On the front page of this morning's Los Angeles Times, the paper notes that several legal experts suspect Cardinal Roger Mahony will not face criminal charges for covering up clergy sex abuse due to the statute of limitations. One advocacy group says those experts have it wrong.
“We aren't police, prosecutors or even lawyers,” says David Clohessy, director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), in a press statement today. “But for 25 years, we've seen, in the words of Martin Luther King Jr., 'the long arc of history bend toward justice.' We've seen secular authorities become increasingly assertive and creative and successful in pursuing sophisticated criminals.”
Founded in 1988, SNAP is the world's oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims and has more than 12,000 members.
Clohessy adds, “Remember one simple fact and one simple adage: Al Capone was nailed on tax evasion [and] 'Where there's a will, there's a way.'”
Internal church records that were released this week showed that Mahony, who presided over the Archdiocese of Los Angeles between 1985 and 2011, and his top aides made an effort to cover up the actions of predator priests who sexually abused boys.
On Monday, Mahony released a statement saying how he had apologized to victims in the past and that he was “naive” about “the full and lasting impact these horrible acts would have on the lives of those who were abused by men who were supposed to be their spiritual guides.”
Mahony doesn't comment directly on the recent controversy, but says in the past he “would offer the victims my personal apology — and took full responsibility — for my own failure to protect fully the children and youth entrusted into my care. I apologized for all of us in the Church for the years when ignorance, bad decisions and moral failings resulted in the unintended consequences of more being done to protect the Church — and even the clergy perpetrators — than was done to protect our children.”
Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey is now reviewing the recently released church records to see if charges can be made.
Legal experts told the L.A. Times that they expect Lacey will have a tough go at it.
Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levenson says Mahony and others could be charged with perjury if they “lied under oath in a lawsuit or grand jury or lied to a federal investigator, and the documents show something to the contrary, [prosecutors] might be able to bring charges on perjury or false statement,” Levenson said.
But making that case, said Levenson, will be difficult.
SNAP's Clohessy says it's “factually and morally wrong to assume that criminal charges can't be brought against current and former top LA archdiocesan officials.”
He notes that other prosecutors have come up with various ways to go after predator priests, including one case in Massachusetts where a priest “was prosecuted under a law passed in the 1800s.”
“When wrongdoing is ignored,” says Cloheesy, “wrongdoing is repeated. We urge law enforcement and government officials to help us end this repetitive cycle now.”
Contact Patrick Range McDonald at firstname.lastname@example.org.