Los Angeles archdiocese settles 4 sex abuse cases for $10M
LOS ANGELES – The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles will pay nearly $10 million to settle four cases alleging abuse by a now-defrocked priest who told Cardinal Roger Mahony nearly 30 years ago he had molested children, attorneys confirmed on Tuesday.
The cases involving ex-priest Michael Baker span 26 years from 1974 to 2000. Two were set for trial next month. A judge had said attorneys for the plaintiffs could pursue punitive damages at trial.
The cases were settled this week.
Two of the claims named Mahony and alleged he didn’t do enough to stop Baker from abusing children, said plaintiff’s attorney John Manly.
Mahony retired as Los Angeles archbishop in 2011 and was rebuked by his successor, Archbishop Jose Gomez, last month after confidential church files showed the cardinal worked behind the scenes to shield molesting priests and protect the church from scandal.
Mahony, who is in Rome helping select the next pope, was aware of the settlement, said J. Michael Hennigan, an archdiocese attorney.
“We have for a long, long time said that we made serious mistakes with Michael Baker and we had always taken the position in these cases that whatever Baker did we were responsible for,” he said. “That was never an issue.”
Baker could not be reached for comment.
Two of the plaintiffs, a pair of brothers, will get $4 million each, and the two others will get nearly $1 million each, Manly said.
Confidential files show that Baker met with Mahony in 1986 and confessed to molesting two boys over a nearly seven-year period.
Mahony removed Baker from ministry and sent him for psychological treatment, but the priest returned to ministry the following year with a doctor’s recommendation that he be defrocked immediately if he spent any time with minors.
Despite several documented instances of being alone with boys, the priest wasn’t removed from ministry until 2000 after serving in nine parishes.
Baker was convicted of child molestation in 2007 and paroled in 2011.
“The person who could have stopped this in its tracks and prevented three out of four of these children from being sexually assaulted is now sitting in Rome voting for the next vicar of Christ,” said Manly. “I find that terribly troubling.”
Mahony has apologized repeatedly for his handling of clergy abuse cases. The cardinal was sequestered for the papal conclave and could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
The archdiocese settled more than 500 clergy abuse lawsuits in 2007 for a record-breaking $660 million.
Baker was charged in 2002 with 34 counts of molestation involving six victims, but those charges were dismissed because they fell outside the criminal statute of limitations.
Cardinal Mahony Defends Record in Italian Paper
From the link: http://ktla.com/2013/03/06/cardinal-mahony-defends-his-record-in-italian-newspaper-article/#axzz2Ms54eR62
VATICAN CITY — Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles staunchly defended his record on dealing with sexual abuse in the church in an interview published by an Italian newspaper Tuesday.
Mahony, who has been criticized for moving predator priests from posting to posting, told Corriere della Sera that “after 20 years, people are talking about abuse as if we had not done anything. However, since 2002, we have had our program Protecting the Children, in which we illustrate procedures and the guidelines of our zero-tolerance policy that allows no possibility, for example, of anyone found guilty of abuse of minors working for the diocese.”
Mahony, who in recent months has refused requests for interviews with the Los Angeles Times, was publicly rebuked in February by current Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez in connection with his handling of sexual abuse cases.
The cardinal, who is in Rome ahead of the conclave to elect the successor to former Pope Benedict XVI, described to the Italian paper his approach to abuse in earlier years, saying: “I had not understood the real nature of the problem, that people who commit abuse — not only in the church — continue to commit their crimes. These things were not so well understood then as they are now.
“Anyone who looks at the psychiatric and psychological literature then will see that I applied the professional approach suggested for all institutions. We tried to follow the best practices of the period.”
Mahony said he subsequently set about building a network of safeguards against abuse, including the hiring in 1994 of a retired judge to head a Sexual Abuse Advisory Board for the Los Angeles archdiocese.
“My rather painful mistake was to not apply the work of that committee to previous cases. I was more focused on new cases. However, that was an error I completely rectified in 2002,” Mahony said.
Mahony said that after a meeting of bishops in Dallas that year, he hired ex-FBI agents to investigate abuse accusations, and instituted background checks on applicants to work with children in church institutions. Fingerprinting had been undertaken for a decade, he added.
He said he would be seeking to share his experience of tackling abuse with fellow cardinals attending the conclave.
–Los Angeles Times
Victims: Pope Benedict Protects Accused Pedophile Bishops
By BRIAN ROSS , RHONDA SCHWARTZ and ANNA SCHECTER April 15, 2008
From the link: http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/story?id=4656143
Even as he told reporters on his flight to America that he was “deeply ashamed” over the church sex abuse scandal, Pope Benedict was accused by victims of protecting some 19 bishops accused of sexually abusing children.
