According to Bishop Accountability, a website that has chronicled the Catholic Church’s sex abuse crisis from its early days in 2002, there are more than 500 California Catholic priests who’ve been accused of the sexual abuse of minors. Besides the California priests who’ve molested children, California has had its share of bishops and archbishops who’ve covered up for these priests by transferring them, concealing evidence of abuse, and denying the abuse altogether. Some of these California bishops are well known-Cardinal Roger Mahony, whose own successor tried to ban him from public ministry in Los Angeles in the wake of the publication of documents revealing Mahony’s nefarious role in the sex abuse crisis. Retired bishop Tod Brown presided over the Diocese of Orange from 1998 until his retirement in 2012. He was accused of not doing enough to protect those who’ve been abused by priests. He eventually settled with 90 courageous survivors in 2005. Brown portrayed himself in the media as a defender for those abused by California priests. According to the Orange County Register, “Brown proclaimed the diocese a “safe haven” free of pedophile priests as early as 2001, after another abuse-case settlement required a lengthy review of its personnel files. That review led to the removal of clerics who had worked for years despite admitting abuse. Yet the court cases and settlements have continued – most recently, a $2 million settlement in June to end a lawsuit that alleged sex abuse and cover-ups dating to the late 1980s.
Joelle Casteix, the volunteer western regional director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said Brown has been a “horrible disappointment” because of his lack of swift action against abusers. “He has continually turned back on his own promises to Orange County Catholics and survivors of clergy abuse,” she said.
The Catholic Church in California’s sad history of siding with priest abusers rather than their victims is precisely why all Californians need to support SB 131 which provides an opportunity for sexual abuse survivors to seek justice in the courts.