The unprecedented move was made yesterday by his successor, Los Angeles archbishop Jose Gomez. This comes as the church was legally forced to release thousands of confidential files on pedophile priests and two weeks after other long-secret priest personnel records showed Mahoney worked with top aides to protect the church from the engulfing scandal.
Valley Catholics are struggling to cope with the news coming out of Southern California. The Diocese of Fresno has more than one million registered parishioners. A spokesperson says this is the 14th largest chapter in the country and many of those believers say they're horrified by the cover-up. "It saddens me. I have always believed the priests that molested children are criminals," said Tom Harley. Harley considered the scandal a disgrace to his faith, "I think it is really sad they tried to cover this thing up and give the church a bad name. And, that's not the church; the church is the people."
Friday morning victims spoke out at a news conference in Los Angeles. "I was abused from the age of 10-15. Today we stand here after a long battle and it's a battle that's not over," said Manuel Vega.
In a statement, Fresno's Bishop Armando Ochoa asked, "I ask the faithful to continue to commit themselves to prayer for the healing of all victim survivors and their families, along with all involved in this painful process."
A spokesperson for the diocese says the faith has taken a hit on the heels of the cover-up, "To have that trust broken, to have that promise broken has certainly taken the biggest impact on the church," said Teresa Dominguez.
Valley church leaders have a number of policies in place to prevent this kind of abuse. Every clergy member of volunteer who works closely with children must pass a background check and undergo special training. Part of that policy is two adults must be together at all times when they are alone with a child. The goal is to prevent those in charge from hurting anyone in the pews.
The Diocese of Fresno is urging anyone who believes they were a victim of abuse to come forward.