Mahony Resources – April 6–14, 2002
By Larry B Stammer and Richard Winton
A series of confidential e-mails written by Cardinal Roger M. Mahony show how pervasively the nationwide child-abuse scandal in the Catholic Church has affected the Los Angeles Archdiocese.
The e-mails, leaked to radio station KFI, which provided copies to The Times, paint a picture of a sometimes-agitated archbishop alarmed that he is losing public relations ground.
The memos, written during the past three weeks, capture an archdiocese confronting political, legal and moral challenges: where to place a priest newly accused of molesting children; whether the church should start a victims support group; how to anticipate and counteract media accusations; how to give "instruction" in child-abuse law to Los Angeles Police Chief Bernard C. Parks, and how to measure the number of weeks or months before a "healing" process begins in the church. The e-mail also reveals that a Fresno woman made a 32-year-old unspecified "claim" against Mahony. Questions by reporters prompted the cardinal Friday night to issue a categorical denial of "ever having molested anyone."
Fresno police Lt. Keith Foster confirmed Friday that an investigation is underway. The Fresno Diocese turned over a recent two-hour taped interview with the woman to police, an e-mail says.
The woman told The Times on Friday that Mahony molested her in 1970 when he visited the San Joaquin Memorial Catholic High School, where she was a student. She provided few other details, saying police asked her not to talk.
Mahony, who was then a priest in Fresno and rose to the position of auxiliary bishop, "categorically" denied "ever having molested anyone."
In a March 28 e-mail, Mahony expressed willingness to be interviewed by Fresno detectives and wrote his advisors that he did not need an attorney because he had no recollection of the woman making the complaint and informed the LAPD the same day he was told of the accusation.
Other e-mails focus on the growing demands that Mahony fully disclose the names of the eight priests he had fired in February for molesting minors. The archdiocese subsequently turned the information over to police but has yet to disclose it to the public.
In one e-mail, a top Mahony advisor recommends that the cardinal remain deliberately vague about where the eight priests served before Mahony fired them. While Mahony told The Times in a separate interview that none of the priests were in parish ministries, the e-mail from Msgr. Craig Cox, vicar for clergy, says that some did serve on a part-time basis in parishes--a fact that implies they had were around children.
At times, Mahony and his inner circle are shown attempting to promptly cooperate with police on new allegations of sexual abuse. In other e-mails, there is a clear determination to protect the institution.
The communications also reveal that:
* Mahony was so upset by the archdiocese's failure to turn over some names of several dismissed priests to police that he warned his general counsel he might be subpoenaed by a grand jury.
"If we don't, today, "consult" with the [detective] about those three names, I can guarantee you that I will get hauled into a Grand Jury proceeding and I will be forced to give all the names, etc.," Mahony wrote to his top lawyer, Sister Judith Murphy.
At that point, March 27, the archdiocese had not turned over to police the names of three of eight priests he dismissed in February. The names were subsequently turned over to authorities.
* Mahony wrote Murphy in that same e-mail that the archdiocese had made a "huge mistake" by withholding the names of the three priests.
"I'm not sure you grasp the gravity of the situation and where this is heading--not only with the media, but with the law enforcement and legal folks," Mahony wrote Murphy.
"If we don't take immediate, aggressive action here--the consequences for the AD [archdiocese] are going to be incredible: charges of cover-up, concealing criminals, etc., etc.," Mahony wrote.
* In another e-mail, Mahony says he wants to step up outreach to sexual abuse victims. While the archdiocese already provides counseling and cash settlements, Mahony said he wanted to start a victims support group that would be "almost entirely spiritual."
* Archdiocesan attorney John McNicholas in another e-mail recounts debate over whether a well known and highly regarded gay priest should continue to teach a course at Crespi Carmelite High School in Encino, whose president was recently removed because of an allegation of sexual abuse in his past. Sister Murphy, in a separate e-mail, notes that a critical "off-the-wall right wing throw-away newspaper has been gunning for him [the gay priest] for years."
