More priest abuse files must be released by September, judge says
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
LOS ANGELES (KABC) — Catholic Church officials have until September to release secret files on priests accused of molesting children in the Los Angeles archdiocese.
Superior Court Judge Emilie Elias made the ruling Tuesday and attorneys say the first files could be made public within the next few weeks.
After a five-year legal battle to keep the documents sealed, the archdiocese released files on 120 priests earlier this year, but many clergy members who worked within the archdiocese weren’t included if they belonged to separate religious orders.
Religious order priests often were assigned to work in Los Angeles parishes but belonged to separate organizations, each of which had its own chain of command and specific mission.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
After rebuke by archbishop, Cardinal Mahony takes higher profile
Stripped of public duties by Archbishop Jose Gomez over mishandling of clergy sex abuse cases, Mahony has begun what some call a rehabilitation tour.
Editorial: Sex abuse accountability should be universal law
Apr. 25, 2013|
In late February, Maltese Auxiliary Bishop Charles Scicluna told Italian journalists, “From now on, no one” — and when he said “no one” he meant the 117 cardinals coming to Rome for the conclave that would elect Pope Francis — “will be able to say they know nothing about what goes on regarding clerical sex abuse.” Efforts begun by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and continued by Pope Benedict XVI are “now a fundamental part of the church’s response to sex abuse,” Scicluna said. “It will be part of the leadership program of whoever is elected in the Sistine Chapel.”
Scicluna, of course, is more than an auxiliary bishop from Malta. He was the prosecutor handling sex abuse cases for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for 10 years until he was made a bishop last year. He, under the leadership of Ratzinger as the doctrinal congregation’s prefect, deserves credit for breaking the ecclesial logjam and beginning to move effectively against clergy who had abused children.
As we sort through Benedict’s pontificate and his more than three-decades-long legacy at the top of the church hierarchy, it would be wrong to too easily dismiss what Benedict did to protect children from clergy sex abusers. This does not mean his record is blemish-free or that we agree entirely with the processes used by bishops and the Curia to handle cases of abuse brought against clergy. But there can be no doubt that the church and her children would be in a far worse position if Benedict had not taken control of these cases in 2002.
Chicago Cardinal Francis George acknowledged this in interviews he did before the conclave. “Whoever is elected pope … he obviously has to accept the universal law of the church now, which is zero tolerance for anyone who’s ever abused a minor child.”
This seems to be a milestone for the church on this issue and a time for people who have long fought for it to be addressed to declare at least a small victory.
Scicluna concluded his interview saying that the “sore spots” in the church today are violations of the sixth and seventh commandments: sins against purity and theft. “We need to go back to the Gospel,” he said. “Whoever is elected pope will have to continue Ratzinger’s ‘purification’ work.”
Which brings us to Francis and what could be the next phase in the Catholic church’s struggle with this issue. Within days of the new pope’s election, his record of handling clergy sex abuse as archbishop of Buenos Aires was called into question. Our senior correspondent, John Allen, looked into these allegations during his recent trip to Argentina. Allen’s reporting indicates that apparently Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio handled cases of clergy sex abuse as any reasonable, cautious church leader of his generation would. We would suspect that he went through a learning process while acting within the constraints of civil and canon law.
To understand what his next steps as pope should be, it is helpful to know the circumstances under which Scicluna was being interviewed. The former prosecutor was being asked whether U.S. Cardinal Roger Mahony should attend and vote in the conclave. Just weeks before, the Los Angeles archdiocese had finally complied with a court order to release tens of thousands of documents that clearly showed Mahony and his lieutenants shuffling abuser priests from parish to parish, hiding their whereabouts from law enforcement and discussing legal strategies to keep abusers and the archdiocese safe from prosecution. The release of those documents was enough to cause the current archbishop of Los Angeles, José Gomez, to restrict Mahony from official archdiocesan duties. Mahony fought back with his personal blog, his Twitter account and his media savvy. He used his red hat to pull rank and forced Gomez to backpedal. Gomez declared that Mahony was still a priest and bishop in good standing. After hundreds of lives had been damaged and millions of dollars spent on futile legal delaying tactics, Mahony blithely boarded a plane for Rome, claiming a right to elect the new pope. Where is the justice in that?
Scicluna said the question of whether Mahony should join the conclave or not was a matter for the cardinal himself, a challenge for him to follow his conscience.
Mahony is Exhibit A for what Francis must do in the next phase of this crisis. It is no longer about frontline defense to protect children and remove offenders. The next phase of the crisis is all about accountability, the accountability of church leaders, bishops and chancery personnel who obstruct investigations or cover up crimes.
To date, the sex abuse crisis has been massively disruptive of the lives of priests and laypeople, but it has not made a huge difference in the lives of bishops because they have yet to be called to account. The Dallas Charter that can remove a priest or deacon from active ministry with one accusation of abuse is voluntary for bishops. Bishops in Lincoln, Neb., and Baker, Ore., have proven that, as have the leaders of seven Eastern rite eparchies in the United States who have never submitted to the charter. The bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., found guilty in two civil jurisdictions for failure to report suspected child abuse, remains in office.
Zero tolerance for clergy child abusers is now the universal law of the church. Francis’ task is to lay down laws that will hold bishops liable for their actions and inactions, too. Bishops’ accountability to the people they serve must also become the universal law of the church.
