9 Dec 2010

L.A. Cardinal's deposition reveals attempt by archdiocese to cover up child abuse and protect pedophile priests

Vermont Public Radio - June 15, 2010

L.A. Cardinal's Deposition Released In Sex Abuse Case

by Barbara Bradley Hagerty | All Things Considered

A Los Angeles court on Tuesday released hours of videotaped depositions by Cardinal Roger Mahony of the L.A. Archdiocese, regarding how the organization he heads handled a sex abuse scandal. The depositions reveal a system that, intentionally or not, protected priests over children.

Mahony's deposition was taken in a lawsuit involving the Rev. Michael Baker, who is believed to have abused two dozen children over a quarter century. Baker didn't hide his predilections -- he told Mahony back in 1986 that he had been abusing two boys for the previous eight years. Plaintiff's attorney John Manly asked whether he called the police. No, Mahony answered.

"My first approach is always the pastoral one," Mahony says in the deposition.

In this case, that meant sending Baker for treatment and keeping him in restricted ministry where, theoretically, he didn't have access to children. Mahony says he relied on Baker to tell to him where he could find the victims so the archdiocese could help.

According to Mahony, Baker says he didn't know.

"And you believed him?" asks the lawyer.

"Unfortunately, I believed everything he said," replies Mahony.

Baker was moved to nine different parishes over the next few years, several of which had elementary schools attached to them. He was supposed to be monitored, but in 1996, a 16-year-old boy was spotted outside Baker's room in the rectory at St. Columbkill parish. Mahony acknowledges that was a violation of Baker's agreement.

"It was certainly a suspicious activity," Mahony says.

However, when the plaintiff's attorney asks whether child protective services were called and notified of possible sexual abuse, Mahony says no.

"Not that I'm aware of," Mahony says.

'These Were Adults'

Mahony says the archiodese investigated and decided nothing improper happened.

This case was also presented to the Sexual Advisory Review Board, which Mahony had set up in 1994 to advise him when priests were accused of sexual abuse. Judge Richard Byrne has served on the board since the beginning. He told Manly in his deposition that the group heard dozens of cases in the 1990s.

"Did anybody ever ask about the police being called or whether law enforcement had been contacted?" Manly asked.

"I don't believe so," the judge answered.

"Why not?"

"I don't know. It didn't occur to me," the judge said.

Byrne said the board had no authority to investigate cases, nor could they alert the police or parishes that a possible pedophile was in their church.

"But I did assume that whatever needed to be done was being done," Byrne added. "I had that belief in the archdiocese and the system."

But in 2000, two young men in Arizona claimed Baker had been abusing them for 15 years and threatened to sue. The archdiocese settled immediately for $1.3 million. In the deposition, Manly asks Mahony if he then told law enforcement.

"I did not," Mahony says. "The two men were adults. They were not children, so there was no longer suspected child abuse. These were adults."

Mahony's own policies required that the archdiocese alert law enforcement. In addition, Mahony was urged by Richard Loomis, who oversaw all the priests in the archdiocese, to tell parishes about Baker to encourage other victims to come forward.

"Did you specifically direct Monsignor Loomis when he wanted to go to the parishes and make an announcement, not to?" asks the plaintiff's attorney in the deposition.

"I recommended to him that we wait a month or two," Mahony replies.

But Mahony waited almost two years after the settlement before telling the parishes or giving Baker's name to the police -- just after the sex abuse scandal had broken in Boston in early 2002. Even then, Mahony was reluctant. According to an e-mail he wrote to his lawyers in March 2002, the cardinal worried that if he didn't turn over names of the most abusive priests, including Baker, "I can guarantee you that I will be hauled into a grand jury proceeding and I will be forced to give all the names."

'I Believed Him'

At the end of the deposition, Manly asks Mahony if he felt he made any mistakes in handling Baker.

Mahony's answer: I believed him.

"I believed him all along, that he was making progress. He was going to a therapist. There were no new offenses. And I just believed he really intended to reform. And we found out later he lived a huge lie all those years," Mahony says.

Manly believes this deposition shows an attempt by the archdiocese to cover up abuse and protect Baker and dozens of other pedophile priests.

"Until someone is held criminally accountable for this kind of conduct, this scandal and this type of conduct resulting in the rape of children will continue," Manly says.

Archdiocese spokesman Tod Tamberg vigorously disagrees. He says there's no smoking gun that points to criminal conduct and says all this information was laid out in a report in 2004. He says the Baker case is a wake-up call.

"All of us have learned that appearances, explanations and even denials can't be accepted at face value when you're dealing with potential child abuse," Tamberg says.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, Mahony apologized for mishandling the Baker case. He added that the new policies in place will "keep our children and young people safe from predators like Michael Baker."