“As a Catholic, I have to sadly conclude that he is not serious about ridding the church of corrupt bishops,” said Anne Doyle, co-director of BishopAccountability.org, a group tracking public records involving the bishops.
According to the group, of the 19 bishops “credibly accused of abusing children,” none has lost his title, been publicly censured by the Vatican or referred for criminal prosecutions.
“The sexual corruption in the Catholic church starts at the very top,” said Doyle.
Pope Benedict told reporters on his flight this morning from Rome to Washington, D.C., he would do everything possible to avoid a repeat of the scandal. “We will absolutely exclude pedophiles from the sacred ministry,” he said, according to Reuters.
While the church has moved to expel accused priests, critics say the higher-ranking bishops have been given favored treatment. “The attitude of the bishops towards the victims and the families of sexual abuse and predatory clergy is drop dead,” said Michael Wegs, of Marion, Iowa, one of nine former high schools students who said they were abused at a seminary in Missouri by former Palm Beach, Fla. Bishop Anthony J. O’Connell.
When the allegations were made public, Bishop O’Connell admitted at least two cases of abuse and was allowed to resign. He now lives on the beautiful, sprawling grounds of the Trappists Mepkin Abbey in South Carolina.
“He deserves to be in jail,” said Wegs, his accuser. “I don’t think there is any justice because he is allowed to travel, go where he please. He’s still a bishop, and he’s living among priests in the hierarchical structure; he is a top dog despite the fact that he’s a sexual predator.” Wegs says O’Connell has failed to even apologize to his victims.
Bishop O’Connell did not return phone calls from ABCNews.com seeking comment, but church officials say he and other bishops have been punished appropriately. “You cannot put on clerical attire, and you cannot service in a public way in ministry,” said Austin, Texas Bishop Gregory Aymond, chair of the U.S. Bishop’s Committee on Protection of Children and Young People.
“That is a very, very significant consequence, and I would say a significant penalty,” said Bishop Aymond, who conceded the accused bishops maintain their title. “Priests and bishops remain priests and bishops forever, regardless of what happens to them or what they do,” said Bishop Aymond.
But victims groups and church critics say the pope can and should do much more to punish the bishops and finally resolve the scandal.
Before he became pope, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he was in charge of monitoring cases of pedophile priests and was directly involved in deciding what punishment, if any, would be administered to priests and bishops.
“Priests who abuse children can be removed from the priesthood, but they do not remove bishops, they do not remove cardinals,” said author Jason Berry who has been tracking the sex abuse scandal and produced a documentary film on the subject, “Vows of Silence,” which premiered in New Orleans last night. “The problem is the power structure. There is no accountability,” said Berry.
Berry says the pope’s decision to have the Los Angeles archbishop, Cardinal Roger Mahoney, accompany him on his trip proves the point. “Why would you want someone in your entourage” like Roger Mahoney, asked Berry.
“This man has overseen a great many cases in which priests were moved from parish to parish. His diocese has paid over $660 million in settlements. And yet this cardinal has refused to release the files on these priests who have abused children,” Berry said.
Cardinal Mahoney did not return calls from ABC News seeking comment.
Cardinal Roger Mahony: I Forgive Those Who Are Angry at Me for Covering Up Child Rape
February 17, 2013 By Hemant Mehta
Cardinal Roger Mahony, the man who appears to have shielded child-molesting priests for the sake of Catholicism, wrote about humiliation on his personal website.
But instead of talking about the things he’s done wrong, he flipped it around and threw it back on the victims of his purported crimes and those who rally behind them:
In the past several days, I have experienced many examples of being humiliated. In recent days, I have been confronted in various places by very unhappy people. I could understand the depth of their anger and outrage — at me, at the Church, at about injustices that swirl around us.
Thanks to God’s special grace, I simply stood there, asking God to bless and forgive them.
As if they’re the ones who need to be forgiven.
As if he’s the good guy for being so humble as to think of them.
As if he’s the one humiliated but not the victims of the scandal he helped cover up.
As if he had nothing to do with their frustrations and rage against the Catholic Church.
There’s a lot of talk lately about how out of touch the Catholic Church and its leaders are… but rarely are the examples so clear-cut.
