They make for startling reading, soul-jarring and shocking, an incontrovertible record of brutal and heartless rapes committed by 122 Roman Catholic priests who presented themselves to the world as the earthly agents of God. These files are a remarkable archive of criminal behaviour condoned by the Holy See, and are disturbing to read. Ray Boucher, the lead attorney for plaintiffs, said that what is revealed in the files is ‘chilling’, and ‘the irony in all of this’, he added, ‘is that in their vain attempts to protect the image of the church, they’ve tarnished it beyond repair’. Upon reading the unsealed documents, an anonymous Vatican official said that the Los Angeles Catholic priesthood ‘left a wake of devastation that is hard to comprehend’.

The sacked Cardinal

As a direct result of the release of the documents, and in a move unprecedented in the American Catholic Church, Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez announced that he had relieved his predecessor, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, of all public duties over his serious mishandling of clergy sex abuse of children over the previous decades. Archbishop Gomez also announced that Auxiliary Bishop Thomas J. Curry, who worked with Cardinal Mahony to conceal child sex abusers from police, had resigned his post as a regional bishop in Santa Barbara, California. In a letter addressed to ‘My brothers and sisters in Christ’, Archbishop Gomez wrote; ‘I find these files to be brutal and painful reading. The behavior described in these files is terribly sad and evil’. Such is the nature of the Catholic priesthood the world over.