LOS ANGELES – Cardinal Roger Mahony chose his boyhood parish Sunday morning to read a pastoral letter apologizing for not acting sooner in the face of evidence of clergy sexual abuse.
“I ask for your forgiveness for not understanding earlier the extent of the problem and for not taking swifter action to remove from ministry anyone who had abused a minor in the past,” Mahony said, reading from a two-page letter that was being read to congregations at every parish in the archdiocese.
“I can assure you today that as far as is humanly possible to know, there is no priest serving in ministry in the archdiocese of Los Angeles who has abused a minor even one time,” he continued.
About 400 parishioners applauded after Mahony’s remarks and greeted the cardinal warmly as they left the church.
“It’s encouraging. I’m very pleased,” said Nida Ball of Sun Valley. “It strengthens the faith in us. We’re going to keep going.”
“I’m glad he came and I was impressed by what he said,” said Jeff Roger of North Hollywood.
During his homily, Mahony said scandals and controversy have rocked the Catholic Church in the past and have provided the opportunity for renewal and purification.
“As difficult as this has been for me and everyone else, it is also a time for renewal,” Mahony said, referring to the current sex abuse scandal. “It is a time for us to remember the sinfulness, not only of us as individuals, as priests and bishops, but also as church.”
Mahony, who leads the nation’s largest archdiocese with 287 parishes and approximately 5 million Catholics, returned from a summit of U.S. bishops in Dallas last week to announce reforms to the Los Angeles archdiocese misconduct review board.
The cardinal reviewed the steps the Los Angeles archdiocese has taken, including strengthening the role of the laity in supervising the conduct of priests.
“It is my role to be able to assure you that our church is safe for everyone, but most especially, the most vulnerable of all, our young people, our children.”
Los Angeles police and sheriff’s officials are reviewing sexual abuse allegations against about 60 priests. Many of the cases involve allegations from years or decades ago and some of the priests named may have died, according to authorities.