This article was found at: http://www.vpr.net/npr/127855548/


Los Angeles Times - June 20, 2010

Deposition paints an unflattering portrait of Mahony

Exchanges between attorney and cardinal about priest convicted of molestation reveal a failure to take responsibility.

by Steve Lopez | Columnist

I've said many times that Cardinal Roger Mahony should stop resisting the release of church documents in the sex abuse scandal. But after a Mahony deposition in a molestation case was made public by the courts last week at the request of The Times, I can see why the cardinal has fought to keep things under wraps.

The deposition involved former priest Michael Baker, who is now serving a 10-year sentence for molestation. After he confessed to Mahony in 1986 that he had molested two boys, Mahony sent him to one of the drive-through "treatment" centers used by the church back then. After that, the archdiocese shuffled Baker around to different parishes — some with elementary schools.

Despite reports that Baker continued to have contact with minors in violation of church orders, the archdiocese did nothing to stop the priest, who went on to molest other kids. You can see why this one troubles Mahony. But is he troubled about the suffering of the victims or the reflection on him?

Consider this exchange between the cardinal and attorney John Manly, who was representing one of Baker's many victims:

Manly: I mean, you would agree with me that the first thing any priest should do … when you learn that a priest has molested a child is call the police, right?

Mahony: Not necessarily.

It's not a difficult question. A child is abused; that's a crime, so you call the police and rush to the aid of the minor, right?

Not Mahony. And despite admitting mistakes, he continues to blame his failure on the times, the circumstances, the procedures that were in place. He'd have you think that 1986 was 100 years ago, and the terms of moral responsibility were different. When he's asked the same question again by the disbelieving lawyer, his answer begins:

"If you want to review the suspected child abuse form, you'll see that the very top little section of the form says name of mandated reporter, title of mandated reporter…"

It goes on like that, with Mahony suggesting the form couldn't be filled out because the names of the victims and their parents were not known. So he didn't call the police and he didn't call the parish where Baker was living to warn of other potential victims.

Manly: I take it at that point you instructed your staff to try and find the kids?

Mahony: No, I did not.

Huh? You know that children have been horribly violated by one of your priests, and you don't move heaven and earth to find them and get them help?

The cardinal said he didn't know their names and was under the impression they might be illegal immigrants who had returned to Mexico. So couldn't he have demanded that Baker tell him their names and where to find them?

"It's not hard to find boys like this," says attorney Lynne Cadigan, who in 2000 negotiated a $1.3-million settlement for two brothers she believes to have been those very victims.

In his deposition, Mahony said Baker admitted to one or two instances of "touching" the boys. But in Mahony's 2004 report to parishioners on the sex abuse scandal, he said Baker indicated there was a "relationship" with the boys from 1978 to 1985, beginning when they were 5 and 7.

"It's utterly ridiculous for him to say, 'I couldn't find them,' " Cadigan said of Mahony. "He didn't want to find them."

In fact, Cadigan said, the boys' mother worked at the parish where they were molested. Baker knew that, and continued molesting the boys for years, according to Cadigan, in Los Angeles, Mexico and Arizona.

In his deposition, Mahony said he established a sexual abuse advisory council in 1992 to use as a sounding board on such cases. The man he put in charge was someone he'd known from various Catholic social events: L.A. County Superior Court Judge Richard Byrne.

In his own deposition last October, Byrne — now retired from his job as presiding judge — sounded like a Mahony clone. Even in cases in which he thought a crime had been committed, Byrne said he didn't believe anyone on the advisory council ever called police.

Manly: I mean, did that ever even cross your mind?

Byrne: No…But I did assume that whatever needed to be done was being done. I had that belief in the archdiocese and the system.

Unfortunately, such faith didn't do the victims any good. And pardon me, but if the cardinal wanted expert advice on whether crimes had been committed, he should have gone to the police or the district attorney, not to handpicked loyalists with no authority.

When I asked to speak to Mahony about his deposition last week, one of his attorneys said I hadn't been fair to the cardinal in the past, that I'd focused on Mahony's mistakes without mentioning "how those mistakes led to a complete reformation of how child abuse allegations were handled by the archdiocese."

Thanks for the advice, but my duty isn't to the cardinal. It's to the victims of sexual abuse and to ferreting out the truth about an institution that was putting its own image before their welfare.

As for the archdiocese's reformation, is there any reason to believe that without lawsuits, media pressure and the threat of criminal prosecution, there would have been any changes at all? And would there have been the $660-million payout in 2007, when the archdiocese settled 500 cases of clergy sex abuse?

As we saw again last week, the cardinal is a man who, even when he admits mistakes, doesn't seem capable of taking full responsibility for the consequences of them. He's still trying to construct the image he'd rather be remembered by, and with each attempt, it slips farther away.

This article was found at:



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