LOS ANGELES —
In many other dioceses, however, alleged victims still don’t know everything the church knew about their abusers.
“The pope has an opportunity to bring about true justice, change, and transformation in a church torn from scandal and the rape of children,” said Billy Kirchen, who is one of 550 plaintiffs fighting to see files from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. “Real change has to come from the pope.”
Other abuse victims said they were disgusted that cardinals who covered up abuse helped elect the next pope.
Michael Duran, a 40-year-old special education teacher from Los Angeles, said Pope Francis’ elevation is tainted because of their presence. Duran and three others settled with the Los Angeles archdiocese earlier this week for nearly $10 million over childhood abuse by the Rev. Michael Baker.
Recently released confidential files show Baker met privately with Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony in 1986 and confessed to molesting children, but he was put back in the ministry for 14 years, where he abused again. Authorities believe Baker, who was convicted in 2007 and paroled in 2011, may have molested more than 20 children in his 26-year career.
If Pope Francis did take action against any U.S. cardinals, it would be a departure from the way his predecessors addressed the clergy abuse crisis.
In 2001, Pope John Paul II issued a decree saying all clergy abuse cases needed to be funneled through the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith — then headed by the future Pope Benedict XVI.
In 2002, in his strongest comments about the unfolding scandal, Pope John Paul II denounced U.S. bishops for the American clergy abuse crisis after summoning them to Rome for a special meeting. He said there was “no place in the priesthood ... for those who would harm the young.”
In 2003 and 2004, he approved changes to canon law to allow the Vatican to quickly defrock abusive priests without cumbersome internal trials.