“I find these files to be brutal and painful reading. The behavior described in these files is terribly sad and evil,” Gomez said in a statement.
Gomez issued his statement after the archdiocese lost a long legal battle and posted on its website personnel files for 122 priests who were accused of molesting children.
“There is no excuse, no explaining away what happened to these children,” Gomez said. “The priests involved had the duty to be their spiritual fathers and they failed.”
In 2011, Pope Benedict XVI named Gomez to replace the embattled Mahony atop the nation’s largest Catholic diocese.
Gomez noted that Mahony had apologized for his role in concealing the abuse and allowing it to continue, but he indicated that was not sufficient — and that he ordered Mahony’s removal from public ministry.
“Effective immediately, I have informed Cardinal Mahony that he will no longer have any administrative or public duties,” Gomez said. He added that Curry had requested to resign.
“This is unusual and extraordinary,” said the Rev. Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest and political scientist at Georgetown University. “An archbishop has never before restricted the ministry of his predecessor and publicly taken him to task like this.”
“It is clear that the abuse crisis is now having consequences not just for the abusing priests but also for the clerics who did not deal with them properly,” he added.
But victims’ advocates were skeptical of the moves, noting that they came only after the archdiocese lost a five-year legal battle to keep the documents secret or to release only edited versions.
“The lesson here for Catholic staff is clear: if you successfully conceal your wrongdoing, you can keep your job. If, however, you fail, there’s an extraordinarily slim chance you might experience some slight consequences,” said David Clohessy, executive director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
“Gomez has had these documents for months and known about Mahony’s wrongdoing long before now. And yet Mahony has continued to be an honored prelate and prince of the church,” said Terence McKiernan, head of BishopAccountability.org, also a leading advocacy group on behalf of clergy abuse victims.
“The difference is that now the people have access to evidence of Mahony’s misdeeds,” McKiernan said. “Sadly, we see the church acting ethically in these matters only when its actions become known.”
Critics also noted that Mahony, who turns 77 later this month, is retired, and Curry, 70, is an assistant bishop with a much lower profile. And Bishop Robert W. Finn of Missouri, who was convicted last September of failing to report a priest suspected of abuse to authorities, has remained in office and unpunished by the church despite his unprecedented guilty plea.