Cardinal Mahony ‘unflappable’ in deposition on priest abuse cases
February 23, 2013 | 3:08 pm
A “relatively unflappable” Cardinal Roger Mahony answered questions under oath for more than 3 1/2 hours Saturday about his handling of clergy sex abuse cases, according to the lawyer who questioned the former archbishop.
“He remained calm and seemingly collected at all times,” said attorney Anthony De Marco, who represents a man suing the Los Angeles Archdiocese over abuse he claims he suffered at the hands of a priest who visited his parish in 1987.
Mahony has been deposed many times in the past, but Saturday’s session was the first time he had been asked about recently released internal church records that show he shielded abusers from law enforcement.
De Marco declined to detail the questions he asked or the answers the cardinal provided, citing a judge’s protective order.
The deposition occurred just before Mahony was to board a plane for Italy to vote in the conclave that will elect the next pope. In a Twitter post Friday, Mahony wrote that it was “just a few short hours before my departure for Rome.”
Church officials did not return requests for comment.
The case, set for trial in April, concerns a Mexican priest, Nicholas Aguilar Rivera. Authorities believe he molested at least 26 children during a nine-month stay in Los Angeles.
Recently released church files show Aguilar Rivera fled to Mexico after a top Mahony aide, Thomas Curry, warned him that parents were likely to go the police and that he was in “a good deal of danger.” Aguilar Rivera remains a fugitive in Mexico.
The archdiocese had agreed Mahony could be questioned for four hours about the Aguilar Rivera case and 25 other priests accused in the same period. De Marco said he did not get to ask everything he wanted and would seek additional time after the cardinal returned from the Vatican.
Past depositions of Mahony have eventually become public, and De Marco said he would follow court procedures to seek the release of a transcript of Saturday’s deposition.
Cardinals Dolan and Mahony quizzed on child abuse
21 February 2013 Last updated at 14:38 ET
From the link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-21539070
Two US cardinals due to go to Rome to help elect a new pope are being questioned about cases of child abuse by priests under their supervision.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan testified about his release of names of accused clergy members in his former archdiocese.
Cardinal Roger Mahony will be questioned on Saturday about a Mexican priest accused of abusing 26 children.
Pope Benedict XVI unexpectedly said last week he would retire, becoming the first pontiff to do so since 1415.
Cardinal Dolan, 62, also the Archbishop of New York and president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, has been seen as a long-shot candidate for the papacy.
His deposition came during a bankruptcy trial filed in 2011 by Cardinal Dolan’s successor to the archdiocese of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, over abuse claims from nearly 500 people.
The scandal has seen the removal of several church officials, including another former archbishop.
A spokesman for Cardinal Dolan said he was eager to co-operate with lawyers on the trial.
“He has indicated over the past two years that he was eager to co-operate in whatever way he could,” said spokesman Joseph Zwilling.
The plaintiffs have said the evidence given by Cardinal Dolan would help them to establish when church officials first became aware of the abuse allegations and victims.
Current Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki has said the church is seeking bankruptcy protection so it can continue to operate, while still compensating victims.
It is the eighth US diocese to take such action.
A spokesman said Cardinal Dolan’s decision to make public the names of suspected abusers was part of a wider effort to begin the healing process.
But the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests is asking for the cardinal’s testimony to be made public.
Cardinal Dolan “did a lot of creative maneuvering of priest sex offenders and creative accounting of church money,” said Peter Isley, a director of the group.
Calls to withdraw
Meanwhile, Cardinal Mahony is due to provide evidence in a separate case over visiting Mexican priest Reverend Nicolas Aguilar Rivera.
Police believe he abused 26 children in 1987 and fled to Mexico a year later when parents complained.
He has been removed from the priesthood and is still a fugitive.
In recent weeks, the archdiocese of Los Angeles has released thousands of documents concerning over 120 accused clergy members.
The papers showed Cardinal Mahony and other church officials protected some of those accused and made no effort to warn churchgoers about the risk to their children.
There are mounting calls for Cardinal Mahony to withdraw from the conclave. But in blog and Twitter posts the cardinal has indicated he intends to go to Rome.
Should Sex-Abuse-Scandal Cardinals Be Allowed to Vote for New Pope?
by Barbie Latza Nadeau Feb 21, 2013 1:25 PM EST
As the conclave for new pope nears, Catholics are calling for cardinals embroiled in sex-abuse scandals to abstain from voting.
Can he who has sinned cast a vote for the next pope? Apparently so. But a growing number of the Vatican’s cardinal electors are being questioned over their knowledge of past sex-abuse scandals, calling into question their ethical right to vote in the next conclave.
