How Long Does It Take a Man of God to Admit Child Rape is Wrong?

Today, the Los Angeles Times published a front-page story reporting that Archbishop Roger Mahony of Los Angeles sat on reports of felony-level sexual abuse of children by priests for almost 15 years before he took action, and that the Los Angeles Catholic diocese waited at least 14 years before reporting abuse to law enforcement.

The LA Times report was based on letters written by Mahony in 1986 and 1987 recently entered as evidence in a civil suit. More documents will be disclosed in the coming weeks.

Here at RD, I have argued that it was the feminist movement’s emphasis on bearing witness to sexual abuse that raised consciousness and created critical mass among Catholic laity towards breaking the abuse scandal open. 

And it sure doesn’t take a degree in gender studies to see how a hierarchical patriarchal institution will protect its own before it protects children.

Wrote one Los Angeles Times commentator: “If the Catholic Church had allowed women to become priests, would it even be having this ongoing sexual abuse problem? Maybe the Holy Spirit is trying to tell the Magisterium something, but I doubt most of these folks would be listening to her anyway.” 

Still.

Fifteen years’ gap between crime and compunction. 

Fifteen years.

Fifteen years. 

First-degree felonies. 

Rape.

Committed against the most vulnerable: undocumented, Spanish-speaking children.

As young as twelve.

While preaching from a sacred text that plainly states: “Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6).

Have mercy.

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Joanna Brooks is the author of The Book of Mormon Girl: A Memoir of an American Faith (Free Press / Simon & Schuster, 2012) and a senior correspondent for Religion Dispatches.