Today the culture of secrecy in the Roman Catholic Church has cracked a little. 75% of the parishes in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles had at least one abuser-priest. The Archdiocese kept their abuse secret for more than 20 years. That sad fact is astounding and should alert us all to the terrible consequences of the culture of secrecy. VOTF is working to end that culture and to build processes and procedures that take the lay community seriously. It is tragic that the voices of hundreds of victims of sexual abuse were heard by the California Courts but not by their pastoral leaders. Some of these cases could have come to light years ago as they were happening. Depositions show that many abusers were suspected and often known to their fellow priests and to the bishop, but nothing was do9ne about it.
In order for our Church to heal, the Cardinal and his fellow bishops must be honest and acknowledge that they have been knowing participants in what Cardinal Mahoney himself called a "terrible sin and crime." This same pattern of cover-up was routinely practiced by the Catholic hierarchy all over the world. We must hold them accountable for their actions.
VOTF supports the agreement made with the courts that requires that the records be made public. We must ensure that these records are released, We must all know who knew what and when they knew it. Those who protected sexual predators must be held accountable. 500 victims came forward and are part of this settlement, and we know this does not account for all of the abused. As abusers' names are made known, more victims will realize they were not alone. Naming failure for the purpose of healing is a long-standing practice in the Catholic tradition. The abusers and their accomplices must be named so that the victims can begin to heal.
"If bishops had exercised leadership and oversight, this would not have happened," said Mary Pat Fox, President of VOTF. "If bishops had not placed institutional reputation above the harm to children, we would not have had to seek help from the courts. It is a sad day because the Catholic Church was forced to follow the Gospel by the courts."
"How can we follow leaders who do nothing to correct obvious grave wrongs until forced to do so by a court of law?" said Fox. "Unfortunate as the events that brought about this situation have been, it will be a great day for the Church : laity, clergy and hierarchy : if this inspires laypeople across the country to finally take up their share of the responsibility for the conduct of affairs in our Church. Catholics who think the clergy sexual abuse scandal is history unfortunately are wrong. The crisis is not over and the healing will not begin in earnest until those who covered this up are held accountable."