In less than a week, the majority of the 117-strong College of Cardinals is expected to descend upon Rome to prepare for the conclave in which they will elect a replacement for Pope Benedict XVI, who resigned February 11. But as the Vatican prepares for the pageantry of the occasion, survivors of the church’s sex scandals and everyday Catholics are raising concerns about whether it is appropriate for certain cardinals to be allowed to dictate the church’s future. “In our view, it’s very safe to assume that almost every one of the prelates who’ll pick the pope … have ignored, concealed, or enabled child sex crimes,” Zach Hiner, a spokesman for SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests), tells The Daily Beast.
While many cardinals have been stained by the extensive clergy sex scandals, Archbishop Emeritus of Los Angeles Roger M. Mahony has become a poster priest for the corrupt cardinals of this conclave. Mahony was effectively let go as head of America’s largest diocese in January by his Vatican-endorsed replacement, Archbishop José Gomez, when a California court released 120,000 pages of internal church documents sequestered during investigations of 120 predatory priests in the Los Angeles diocese. The documents show that Mahony was directly involved in moving known pedophiles between parishes in an attempt to conceal their crimes. “I find these files to be brutal and painful reading. The behavior described in these files is terribly sad and evil,” said Gomez in a statement when he fired his predecessor. More than $600,000 has been paid in lawsuits to victims in the Los Angeles diocese.
This Saturday Mahony will appear in a Los Angeles court to give a deposition in a criminal case involving a Mexican priest who is accused of raping 29 children over just nine months in 1987. The priest is on the lam in Mexico with multiple arrest warrants for child abuse against him, and he has been defrocked in absentia. But Mahony allegedly covered for the priest and obstructed justice when parents of the reported victims complained to the police. He is currently not facing charges, but he will be questioned under oath. Then, according to his Twitter feed, he plans to head to Rome—unless someone stops him. “Countdown to the papal conclave has begun,” he tweeted. “Your prayers needed that we elect the best Pope for today and tomorrow’s church.”
Since Benedict’s resignation, a not-so-subtle storm has been brewing outside Vatican City calling for Mahony to stay in California. Signs have been posted (and quickly removed) along the perimeter walls of Saint Peter’s Square warning that cardinals, like Mahony, who have been embroiled in the sex-abuse scandals are coming to town. Even the ultraconservative Italian magazine Famiglia Cristiana, which is distributed for free in many Catholic churches each Sunday, has been weighing in on the topic. The influential magazine conducted an online survey among its faithful readers about whether Mahony should be allowed to participate in the election of the next pope (the overwhelming response was no). They then ran a damning op-ed piece called “Cardinal in Court” in which they called on Catholics to voice their opinions about the case. The American-based group Catholics United has also launched an online petition to urge Mahony to stay home. Italian Cardinal Velasio De Paolis suggested in an interview with Italian newspaper La Repubblica that perhaps the right approach was if Mahony “could be advised not to take part only through a private intervention by someone with great authority”—which could mean the pope himself. Barbara Blaine of SNAP echoed that sentiment in a statement this week: “We hope that high ranking Vatican officials will instead preclude Mahony from attending the conclave and voting for the new Pope. His sordid record covering up child sex crimes should be considered a stain on the church and unworthy of a papal elector.”
Mahony’s may be the worst case, but he is certainly not the only cardinal elector stained by the church’s American sex-abuse scandals. On Wednesday the archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, spent three hours answering questions under oath about pedophile priests under his clerical management during his time as the head of the Milwaukee diocese in Wisconsin from 2002 to 2009. While there, he allegedly used church money to pay “a handful” of predatory priests more than $20,000 to leave the priesthood quietly, a claim he originally denied until bankruptcy documents seemed to indicate that the payments were made.
Dolan, who has not been charged with any crime, will also head to Rome next week to prepare for the conclave. His name has been circulated as a potential pope, though that was before his deposition was made public this week. He is certainly not a favorite among the church abuse victims’ groups. “Dolan has been particularly adept at evading responsibility for his wrongdoing in clergy sex cases, having moved twice since the scandal started gaining international attention more than a decade ago, and having worked, three times, in states with especially archaic child-abuse laws that favor defendants,” says David Clohessy, head of SNAP. “Civil justice can expose predators and their enablers, but only criminal justice can imprison and deter them. So while these depositions represent progress, it’s crucial to remember that the best way to prevent and discourage future crimes and cover-ups is for secular authorities to investigate, charge, and convict Catholic officials who hide and enable heinous crimes against kids.”