* Sister Murphy in another e-mail invokes the slogan of television's Sgt. Joe Friday--"only the facts, sir, only the facts"--in advising church officials about a pending visit from two police detectives. The police were coming in response to an alert by church officials of possible abuse.
"Listen to their questions and take your time answering," Murphy wrote. "Do not volunteer information. This is not a session to be chatty."
* Outside attorney L. Martin Nussbaum worries on another day that "the next wave of this press feeding frenzy" about pedophile priests may focus on priests who have had adult "romantic or sexual liaisons." Nussbaum advises Mahony to comb through the files of every priest ever disciplined to "assess the scope of any such problem."
* Mahony in another missive wrestles with his decision to release one priest's name to police. "His case troubles me." Mahony writes to Msgr. Cox. "I am leaning toward giving it to the LAPD to review. We could be very vulnerable on any case where there is a dispute between folks, and we have not referred it out."
* Mahony's aides confront the problem of a priest who last month was reassigned after being accused of molesting youths at his Azusa church. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department is investigating. Cox writes that the priest "denied forcefully any misconduct."
"If there is something to the allegations, then we want to be sure he is removed from ministry," Sister Murphy writes. "But if the allegations are unfounded, the sooner that can be established and he restored to ministry, the better. If he is innocent, I am most concerned that his reputation not be damaged more than it will already be by having things drag on and on and on."
FBI Investigating Who Leaked E-Mails
The FBI on Friday launched a criminal investigation to uncover whether a computer hacker broke into the e-mail system or a church insider leaked the information.
Laura Bosley, an FBI spokeswoman in Los Angeles, said the bureau is investigating whether Mahony's e-mail was "compromised and leaked."
At the same time, Los Angeles Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley said he was prepared to launch his own investigation into the "illegal access" of the e-mails. He also served notice that Mahony's written statements in the communications are "of grave concern." Cooley said he wants to find out if the archdiocese illegally withheld information about child abuse from authorities.
At the first banquet held at the archdiocese's downtown Cathedral Conference Center on Friday, Mahony stepped quickly through a door to avoid reporters following a speech to the downtown Rotary Club.
Mahony confined his remarks before 500 Rotarians and guests to the new $193-million Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, which opens Sept. 2. An aide cautioned reporters before the speech that Mahony would refuse to take any questions about the sexual abuse scandal rocking the Roman Catholic Church.
Mahony did respond Thursday night to an e-mail from The Times with a no comment. "I cannot and will not comment on privileged client-attorney communication that was criminally stolen," Mahony wrote in a return e-mail.
At the archdiocese's administrative headquarters in the Mid-Wilshire district, employees said many were on edge. "It's getting tense," said one.
Cardinal Asked Judge to Block Publication
The tension began to build Thursday when KFI disclosed that it had obtained leaked copies of scores of e-mails which were written late last month and early this month by Mahony and trusted confidants.
Ray Lopez, KFI producer, said he received the e-mails from an "anonymous individual." He said the person called him and offered to fax him the e-mails, then sent them via computer.
Two of the station's talk show hosts, John Kobylt and Ken Champou, began reading portions of the e-mails on their show Thursday afternoon in a remote broadcast from outside the cathedral.
As word reached the archdiocese of the disclosures, Mahony moved forcibly Thursday night to block publication of the e-mails by The Times.
Lawyers who anticipate filing a late-night motion usually contact the writs courtroom's clerk during business hours. But a lawyer for the archdiocese obtained their hearing by telephoning a retired presiding judge of the Superior Court, Richard Byrne. Byrne called a judge who specializes in writs. That judge provided a referral to a senior colleague who set a highly unusual 10:30 p.m. hearing.
In a ruling delivered just before midnight, Judge David Yaffe held that the U.S. Constitution prevented him from preventing publication of the documents.
In denying the Fresno molestation allegation Friday, Mahony saidin a written statement, "Such false allegations are hurtful and troubling to me, yet I continue to pray fervently for those who make them.
Reached by telephone Friday night at her home in Fresno, the woman said she reported her allegation recently to the school and that school officials informed Fresno police.
