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Los Angeles -
A US Catholic cardinal stripped of his duties said Friday he had not known how to handle child sex abuse claims as he did not learn about it in school, drawing withering criticism from victims.
Retired Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony said he was not taught about such abuse, a day after he was relieved of all administrative and public duties for mishandling claims against dozens of priests, dating back to the 1980s.
On Thursday, the LA archdiocese also released files on over 100 clerics accused of sex abuse, as required under a 2007 lawsuit deal, after records were published last month showing Mahony discussing how to cover up alleged crimes.
“Nothing in my own background or education equipped me to deal with this grave problem,” Mahony wrote on his personal blog, in an open letter to LA Archbishop Jose Gomez, who succeeded Mahony in 2011.
“In two years (1962-1964) spent in graduate school earning a Masters degree in social work, no textbook and no lecture ever referred to the sexual abuse of children,” he said.
“While there was some information dealing with child neglect, sexual abuse was never discussed.”
But the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests immediately dismissed the post.
“Vindictive victims, greedy lawyers, salacious reporters, inept therapists, unfair laws - these are among the many targets of (Mahony's) favourite hobby, blaming others for (the) ongoing clergy sex crimes and cover up.
“Today, he's added another culprit: his allegedly poor education,” SNAP added.
“This may well be Mahony's wildest claim yet. Even grade school dropouts know that laws prohibit child sex crimes and that when we know about or suspect child sex crimes, we are supposed to call the police. Period.
“When Mahony was in school, there was probably no mention of gang rape or identity theft or child porn either. So because Mahony took no course in these crimes, it's OK if he enables and conceals them?”
The archdiocese reached a $660 million settlement with about 500 alleged victims in 2007. Under the deal, the archdiocese agreed to release the personnel files of clergy accused of abuse.
On Thursday, Archbishop Gomez announced the measures against Mahony, and that the cleric's former top adviser on sex-abuse issues, Thomas Curry, had stepped down as a regional bishop.
This week's exchanges came after records published by the Los Angeles Times on January 22 showed church leaders including Mahony discussing how to cover up priests' alleged crimes in California in the 1980s.
They included secret memos between Mahony and Curry about how to prevent police from probing three priests who had admitted to the church that they had abused young boys.
One priest, Monsignor Peter Garcia, admitted abusing children in mostly Spanish-speaking parishes for decades. He was sent to a New Mexico treatment centre, and Mahony ordered that he stay outside California.
“I believe that if Monsignor Garcia were to reappear here within the archdiocese, we might very well have some type of legal action filed in both the criminal and civil sectors,” Mahony wrote in July 1986.
In the letter to his successor, Mahony noted that he had repeatedly apologised for his mistakes, listed the measures he had taken to protect children - and appeared to point a finger at the current archbishop.
“Not once over these past years did you ever raise any question about our policies, practices or procedures in dealing with the problem of clergy sexual misconduct involving minors,” Mahony wrote.
“Unfortunately I cannot return now to the 1980s and reverse the actions and decisions made... But when I retired as the active archbishop, I handed over to you an archdiocese that was second to none in protecting children and youth.” - Sapa-AFP