single thing to be out, open and dealt with, period.' Yet, not even a year later, Mahony tried to sabotage the investigative panels' efforts to conduct a survey to find out how many priests have been implicated in abuse cases.

Instead of addressing Keating's concerns, Mahony focused on the style of his comment "to act like La Costa Nostra [the mafia] and hide and suppress, I think, is very unhealthy.' The powerful church leaders called for Keating's ouster, and he announced Saturday that he would step down.

This was exactly in keeping with Mahony's shameful behavior in regard to pedophile priests, dating back at least 20 years.

From two cases in Long Beach we know that Mahony not only failed to report sexual crimes to police authorities, but actually transferred admitted pedophiles to other parishes, where they were free to commit more crimes. In the case of former Long Beach priest Michael Baker, Mahony protected a known criminal and exposed more children to potential abuse. Baker is now awaiting trial on multiple child molestation charges, 17 years after he confessed his crimes to Mahony.

More recently, as the molestation scandal erupted, Mahony refused to release personnel files to the District Attorney's Office during its investigation. "Out, open and dealt with' indeed.

Ironically, church leaders assembled the panel in an effort to help restore the church's plummeting credibility. Their dismissal of Keating has only damaged it further.

Keating's comments may have been tough, but they weren't out of line, or, as Mahony put it, "off the wall.' Keating could have been much harsher in his indictment of the church's cover-up of sexual abuses.

Mahony and other church leaders are harboring criminals and sabotaging efforts to root them out. That was Keating's point. If anyone should be forced to step down, it is Mahony himself.


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