"It kept eating away at me," she told The Times.
In a March 28 e-mail, Mahony expressed willingness to be interviewed by Fresno detectives and wrote his advisors that he did not need an attorney because he had no recollection of the woman making the complaint.
"The Fresno PD can call me any time for a telephone interview; they can tape-record the interview, and I don't need an attorney on the line. Since I have no recollection of ever meeting the lady, I welcome the interview. Please give them my home number if they wish to call during these days of Holy Week or over the weekend," the cardinal wrote. He sent the message to Msgr. Richard Loomis, who heads the administrative services secretariat of the archdiocese, and to media relations director Tod Tamberg.
Mahony said in his Friday night statement that he was informed of the allegation March 22 by Fresno Bishop John Steinbock.
The e-mails shed new light on a debate that began March 4 when The Times reported that Mahony had dismissed six to 12 priests.
Alerted by the story, LAPD Chief Parks wrote Mahony on March 25 and pressed him for the names. He said a criminal investigation was underway.
Times staff writer Michael Krikorian contributed to this story.
'Our Big Mistake'
This is the text of an e-mail, titled "Our Big Mistake," that Cardinal Roger M. Mahony sent on the morning of March 27 to Sister Judith Murphy, the archdiocese's general counsel.
Two days earlier, Police Chief Bernard C. Parks pressed Mahony for the names of all priests Mahony had recently dismissed for past cases of sexual abuse.
Those dismissals had first been publicized March 4 in a Los Angeles Times story. However, the archdiocese refused to confirm or deny that the dismissals had occurred. Church sources told the newspaper that six to 12 priests had been dismissed.
As the drum beats continue from every side for us to release the "names," I must still point to what I consider our greatest tactical mistake of the past few weeks.
If I recall, of the 8 priests involved, 5 had already been reported to local law enforcement agencies. That leaves 3.
Recall also that I pressed for you to meet with [LAPD sex crimes] Det. Barraclough and "consult" him about the other 3 so that we could state without hesitation that all priests no longer in service had been reported to various law enforcement agencies.
You resisted quite strongly that suggestion.
I hope you have changed your mind by now! By doing it back then, we would not appear to be crumbling under public pressure. It was a huge mistake on our part.
If we don't, today, "consult" with the Det. about those 3 names, I can guarantee you that I will get hauled into a Grand Jury proceeding and I will be forced to give all the names, etc.
I must now insist that this matter is no longer open for discussion. You must consult with the Det. about those 3 cases.
In my response to Parks, I want to state that every single case of the few priests was reported to the appropriate law enforcement agency over the years.
I must be able to state that--even publicly. And soon.
I'm not sure you grasp the gravity of the situation and where this is heading--not only with the media, but with the law enforcement and legal folks.
The best place to state it would be in my letter to Parks, and then in a follow-up letter to [Dist. Atty. Steve] Cooley.
If we don't take immediate, aggressive action here--the consequences for the AD are going to be incredible: charges of cover-up, concealing criminals, etc., etc.
PLEASE make this task your highest priority this morning! I have reached the point where if I cannot guarantee that all 8 have been appropriately reported, then I will have to call the Det. and do it myself--today.
There is no middle ground on this one; we are losing the battle because we are somehow "hiding" those 3. The best way is to "consult" with the Det. about them, and let them decide what needs to be done next.
Thanks for listening. This public media pressure will never stop until we can announce that those few priests have all been reported to the appropriate authorities over the years.
Press Freedom: It’s No 1
LA Times Editorial
There must have been a judgment-clouding fog in the air Thursday. Something made a San Bernardino judge and lawyers who should have known better think they could kiss off the Constitution and keep the public in the dark about information it has a right to evaluate. The legal name for what they attempted is "prior restraint," and this nation's courts have repeatedly ruled that it should be allowed only in the most extraordinary circumstances, if at all. Neither of these latest efforts to impose secrecy comes close to meeting that standard.
