Renewed Call for Criminal Prosecutions in Church Abuse Scandal

NBC: Church abuse victims Tuesday made a renewed call for criminal prosecutions following the release of confidential files that show top Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles officials tried to cover up the allegations.

“We’ve always been called ‘alleged victims.’ I think today the word ‘alleged’ will be left out and I think today you guys you will truly see and understand that we were victims — truly victims of manipulative men who made cold, calculated decisions as how to protect themselves and save face in the community,” said Manuel Vega, who was abused from age 10 to 15.

The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) held a late-morning news conference at Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles. Victims spoke about the recently released documents and called for an end to legal maneuvers that they say have delayed the release of more documents.

“We demand justice and we deserve justice, on behalf of the children we all were when we so terribly hurt,” said Joelle Casteix, SNAP Western Regional Director.

“I brought the handcuffs today. It’s open,” said abuse victim Jim Robertson, referencing a demonstration a few years ago in which he handcuffed himself to the cardinal’s throne during mass.

“They’ll fit on him. We can put any of these people in jail if we want to, if the law works for the people instead of the oligarchs,” Robertson said.

The files are attached to a motion seeking punitive damages in a case involving Father Nicolas Aguilar Rivera, a Mexican priest sent to Los Angeles in 1987 after he was brutally beaten in his parish south of Mexico City. Parents in LA complained about Rivera, but he fled to Mexico, according to court documents.

Rivera remains a fugitive.

The documents indicate Cardinal Roger Mahoney’s vicar of clergy at the time, then Monsignor Thomas Curry, advised Rivera to leave two days before authorities were notified.

“Their acts were criminal, and the documents prove it,” Casteix said.

Cardinal Mahoney retired from Archdiocese leadership two years ago. Curry, now a Bishop, is in charge of the Santa Barbara area.

“It is time for him to be removed,” Casteix said. “It is time for him to be punished.”

Even if authorities were to conclude obstruction crimes were committed years ago, the statute of limitations could preclude prosecution, as it did a decade ago, when charges against 11 clergy members were thrown out. However, there may be other avenues.

“Anyone can be prosecuted for a crime like obstruction of justice if, for example, the government can successfully argue the obstruction of justice wasn’t discovered until recently,” said Loyola Law School professor Stan Goldman.

The personnel files were attached to the motion to illustrate a cover-up pattern, an attorney who represents the plaintiff told the Associated Press.

They provide a glimpse at about 30,000 pages that will be made public in a $660 million settlement. As part of the agreement, the archdiocese agreed in 2007 to release the files to more than 500 victims of clergy abuse. A lawyer for about 30 priests attempted to keep the records sealed, but a judge recently ordered their release.