A Catholic Archbishop has described the efforts of the American church to thwart police investigations into clerical sex abuse as ‘terribly sad and evil’ – after he banned Cardinal Roger M. Mahony from public life.

The Los Angeles Times has revealed that new documents show that Cardinal Mahony has been removed from all public office by his successor Archbishop José H. Gomez.

Cardinal Mahony was leader of America’s largest Roman Catholic archdiocese when Archbishop Gomez took initial action two years ago as the church complied with a court order to release thousands of pages of internal documents that show how the cardinal shielded priests who sexually abused children.

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The report says that the documents, released as part of a record $660 million settlement in 2007 with the victims of abuse, are the ‘strongest evidence so far’ that top officials for years purposely tried to conceal abuse from law enforcement officials.

The newly released papers date from the 1940s to the present and offer new proof that the Catholic Church continued to maneuver against law enforcement even after the extent of the abuse crisis emerged.

The paper reports that Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Curry, the vicar for clergy and one of the cardinal’s top deputies and his adviser on sexual abuse, also stepped down as the regional bishop for Santa Barbara, Calif.

Church leaders had fought for years to keep the documents secret according to the LA Times and argued that the names of top church officials should be kept private.

Curry recommended in a series of letters in the 1980s how the American church could stop police from investigating priests who admitted that they had abused children.

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He suggested priests stop seeing therapists who would be required to alert law enforcement about the abuse.

Cardinal Mahony and Bishop Curry have publicly apologized in the past but claimed they were naïve at the time about the effectiveness of treatment for abusers and the impact on victims.

Archbishop Gomez, in a letter released on Thursday, has admitted that the files are ‘brutal and painful reading’.

He wrote: “The behavior described in these files is terribly sad and evil.

“There is no excuse, no explaining away what happened to these children. The priests involved had the duty to be their spiritual fathers, and they failed. We need to acknowledge that terrible failure today.”

The paper also reports that Cardinal Mahony and Bishop Curry are still able to celebrate Mass and other religious duties.

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Immigrant rights campaigner Cardinal Mahony can no longer speak publicly.

The report adds that Archbishop Gomez’s move to discipline his predecessor and to accept the resignation of Bishop Curry was unexpected and unusual.

The paper says that it has not been the custom of bishops to use disciplinary measures against one another or even to issue any public criticism.

Campaigners for abuse victims had mixed reactions on Thursday to the actions taken by Archbishop Gomez.

David Clohessy, national director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, told the LA Times: “Bishop Curry’s resignation is a small step in the right direction.

“But the sanctions against Cardinal Mahony amount to little more than hand-slapping and are a nearly meaningless gesture.”