These slaps at the 1st Amendment involve this newspaper and other Southern California news outlets. Late Thursday night, a lawyer for the Los Angeles Catholic Archdiocese tried to persuade Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Yaffe to prevent the publication of e-mails in which Cardinal Roger M. Mahony discussed with his attorney the alleged sexual misconduct of priests. The attorney argued that the e-mails were protected by attorney-client privilege and had been obtained illegally and therefore their publication should be stopped. Just before midnight, the judge refused, saying "that's what I don't think the Constitution permits me to do." Another judge that day issued a ruling that was not nearly so sage. Last week, San Bernardino County Judge Robert Fawke allowed photographers from The Times and the Press-Enterprise of Riverside to take courtroom pictures of a police officer charged with 27 counts of kidnapping, rape and battery. On Thursday, after defense and prosecution attorneys complained that printing the photos would interfere with the case, the judge barred publication, citing the defendant's right to a fair trial.
Bad call. The newspapers are appealing. Court rulings have established that the 1st Amendment takes precedence over the 6th Amendment. Cases going back to 1971 and President Richard Nixon's efforts to prevent the New York Times and the Washington Post from publishing the Pentagon Papers make it clear that the public's right to receive information is virtually sacred. The first case may have been an effort by the archdiocese to cover up a cover-up. The San Bernardino case is a matter of a judge who got his constitutional priorities confused. Together they suggest that representatives of the church and state alike need refresher courses in the meaning of a "free press" and its significance in a democracy
The Cardinal's 'Biggest Mistake'--One of Many
by Steve Lopez
There is talk of telling police as little as possible about priests who were known sex offenders.
There is the crafting of statements to avoid being caught in a lie down the road.
The truth is framed, needled and massaged in the name of protecting the church. All this from those who hold themselves up as paragons of morality and virtue, with God as their guide.
On Thursday, having been told by a Los Angeles Archdiocese source about a possible abuse allegation against Cardinal Roger Mahony that dated back to his days in Fresno, I e-mailed the cardinal a question.
Had he ever been accused? I asked.
No interviews, he wrote back.
And then Friday, Fresno police acknowledged an investigation, but gave only the sketchiest of details.
At midafternoon Thursday, I sent Mahony another e-mail asking to discuss his internal memo titled "Our Biggest Mistake."
"I don't know what memo you could be referring to," Mahony responded
To help refresh the cardinal's memory, I sent it to him. Of the several memos between him and his inner circle that had landed in my hands regarding sex-abuse cases, I thought "Our Biggest Mistake" was perhaps his best work in protecting the church's image.
So I hit the "send" button and zipped Mahony his very own words about three priests whom the archdiocese had not yet reported to police. In the memo, Mahony expresses concerns about being dragged before a grand jury, and possible "charges of cover-up, concealing criminals, etc., etc."
The "biggest mistake," as Mahony described it, was to avoid notifying the police earlier. "By doing it back then, we would not appear to have been crumbling under public pressure."
With all due respect, I can think of several other nominations for the church's biggest mistake. At the top of the list would be the penchant for treating sex abuse like a threat to the church's public image rather than the moral, ethical and criminal abomination that it is.
Everything is crisis management and damage control with this crew. In dozens of memos, archdiocesan officials come off like Nixonian and Clintonian operatives. They deliberate over the most effective ways to couch explanations and tinker with definitions.
In one memo, Mahony takes glee in reporting that he has not divulged the total number of priests dismissed for abuse. In another, one of Mahony's attorneys has this advice for two church officials about to be interviewed by police:
"Listen to their questions and take your time answering. Do not volunteer information."
A reasonable person might wonder if such advice approaches obstruction.
In another memo, a diocese attorney appears to be cautioning that a planned public statement might be too truthful.
"As written," the attorney says in a memo to Mahony and others in the inner circle, "it gives the impression that for years we gave names over to law enforcement contemporaneously with the time we learned of the events. If an example of even one case comes out where we didn't pass on the name then, but only more recently, it will blow up."
Guess what, counselor. It has blown up.