L.A. Archdiocese to pay $10 million to 4 alleged abuse victims
By Harriet Ryan and Victoria Kim, Los Angeles Times March 12, 2013, 7:06 p.m.
The agreement settles four suits against the archdiocese concerning Michael Baker, who authorities believe molested 23 boys over three decades as a parish priest.
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has agreed to pay nearly $10 million to four men who say they were molested by one of the region’s most notorious pedophile priests.
The agreement brings to an end four lawsuits against the archdiocese involving Michael Baker, a charismatic parish priest accused of molesting at least 23 boys over three decades.
The church has settled numerous cases brought by Baker’s alleged victims in the past, but the $9.9-million settlement announced Tuesday is the first settlement since the January release of 12,000 pages of internal archdiocese records about abuse. Many of those documents detailed Cardinal Roger Mahony’s dealings with Baker.
The priest admitted his abuse of two boys to the then-archbishop during a 1986 retreat. Mahony sent Baker to a New Mexico treatment center but later returned him to the ministry, and Baker molested again. In 2007, he was convicted of abusing two boys and sent to prison.
Two of the civil cases settled were set for trial next month. Vince Finaldi, a lawyer for the alleged victims, said he believed the file release “played heavily” into the archdiocese’s decision to settle the cases.
“Once we got the files, it confirmed everything we had argued for years and years,” Finaldi said. “Cardinal Mahony’s fingerprints were all over the case.”
A lawyer for the archdiocese said the church was committed to compensating people hurt by Baker, and the negotiations were “just a matter of reaching a reasonable number.”
“We’ve taken responsibility for Michael Baker, whatever he did and for whomever he did it to,” said attorney J. Michael Hennigan.
A lawyer for Baker, who was defrocked in 2000, did not respond to messages seeking comment. Baker was released from prison in 2011 and lives in Costa Mesa. Baker is not required to pay anything under the terms of the settlement, Finaldi said.
The men who settled the suits range in age from 24 to 54. Two are brothers of a third man whom Baker was convicted of molesting. That third brother previously received a $2-million settlement. Under a distribution agreement determined by a judge, his brothers will receive $4 million each for abuse that they said they suffered in the mid-1990s.
A man who alleged that Baker abused him in 1974 and another who said the priest victimized him in the mid-1980s each received nearly $1 million.
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 Timothy Dolan Deposed About Abuse Cases Against Catholic Church When Archbishop Of Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Cardinal Timothy Dolan Deposed About Abuse Cases Against Catholic Church When Archbishop Of Milwaukee, Wisconsin
By RACHEL ZOLL 02/20/13 08:35 PM ET EST
NEW YORK — Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, was deposed Wednesday about abuse cases against Roman Catholic clergy in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, which he led from 2002 until 2009.
Frank LoCoco, an attorney for the Milwaukee Archdiocese, and Jeff Anderson, a plaintiffs’ attorney, confirmed the cardinal was deposed.
The Milwaukee Archdiocese faces allegations from nearly 500 people. Archbishop Jerome Listecki, the current Milwaukee church leader, sought bankruptcy protection in 2011, saying the process was needed to compensate victims fairly while ensuring the archdiocese could still function. Milwaukee is the eighth diocese in the U.S. to seek bankruptcy protection since the abuse scandal erupted in 2002 in Boston.
Dolan is one of two U.S. cardinals to be deposed this week. Cardinal Roger Mahony, the retired archbishop of Los Angeles, is scheduled to be questioned Saturday in a lawsuit over a visiting Mexican priest who police believe molested 26 children in 1987. The Rev. Nicolas Aguilar Rivera fled to Mexico in 1988 after parents complained. He has been ousted from the priesthood but remains a fugitive.
Both Dolan and Mahony will soon be in Rome to participate in the conclave that will elect a successor to Pope Benedict XVI, who is resigning.
Pressure has been building in Italy for Mahony to bow out of the conclave; however, Mahony has indicated in postings on his blog and Twitter accounts that he will participate in the papal election.
The Los Angeles Archdiocese this month released thousands of pages under court order from the confidential personnel files of more than 120 accused clergy. The files show that Mahony and other top archdiocese officials maneuvered behind the scenes to shield accused priests and protect the church from a growing scandal while keeping parishioners in the dark.
LoCoco said in a phone interview with The Associated Press that Dolan was asked about his decision to publicize the names of priests who molested children.
“The names were published so that people would come forward, share their story and begin what Cardinal Dolan and all those involved would be a healing process,” LoCoco said.
Dolan’s deposition was first reported by The New York Times.
Additional church officials deposed in connection with the bankruptcy and lawsuits include another former Milwaukee archbishop, Rembert Weakland; a retired auxiliary bishop; an archdiocese official who helps victims; the archdiocesan chancellor; and others, according to LoCoco and a spokesman for the Milwaukee archdiocese.
The Milwaukee Archdiocese recently said it was going broke. Its legal and other fees have reached nearly $9 million, according to court filings. Advocates for victims have accused the archdiocese of trying to shield assets by transferring millions of dollars separately into a cemetery trust fund and a parish fund several years ago.
Dolan is the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. His name has come up on some Vatican analysts’ lists of cardinals who could be elected in the upcoming conclave, though he is considered a longshot.
Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the New York Archdiocese, said Dolan had long-awaited the chance to discuss his decision to publicize the names as part of his efforts to help victims.
“He has indicated over the past two years that he was eager to cooperate in whatever way he could,” Zwilling said in a statement.
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.