In the first Sunday mass after reams of personnel files of more than a hundred tainted priests were released last week, an open letter from Archbishop Jose Gomez was read at Catholic churches around Los Angeles.
In the letter — made public last week — Gomez describes the thousands of pages of newly-released files on clergy sex abuse as "terribly sad and evil". He said the church needs to acknowledge the "terrible failure" of its handling of abuse cases.
After the letter was read out loud at St. Agatha’s Catholic Church in Mid-City, Father Bill Axe told his congregation the news could not be ignored.
“I don’t know if this will be the end of the revelations,” he said. “I fear that no one knows the depth of what will come and certainly no one can at this point.”
Axe said apologies after more apologies would seem empty. Still, to say I’m sorry is in order. He told his congregation that at least the documents vindicate those who had come forward with allegations, only to be doubted.
“Your stories will be told and people will see,” he said.
He called the scandal an open wound that “for over a decade has been left open and bleeding.” Axe called for a start to healing.
St. Agatha parishioner Keisha McCaa said she was ready to take that step. She said she feels bad for the victims but hopes the spotlight will finally move off of the Catholic Church to allow believers some peace.
“The Catholic Church is always attacked for our traditions and our beliefs and what we have done,” she said, “but this goes on all the time in a lot of other churches and places.”
McCaa said she appreciated that higher church officials took steps to address the news openly this weekend and that her church priest provided some thoughts. And she said she feels the authorities will handle the cases as they should.
“We always hear, ‘don’t take things into our own hands, God will bring forth to light.’ Those individuals will be punished,” she said.
The L.A. Times spoke with parishioners who heard the letter in North Hollywood at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church — home of retired Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, who was stripped Thursday of administrative duties for failing to take action against sexually abusive priests.
At least one church goer praised the archbishop for addressing the issue, but remarked he would probably stop attending services because of the scandal.
Monsignor Robert J. Gallagher of St. Charles Borromeo called this "one of the darkest periods in his 40 years with the church," notes The Times.
“The real victims are those who were robbed of their childhood, whether by a priest or some other trusted adult. They are the ones who deserve our prayers, our apologies, and any other gesture that will invite them to be restored to the conviction of God’s love for them."
In Long Beach, where the letter was read at St. Bartholomew Church, Monsignor Bernard Leheny requested that parishioners "put aside their anger at clergy implicated in the ongoing scandal and focus instead on living the tenets of their faith," reports the Daily News.
"The hurt has been resurrected by the bad publicity and the mistakes that were made," Leheny said. "I worry that will hurt the poor parishes if people hold back (on donations).
This story has been updated.