Cardinal Mahony never did answer my e-mail Thursday about his "Our Biggest Mistake" memo. But it didn't take long before I had one of his attorneys barking in my ear.
Before the day was done, the archdiocese had used its considerable influence to arrange an extraordinary hearing in court near midnight, trying desperately to put the kibosh on any publication or airing of the memos by The Times or radio station KFI-AM (640).
The archdiocese lost, but in the process, acknowledged that indeed those were Mahony's words in the "Our Biggest Mistake" memo.
The rest of the memos haven't been authenticated by the diocese, which was too busy calling the FBI to see how certain members of the media got their hands on them.
Too bad they weren't that quick in notifying authorities about predators within the church.
If the archdiocese had been half as aggressive in making sure sex offenders were removed from the ministry as they were in rushing attorneys into court to hide unflattering secrets, it might not be in the middle of this mess.
Earlier this week, Mahony said of Boston's scandal-rocked Cardinal Bernard Law:
"I don't know how I could face people."
It may be time to wonder the same thing about Mahony
Police Investigate Molestation Claims Against Cardinal Roger
FRESNO, Calif. -- Police are investigating a woman's sex abuse accusations against Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, leader of the nation's largest Roman Catholic archdiocese.
Lt. Michael Guthrie confirmed Saturday that an investigation involving Mahony was under way. Mahony said he was cooperating fully.
The 51-year-old Fresno woman claims she was molested by the 66-year-old Mahony while a student at San Joaquin Memorial Catholic High School in 1969.
She told The Associated Press on Saturday that she was knocked unconscious while fighting with students and woke to find the "bottom" portion of her clothing removed and Mahony, then a monsignor in Fresno, "over her."
Hickman said she has been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic and is taking medication for depression. She told the Fresno Bee for Sunday editions: "All I said was that when I opened my eyes, some of my clothes were gone and he was the only one around. I was unconscious. I don't know if he molested me, but he could have."
She said she could not remember many details.
She told the Los Angeles Times one reason she was coming forward with the allegations against Mahony is that the state is cutting her disability payments and she needs a cash settlement from the church.
The woman also told the Times in Sunday editions that her parents, other family members, high school classmates and former co-workers have molested, abused or emotionally mistreated her.
Mahony revealed the accusation, and categorically denied it.
Mahony issued a three-page statement Friday after a Los Angeles radio station obtained and quoted from his personal e-mails about abuse cases that refer briefly to Hickman's claim, which she first made to the pastor of St. John's Cathedral in Fresno on March 20.
Despite saying she could not remember details, the woman insisted the charges are true and that the events caused her to lose her faith.
The woman also told of another instance involving Mahony during which she claims he hit her. Both incidents occurred between 1969 and when she graduated in 1970, according to the woman.
A 1970 San Joaquin Memorial Catholic High School yearbook contains a photo of the woman, confirming she was a member of the graduating class.
Mahony became the head of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in 1985 and was elevated to cardinal in 1991.
The internal e-mails he wrote during the past two weeks reveal his concerns over the church's response to sexual abuse allegations in the archdiocese, which serves 5 million Catholics in three Southern California counties.
Los Angeles police are investigating reports the archdiocese has removed six to 12 priests accused of sexual abuse in cases dating back 10 years. The e-mails suggest the number of priests removed is eight.
Church officials said the e-mails were illegally obtained. FBI officials said they were investigating but would not provide further details.
Meanwhile, Bishop John Steinbock of the Fresno Diocese composed a letter that was to be read Sunday at all diocese parishes. The letter acknowledged there are scandals in the church, though it said they are not as widespread as the media may suggest.
"I want to assure everyone that I know of no priest active in ministry in our diocese that has been involved in the sexual abuse of a minor," he wrote.
The Amazing 'Teflon Cardinal'
by Steve Lopez
In 1998, Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony was a central figure in one of the most notorious sex-abuse trials in Catholic church history.
The case involved two Stockton-area brothers who had been abused by a priest from the time they were toddlers until they were in their late teens, both before and after the Stockton diocese had received complaints against the priest.
