April 16, 2008 -- A list of America's five "worst" cardinals that a watchdogs group says have allegedly protected priests accused of sexual abuse was unveiled today while the pope meets with American cardinals in Washington.
"The secrecy, recklessness and deceit of these powerful cardinals have left thousands of children at risk for abuse," said Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) national director David Clohessy. Clohessy' group, made up of alleged victims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy, compiled the list of supposed "worst" cardinals.
Clohessy said the cardinals have openly protected predators by failing to remove priests who were accused of abuse or keeping allegations of abuse a secret. He said the cover-ups took place in recent years despite the 2002 charter promising transparency about abuse in the Catholic Church.
"These are among the most powerful and best-educated cardinals in the world, and they have behaved recklessly while the world was watching," said Clohessy.
As Pope Benedict meets with roughly 16 U.S. cardinals this afternoon, SNAP members are protesting in Washington several blocks from the pope-cardinal meeting.
Cardinals Roger Mahony of Los Angeles, Daniel DiNardo of Houston, Edward Egan of New York, Francis George of Chicago and Sean O'Malley of Boston are the worst cardinals whose "secrecy and deceit" have been most egregious, according to SNAP.
Mahony allegedly kept quiet when a diocesan employee was under investigation for child sex abuse and allowed an admitted child molesting cleric live in his diocese despite the cleric being wanted on charges in Canada, according to SNAP.
Los Angeles Archdiocese media relations director Tod Tamberg said Mahony "is clearly among the best bishops in the country at effectively dealing with abusive behavior and reaching out to victims. Tamberg said "SNAP's leadership does not speak for the majority of victims or Catholics in Los Angeles, who know and appreciate Cardinal Mahony's excellent leadership in helping the church and victims to recover from the abuse scandal."
Cardinal DiNardo suspended a priest accused of sexual abuse but kept his action and the sex abuse allegations against Fr. Stephen Horn secret for two months while he was named and promoted to cardinal, according to SNAP. When then-Bishop DiNardo served in Iowa, he similarly mishandled allegations of sex abuse against a priest, only disclosing them long afterwards, according to SNAP.
A spokeswoman for DiNardo said that once the allegations of sexual abuse came to the attention of Cardinal DiNardo, Fr. Horn was immediately removed from ministry and other contact with parishioners. "A professional inquiry followed, taking the amount of time the professionals involved deemed necessary to do their work properly. That time went from November 2007 to January 2008, a period which we, at the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, consider to be entirely appropriate," she said.
Cardinal Egan allowed a Catholic high school principal to stay on the job for five months after being accused by a priest of "serious misconduct," according to SNAP.
Cardinal George was slow to suspend a priest in his diocese who was questioned by police about abuse allegations in August 2005. The priest, Fr. Daniel McCormack, pleaded guilty to five charges of sexual abuse of children and was sentenced to five years in prison.
Cardinal O'Malley's diocese has been slow to completely implement one of the provisions in the U.S. bishops' child sex abuse prevention policy: training children how to avoid or stop being victimized, according to SNAP. SNAP said O'Malley moved very slowly against a Catholic hospital official who ultimately resigned in the face of multiple allegations of sexually harassing employees.
Egan, George and O'Malley could not immediately be reached for comment.