Cardinal Roger M. Mahony is not exactly filling laypeople with faith in the credibility of the church. His efforts to block prosecutors' access to personnel files on priests accused of sexual abuse "did little to enhance the reputation of the church in the United States for transparency and cooperation," concluded a Catholic national review board. Mahony should display whatever moral leadership he has left, call off his lawyers and let the criminal justice system do its job.
A grand jury investigation of two priests came to a head last week with a ruling by Thomas F. Nuss, a retired Los Angeles County Superior Court judge appointed to referee the dispute, that the Los Angeles Archdiocese must turn over portions of the men's confidential personnel files. Mahony has blocked access for 27 months and is planning to appeal the ruling.
Mahony should look at how the Boston Archdiocese went from negligence to disclosure. Instead of endlessly prolonging the appeals process, it dropped its opposition to cooperating with state officials and turned over the names of every priest who had sexually abused a minor. It followed up by making public the personnel files of abusive priests and, after Cardinal Bernard Law's resignation, agreed to settle more than 500 lawsuits -- paying $85 million to 552 victims.