The question of just who will vote in the conclave could prove pivotal in whether the church will be seen as addressing its dark history of well-documented abuse. If Mahony is somehow dissuaded from attending, many believe that it would send a message that the church is taking a different stance on abuse going forward and that this College of Cardinals will elect a pope who has as clean a record on the issue as possible.
STATEMENT FROM CARDINAL ROGER M. MAHONY REGARDING SEXUAL ABUSE OF MINORS BY CLERGY
Cardinal Roger M. Mahony Archbishop Emeritus of Los Angeles January 21, 2013
With the upcoming release of priests’ personnel files in the Archdiocese’s long struggle with the sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy, my thoughts and prayers turn toward the victims of this sinful abuse.
Various steps toward safeguarding all children in the Church began here in 1987 and progressed year by year as we learned more about those who abused and the ineffectiveness of so-called “treatments” at the time. Nonetheless, even as we began to confront the problem, I remained naïve myself about the full and lasting impact these horrible acts would have on the lives of those who were abused by men who were supposed to be their spiritual guides. That fuller awareness came for me when I began visiting personally with victims. During 2006, 2007 and 2008, I held personal visits with some 90 such victims.
Those visits were heart-wrenching experiences for me as I listened to the victims describe how they had their childhood and innocence stolen from them by clergy and by the Church. At times we cried together, we prayed together, we spent quiet moments in remembrance of their dreadful experience; at times the victims vented their pent up anger and frustration against me and the Church.
Toward the end of our visits I would offer the victims my personal apology—and took full responsibility—for my own failure to protect fully the children and youth entrusted into my care. I apologized for all of us in the Church for the years when ignorance, bad decisions and moral failings resulted in the unintended consequences of more being done to protect the Church—and even the clergy perpetrators—than was done to protect our children.
I have a 3 x 5 card for every victim I met with on the altar of my small chapel. I pray for them every single day. As I thumb through those cards I often pause as I am reminded of each personal story and the anguish that accompanies that life story.
The cards contain the name of each victim since each one is precious in God’s eyes and deserving of my own prayer and sacrifices for them. But I also list in parenthesis the name of the clergy perpetrator lest I forget that real priests created this appalling harm in the lives of innocent young people.
It remains my daily and fervent prayer that God’s grace will flood the heart and soul of each victim, and that their life-journey continues forward with ever greater healing
I am sorry.
Why President Obama Must Read the Latest “LA Confidential”
Blog of Jerry Slevin, a lifelong Catholic believer and a retired Wall Street lawyer
If it wasn’t already clear to fair minded people, the judicially ordered release of the Los Angeles Archdiocesan secret, at times obscene, priest abuse files, after years of stonewalling by Cardinal Mahony, just makes clear once again how the U.S. Catholic hierarchy flouts laws and treats easily managed local criminal justice officials as complete morons. And the hierarchy so far has gotten away with it.
Recently, experts at the Vatican conference on priest abuse of children reportedly estimated that so far over 100,000 children in the USA alone have been sexually abused by priests. Yet to date not a single U.S. bishop has been held criminally responsible for the crimes the LA files confirm once again the Catholic hierarchy routinely facilitates. With declining numbers of domestic priests, and women and married men needlessly excluded from the potential priest pool, more sexual deviates will likely be ordained needlessly and more predators will likely be retained criminally. It’s just arithmetic, you know! Priests are paid little, but generate per capita considerable revenues for the well fed Catholic hierarchy.
The LA files, like the Boston, Philly, Milwaukee, and many other U.S. dioceses’ previously released secret files, make clear, this is no coincidence. Rather it appears clearly to be a worldwide personnel policy orchestrated from the Vatican that is clearly anti-children.
What is holding up President Obama? Why doesn’t he step up here? Please see my statement, “Why Does the Pope Play the USA as a Fool”, accessible at: http://wp.me/P2YEZ3-ey
Please also watch the upcoming award winning HBO documentary, “Mea Maxima Culpa”, beginning airing on Feb. 4. It recounts the obscene story of over 200 deaf boys allegedly sexually abused by a single Milwaukee priest, while local law enforcement and Catholic hierarchical officials failed to act over several decades. A Milwaukee Federal bankruptcy judge just reversed then Archbishop Timothy Dolan’s shameful earlier attempt apparently to deny Milwaukee abuse survivors financial relief by trying to transfer $55 million of diocesan funds to a cemetery trust beyond the legal reach of the abuse survivors.
Again, what are you waiting for, President Obama?