LOS ANGELES – The head of the nation’s largest Roman Catholic archdiocese will place full-page ads in three newspapers to reassure the public that he is doing all he can to prevent future abuse by priests.
Cardinal Roger Mahony has written an open letter that will appear Thursday in editions of the Los Angeles Times, the Daily News of Los Angeles and La Opinion.
“This is a trying time for all of us,” Mahony wrote. “An overwhelming sadness, along with a very real anger, accompanies the realization that people who serve the archdiocese have victimized all of us by betraying our trust.”
The cardinal’s newly hired public relations firm, Sitrick and Co., is behind the ad campaign, believing that the cardinal “had a good story to tell” readers, said Tod Tamberg, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
The archdiocese is trying to show that “we’re doing everything humanly possible to ensure that these situations do not occur again. Nothing from the past will be repeated again,” Tamberg said.
In the open letter, Mahony stresses many of the themes he has engaged in media interviews. Among them is a zero-tolerance policy, which requires the dismissal of priests who abuse children.
Mahony said he will urge bishops to adopt a national zero-tolerance policy next week at the U.S. Conference of Bishops in Dallas.
In the ad, Mahony vowed that three steps will be taken immediately when allegations are made about existing clergy sexually abusing a minor.
First, the proper authorities will be notified so an investigation can begin. Assistance will be offered to the person making the complaint and that person’s family, and the accused priest will immediately be removed from all active ministry.
“If the allegation is found to be true, I will never return that priest to any active ministry or pastoral office,” Mahony wrote.
He also notes in the ad that he is creating a clergy misconduct oversight board headed by a retired Superior Court judge. The cardinal is calling for fingerprinting and criminal background checks for all priesthood candidates in the archdiocese.
In addition, before ordination, candidates for the priesthood will go through an evaluation period of nearly a year, when they will live in a rectory and work with priests, staff members and parishioners.