A letter from Archbishop Jose Gomez expressing his anguish about newly released sex-abuse files will be read during Mass on Sunday to Roman Catholics around the Los Angeles area, who will also hear pleas for donations to the region's poorest parishes.
At St. Bartholomew Church in Long Beach, Monsignor Bernard Leheny plans to interject his own request - that parishioners put aside their anger at clergy implicated in the ongoing scandal and focus instead on living the tenets of their faith.
"The hurt has been resurrected by the bad publicity and the mistakes that were made," Leheny said. "I worry that will hurt the poor parishes if people hold back (on donations).
"But the church has made tremendous progress in the protection of children.
"You see this around the church on any given Sunday."
Leheny's hope is that efforts by the church will allow its followers to someday get past the horrific details contained in the files on pedophile priests that were released last week.
The decades-old documents show that Cardinal Roger Mahony and his then-Vicar of Clergy Thomas Curry knowingly transferred priests accused of molestation from parish to parish and maneuvered to protect them from the police.
Minutes after the court-ordered release of some 12,000 pages of documents for 124 priests on Thursday, Gomez issued a statement describing the behavior detailed in the files as "terribly sad and evil."
"There is no excuse, no explaining away what happened to these children," Gomez said in his statement, which will be read at Sunday Masses. "The priests involved had the duty to be their spiritual fathers and they failed."
Gomez indicated that he's working on a long-term plan to rebuild trust in the nation's largest archdiocese, with details to be announced in the weeks ahead.
"We will continue to work, every day, to make sure that our children are safe and loved and cared for in our parishes, schools and in every ministry in the archdiocese," he said.
The first step in the process was a public rebuke of Mahony, whom Gomez stripped of his administrative and public duties - a move that sex-abuse victims decried as symbolic since the cardinal had no administrative duties and his public appearances were limited.
Gomez also allowed Curry to step down as bishop of the Santa Barbara region.
Mahony fired back Friday with a letter to Gomez, noting that he's apologized repeatedly for his failures. And while he claimed to be ill-equipped to handle complaints of sex abuse during his first years in Los Angeles, the archdiocese "was second to none in protecting children and youth" by the time Gomez succeeded him as archbishop in 2011.
The church now has a policy of reporting allegations of abuse to law enforcement and removing the priests from ministry.
Leaders of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, were skeptical of the church's efforts to protect its youngest members.
"We are reaching out to Catholics and members of the community who may have been witnesses to abuse, who may be a whistle-blower, who may have heard allegations, may have heard a confession, may have heard an admission," said Joelle Casteix, western regional director of SNAP. "We believe that is the only way we will get the true story of the scope and scale of abuse in the archdiocese."
SNAP also called on authorities to investigate and prosecute high-ranking church officials who participated in the cover-up of child molestations.
The District Attorney's Office has said it is reviewing the files.
The documents posted Thursday on the archdiocese website were part of a 2007 settlement with more than 500 sex-abuse victims, who shared in a record $660 million payout.
The details in the new files are similar to those revealed in 14 cases released the previous week.
Still, there are surprising details showing how Mahony and his top aides plotted to protect the church from scandal.
Mahony received a letter in 1991 from a man stating that he'd been molested as a child by Father Carl Sutphin when he was assigned to St. Rose of Lima Parish in Maywood.
Mahony sent Sutphin away for treatment, then reassigned him as a chaplain at a convalescent home.
A year later, however, Sutphin retired from the ministry when he was indicted for molestation - charges that were later dismissed because the statute of limitations had expired.
Sutphin was defrocked in 2005. According to a church report, he was accused of molesting 18 young boys.
"There are very few priests of this archdiocese who have had more allegations of such an egregious nature made against them," says a report summarizing the accusations against him.
During the early years of the sex-abuse scandal, church leaders typically took the word of priests over their accusers.
After admitting to church officials that he'd had a long-term sexual relationship with a teenage girl in the late 1980s, Father Joseph Pina was ordered to undergo therapy, including a six-month stint at Villa St. John Vianney Hospital in Pennsylvania, described in the files as the most regimented treatment facility in country for problem priests.
"I saw us as a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship," he told one therapist.
Pina told another psychologist that he'd been attracted to an eighth-grade girl when he saw her in a costume.
"She dressed as Snow White I had a crush on Snow White, so I started to open myself up to her," according to the file.
After his release, Pina was assigned to San Buenaventura Mission and told to have no one-on-one contact with females 14-30. By 1998, however, he'd been accused of taking young girls shopping and touching them inappropriately. He was admitted to the sexual-offenders unit at Del Amo Hospital in Torrance and resigned days later from St. Emydius Church in Lynwood.
Pina was invested by a Ventura County grand jury, but was never charged, according to the file. He was defrocked in 2006. Two years later, a follow-up memo says that Pina was working for the Los Angeles Unified School District.
A 2008 memo posted online by LAUSD identifies Pina as the community contact for an elementary school being built in Canoga Park.
Father Gerald Fessard was allowed to continue in the ministry although he'd pleaded no contest in 1987 to one count each of battery and child molestation after fondling five teenage boys at Our Lady Queen of Angels High School Seminary.
The plea deal got him a sentence of three years' probation. A note from Curry says that neither the police nor the City Attorney's Office wanted to publicize the case.
Fessard was told not to have contact with minors and to attend 12-step programs for alcohol and sex addiction. In 1994, however, he was accused of inappropriate contact with teenage girls and of being drunk at youth group meets at St. Luke Parish in Temple City.
In 2002, Fessard and Mahony agreed that the priest would resign from the priesthood. That process took five years while Fessard pressured the church for financial support.
Terry McKiernan, president of bishopaccountability.org, which has been tracking the sex-abuse scandal at diocese across the U.S., said the next few months will be critical in determining the future of the Los Angeles Archdiocese.
He noted that Mahony was a champion for Hispanic Catholics and an advocate for immigrants. At the same time, many of the sex-abuse victims were youngsters from immigrant families.
"The Latino population is a huge wild card," McKiernan said. "Will they forgive this kind of behavior? Having Gomez there makes a difference, but I wouldn't even dream of saying which way it's going to break."
McKiernan and others said that efforts by Mahony and other church leaders to block the release of the documents prolonged the pain felt by sex-abuse victims and everyday Catholics.
"This is a tragedy that is continuing to have a ripple effect longer than anyone ever expected," said the Rev. Thomas Reese, a Jesuit and senior fellow at Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University.
"This is a tragedy for the victims, and a tragedy for the people of Los Angeles."
Staff Writers Mariecar Mendoza, Bob Strauss and Christina Villacorte contributed to this report.