Over four decades, particularly under Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, parishioners in the nation’s largest Roman Catholic archdiocese repeatedly tried to alert church authorities about abusive priests in their midst, trusting that the church would respond appropriately.
But the internal personnel files on 124 priests released by the archdiocese under court order on Thursday reveal a very different response: how church officials initially disbelieved them and grew increasingly alarmed over the years, only as multiple victims of the same priest came forward and reported similar experiences.
Even then, in some cases, priests were shuttled out of state or out of the country to avoid criminal investigations.
A sampling of the 12,000 pages suggests that Cardinal Mahony and other top church officials dealt with the accusations of abuse regularly and intimately throughout the last several decades. It often took years to even reach the realization that a priest could no longer simply be sent to a rehabilitation center and instead must be removed from ministry or even defrocked.