If there was one city where the Catholic church hierarchy could try harder to do better on sexual abuse issues and church corruption, that place might be Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Archdiocese could reasonably make efforts above and beyond the norm, given that:
1. it’s the second-largest city in the US.
2. it’s the second-largest media market in the US.
3. it’s the largest archdiocese in the nation (with 4.1 million Catholics, LA has almost 1.5 million more Catholics than the second largest, New York City, which claims 2.5 million.)
5. it’s an archdiocese led for years by the now-disgraced Cardinal Roger Mahony, whose successor once barred him from public ministry in all of the parishes he once led.
6. it’s an archdiocese that was forced to pay the largest abuse settlement in Catholic church history ($660 million to 508 survivors in 2007.)
7. it’s next door to a diocese that was forced to pay what “is believed to be the largest publicly disclosed payment the church has ever made to an individual victim of sexual abuse.”
8. it’s in a state where survivors can seek justice in court for two years (ending this December) until they turn 55 and can sue both individuals and institutions.
9. it’s in a state which has essentially eliminated the CRIMINAL statute of limitations.
Los Angeles Church Corruption is STILL Happening
So the Catholic hierarchy has many incentives to work overtime to prevent and root out child sex crimes and cover-ups in the Los Angeles area. But alas, that’s not happening. Consider the recent case of a small religious order called the Canons Regular of the Immaculate Conception, which operates in Ventura County (part of the LA archdiocese).
The first two sentences of an expose in a Catholic publication give the gist of the story:
“Six novices were dismissed last June from the California novitiate of a small religious order, just weeks after they reported that their novice master touched several of them inappropriately without their consent and engaged in manipulation and other conduct which caused them “serious harm.”
Their dismissal came after an internal investigation cleared the novice master of wrongdoing. But investigators did not interview any of the novices before rejecting their claims.
You read that right. Six young men claimed sexual misconduct by their supervisor, and their abuser was ‘cleared’ by church officials even though none were interviewed. The men were then kicked out of the Catholic institution they’d pledged themselves to.
FYI: A ‘novice’ is someone who has been accepted into a religious order for a period of probation before taking vows. Novices are usually very devout and feel a ‘calling’ to serve God and his church. So they are particularly vulnerable because to be fully accepted into an order, they must obey their superiors.
They were abused. Then, they were betrayed. Then they were ostracized.
Does it get any worse than this? Tragically, yes, in two key ways. First, All of the supervisor’s alleged wrongdoing, and there’s plenty of it, (drunkenness, driving while drunk, explosive bursts of anger) happened in or since 2020. Needless to say, that’s almost two decades after the entire US Catholic hierarchy began claiming “We’ve reformed” when it comes to abuse.
Second, at least two levels of church supervisors have apparently ignored or shunned these six brave victims and backed their abuser: the religious order itself and the LA archdiocese, headed by Archbishop Jose Gomez. Gomez, by the way, is the president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. When his term ends in November, he will have spent three years as the elected and undisputed leader of all Catholic prelates in the nation. It’s worth noting that, according to The Pillar (which broke this story), the novices “were attracted to (the order’s) reverent liturgy and orthodox theology.” In other words, these young men were ardent believers. They clearly believe in the church, its teachings, its authority, and the whole package.
Let’s be clear: sexual abuse or manipulation or betrayal is horrific, regardless of whether the victim is a member of the American Atheists or the most faithful member of the flock. Still, we at Horowitz Law can’t help but feel especially sorry for abuse survivors who are especially trusting of Catholic clergy, especially those in leadership roles, and dedicate their lives to “serving God’s people.”
At this point, a skeptic might claim “Wait, you’re basing your critique largely on one news source, and a source few people are familiar with. What if The Pillar is biased?”
Two quick rebuttals.
First, this expose appeared almost a week ago on The Pillar website. As best we can tell, not a single church official – either with the archdiocese or the religious order – has made even a tepid statement denying these charges.
Second, The Pillar is a relatively new – and conservative – Catholic publication headed by two journalists who formerly worked for the Catholic News Agency. So if it has a bias, it’s not a secular or anti-church bias. It’s considered to be ‘orthodox,’ which is “in full communion with the church.”
We at Horowitz Law applaud these courageous young men. We deplore how callously and hurtfully they are being treated. But we are grateful that a light is being shone on this horror. And it’s taking place in one of our nation’s most survivor-friendly states, so there is at least a chance that their abuser and his accomplices may be brought to justice. We hope Los Angeles church corruption ends.