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Sex scandals, lies mar US churches

xinhua | Updated: 2013-02-03 11:51

LOS ANGELES - Anyone who rapes teenage boys and girls is a crime, but when priests had sex with teenagers, archbishops tried to cover them up to avoid punishment. That has happened in churches in Los Angeles and other US cities.

In 2007, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles paid at least $660 million to settle sex abuse charges, and then joined a torturous legal defense of a privilege to conceal its part in that history.

Last week, in response to a court order, the archdiocese released internal records documenting the actions church officials took, or failed to take, when priests were accused of abuse.

Those documents revealed that in the 1980s, then-Archbishop Roger Mahony and his top aide, Thomas Curry, who is now a bishop, maneuvered to shield priests from prosecution, kept parishioners in the dark and failed to call police about sex crimes against minors.

A separate release of internal files showed that the cardinal and other archdiocesan officials protected 14 priests from prosecution, hiding at least one they knew had raped an 11-year-old boy and abused as many as 17 others.

According to the documents provided to the court, in one instance, Mahony agreed to send a molester priest to his native Spain for a minimum of seven years, paying him $400 a month and offering health insurance. In return, the cardinal would agree to write the Vatican and ask them to cancel his excommunication, leaving the door open for him to return as a priest someday.

In another case, Mahony resisted turning over a list of altar boys to police who were investigating claims against a visiting Mexican priest who was later found to have molested 26 boys during a 10-month stint in Los Angeles.

"We cannot give such a list for no cause whatsoever," he wrote in a January 1988 memo.

Worse still, it is not a problem alone in Los Angeles, it is nationwide, where church leaders moved problem priests between parishes and did not call police.

Studies commissioned by the US bishops found more than 4,000 US priests have faced sexual abuse allegations since the early 1950s, in cases involving more than 10,000 children, most of them boys.

It is reported that in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the former pastor of St. Augustine Cathedral, Monsignor Kevin Wallin, 61, was arrested recently for possession with intent to distribute and distribution of methamphetamines.

The indictment claims that Wallin made up to 9,000 dollars a week peddling the highly addictive stimulant.

Wallin resigned as pastor in the summer of 2011 and was relieved of his priestly duties by William Lori, then bishop of Bridgeport.

Church officials say they learned Wallin sometimes dressed in women's clothing entertained other men similarly dressed, and the rectory was the setting for sexual activity among them.

Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City, Missouri, was convicted last year of one count of failing to report suspected child abuse to civil authorities that pornographic photographs of children taken by one of his priests had been found on the priest's computer.

According to the church law established by the US bishops, he should be removed from his position. But he remains a bishop in good standing, even though under court-ordered restrictions and supervision in two jurisdictions imposed as part of bargains designed to keep him out of jail.

The National Catholic Reporter issued an editorial entitled "The Real Scandal of Our Church" which says: "It would be difficult to develop a script more revelatory of the confounding priorities of the Vatican than that contained in the news of recent days."

"Real scandal -- covering up the rape of children, compromising the church's reputation with bizarre behavior and sexual shenanigans by its priests -- is met with either silence from on high or unpersuasive explanations," the editorial says.

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