by Rene Villaroman/Asianjournal.com
LOS ANGELES — Cardinal Roger Mahony, head of the largest Catholic archdiocese in the nation, revealed that he was assaulted by a man enraged by the Church’s sexual-abuse scandal, a few days after it announced a multi-million settlement deal with hundreds of victims.
Mahony made the announcement before hundreds of priests during an annual conference held in October, according to the Daily News.
The story about the assault surfaced even as the Catholic Church had begun the process of paying sex-abuse victims amounting to $660 million. As of Monday, $500 million have already been mailed. Coupled with an earlier $114 million settlement payments to 86 victims, the payments represent the largest ever made by any Catholic archdiocese in the country.
The assault reportedly happened in July, after the Los Angeles Superior Court had ordered the settlement with 508 alleged victims. Four priests who attended the conference said the attack happened near Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral in Downtown LA.
According to Rev. Sal Pilato, principal at Junipero Serra Catholic High School in Gardena, it took Mahony about a month to heal. He added that the Cardinal was attacked while dropping off letters at a mailbox.
“Somebody recognized him and attacked him,” Pilato said Mahony told the gathering. “It was shocking because it was an act of violence and it was someone we know and respect.”
Mahony declined to comment on the news reports.
According to the other priests who did not want to be identified, Mahony told them that after his attacker recognized him, the man began shouting expletives and knocked him to the ground. “Whatever conversation might have taken place between the priests and their bishop was a private conversation and not meant to be made public,” said Carolina Guevara, a Los Angeles Archdiocese spokeswoman.
Before the court-ordered $660 million settlement, Mahony came under attack from victims and their lawyers who alleged that he moved sexually abusive priests to different parishes and blocked efforts in court to keep records of abuse and suspect priests secret.
But officials of the Los Angeles Archdiocese claimed that Mahony had made an effort to reach out to victims. He even met with them and their families in person and offered free counseling.
“I think that incidents like this are pretty rare because most abuse victims turn their pain inward and engage in self-destructive behavior. If this happened, we feel sorry for Mahony as we do anyone who’s been assaulted in any way,” said Barbara Blaine. She is National President of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).
It was unclear whether the attacker was a victim himself.
Priests in the conference described Mahony’s confession as both deeply moving and disturbing because of the violence. The Cardinal told the priests they all had a price to pay for the sexual abuses done by their brethren, saying the story of his assault was an example of the personal toll he has endured.
“The main message was that his wounds healed within a month, bruises and all, but the victims of child abuse are still suffering after many years; that their wounds are far deeper than what he experienced,” Pilato said.
Another unidentified priest said he thought Mahony and others had mismanaged the scandal by not removing priests who were sexually abusing children sooner and failing to settle cases quicker. That lack of action, said the priest, damaged the Church’s reputation and cost millions of dollars.
However, the priest was impressed by the fact that Mahony chose to not report the attack to authorities. LAPD officials said that they were unaware of any such incident. Fr. Joseph Shea, Pastor of the Holy Family Catholic Church in Glendale, and who attended the conference, said, “Like Jesus, we must offer our lives and even suffer for Christ, even for things we didn’t do.”
Some of the priests in attendance were shocked and thought that the Cardinal should have reported the assault to the police, adding that something like that could happen to the leader of more than four million Catholics in the Archdiocese.