In what activists describe as unprecedented, the Catholic archbishop in Los Angeles has relieved a retired cardinal of his public and administrative duties for his mishandling of "painful and brutal" allegations of sexual abuse by priests.
Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of the Los Angeles Archdiocese disciplined his predecessor, the now retired Cardinal Roger Mahony, after a California judge forced the archdiocese to release about 12,000 pages of church documents revealing how it handled allegations of abuse.
There were 192 priests and bishops named in litigation, the archdiocese said.
"The cases span decades," Gomez said in a statement Thursday. Some go back to the 1930s. The documents were released on the archdiocese's website.
"But that does not make them less serious. I find these files to be brutal and painful reading," he said.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office is reviewing the newly released set of documents, spokeswoman Jane Robison said Friday. No member of the Los Angeles church hierarchy has been charged with any wrongdoing, she said.
Also on Friday, Mahony posted on his personal blog a response he sent to Gomez. The letter provides "the history and context of what we have been through since the mid-1980s," Mahony said.
When Gomez began to take over the archdiocese in May 2010, "you began to become aware of all that had been done here over the years for the protection of children and youth," Mahony wrote to Gomez. The archdiocese became "second to none" in such protection, he wrote.
"Not once over these past years did you ever raise any questions about our policies, practices, or procedures in dealing with the problem of clergy sexual misconduct involving minors," Mahony wrote.
"I have stated time and time again that I made mistakes, especially in the mid-1980s. I apologized for those mistakes, and committed myself to make certain that the Archdiocese was safe for everyone," he wrote.
Gomez cited Mahony for serious shortcomings after victims came forward during his tenure.
"Effective immediately, I have informed Cardinal Mahony that he will no longer have any administrative or public duties," Gomez said in a statement.
David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), described Gomez's decision as unprecedented, but it amounts to a mere slap on the wrist long after the fact.
"I can't think of any instance in which a current Catholic prelate -- and that would include bishops and cardinals -- restricted or, in this case, promised to restrict their predecessor," said Clohessy, who has spent 24 years monitoring sex abuse allegations against priests.
Clohessy said that between the ages of about 11 and 16 he was sexually abused by a priest in Missouri.
"But to say to a retired employee that we're going to give you fewer roles, it's a symbolic gesture and a pretty hollow one at that," Clohessy said.
"A meaningless gesture. He should have been demoted or disciplined by the church hierarchy, in Rome and in the U.S.," he said.
But Mahony was not as much as denounced when he was in power, Clohessy said.
Mahony "expressed his sorrow" for the alleged abuse, which victims reported during his tenure as archbishop from 1984 to 2011, the archdiocese said Friday.
But Clohessy feels that he and other church officials knew too much and did too little, and that there have not been enough consequences to deter future abuse or cover-ups.
"If you successfully conceal your wrongdoing, you can keep your job," Clohessy said.
Mahony hasn't had administrative duties since his retirement in March 2011, archdiocese spokesman Tod M. Tamberg said.
Mahony, who will turn 77 later this month, can continue to celebrate the sacraments with no restrictions and can vote in conclave in a papal election until age 80, Tamberg said.
"He is reducing his public profile, which included numerous invitations in California and around the country to give guest lectures on immigration reform, on the church in the 21st century, etc.," Tamberg said in an e-mail to CNN. "He remains a priest in good standing, and a cardinal of the church."
At the same time, Auxiliary Bishop Thomas J. Curry, who's the regional bishop of Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties in California, has resigned and "has also publicly apologized for his decisions while serving as Vicar for Clergy" in relation to the sex abuse cases, Gomez said.