A jury was so disturbed by the drama that unfolded in San Joaquin County Superior Court, it awarded $30 million in damages to the brothers, an amount later negotiated to $7 million. Mahony was not a defendant in the case, but he was the bishop of Stockton during a critical period addressed in the lawsuit. He had ordered an evaluation after the priest himself admitted he was a molester, then reassigned him to another parish, where he abused victims for years to come.
"Mahony is the Teflon cardinal," says Jeff Anderson, who represented the victims and was amazed that Mahony's reputation in Los Angeles was scarcely tainted by the Stockton verdict, which at the time was the largest-ever per-person settlement in such a case.
One witness at that trial, Nancy Sloan of Fairfield in Solano County, says that to this day, she doesn't know how Mahony can sleep at night
"I'm absolutely convinced Mahony knew all about the priest," says Sloan, now 37, who was abused by the same priest years before he abused the two brothers and many others.
Mahony, who insisted at trial that he was unaware of all the allegations against the priest, did not answer my request for an interview on the subject. But a review of the transcripts, which seemed prudent in light of the growing church scandal in Los Angeles and other cities, reveals a staggeringly familiar pattern: A priest who was a known molester kept getting shuffled from one parish to another, claiming more victims along the way.
In this case, the priest was Father Oliver O'Grady. Nancy Sloan says that in 1976, when she was 11, Father O'Grady molested her. Father O'Grady wrote a letter of apology to her parents, who met with church officials. Sloan deeply regrets that her parents didn't notify the police, and, of course, the diocese didn't call the authorities, either.
"My parents went to the bishop [one of Mahony's predecessors], because they trusted him to do what was right," Sloan says. What was "right," by diocesan standards, was to pay for Sloan's therapy, file the incident away, and leave it at that.
Four years later, when Mahony was bishop, an entirely unrelated case came before him. He became aware of an "improper relationship" between Father O'Grady and the mother of the brothers who would later be the subjects of the $30-million verdict. Mahony claimed he was unaware of a report that O'Grady was seen alone with one of the brothers, who was then 2. But he told O'Grady not to see the woman again, and later transferred him.
Now we come to 1984, when O'Grady himself confessed that he was a molester. According to the police report, the priest told a county medical practitioner "he had contact of a sexual nature approximately two weeks ago and other past behaviors of a similar nature." O'Grady also told the medical practitioner that he had touched the penis of one of the brothers, then 9, while the boy slept. Police began a child-abuse investigation that ended when the boy could not confirm the abuse.
The police report says the diocesan attorney assured police they "interviewed the suspect and feel the incident only occurred once and is an isolated incident. The suspect will be sent to counseling through the church."
Less than one month later, Mahony transferred O'Grady again, this time to a church in San Andreas. In a letter dated Dec. 10, 1984, Mahony said, "I commit you to the full care of souls in that parish with all faculties, duties, rights, and privileges.... "
For the next several years, O'Grady continued to molest his 1984 victim and as many as 10 others, according to attorney Anderson. Finally, in 1993, after being molested for years, a 19-year-old victim went to the police. Father O'Grady was criminally convicted and sentenced to 14 years in prison.
At the civil trial that followed, Mahony took the witness stand and denied any knowledge of the 1976 molestation of Nancy Sloan, denied knowing about the 1982 report of O'Grady being alone with a 2-year-old, denied knowing the full extent of O'Grady's molestation confession in 1984, and denied ordering his attorney to tell Stockton police there was only one known incident.
"When I was informed," Mahony testified regarding the 1984 incident, "I was not informed that this priest had admitted to molesting a child. That was not the information I was given. I was operating under the assumption that an allegation had been made, been thoroughly investigated, and dismissed."
Plaintiffs' attorneys tried to chip away at Mahony, expressing disbelief that the bishop of a small diocese of fewer than 100 priests would be unfamiliar with the entire file on a priest who had admitted molesting an 11-year-old girl and a 9-year-old boy. They asked how it was possible that a bishop could not know every detail of a police investigation that took place on his watch. But Mahony stood his ground, insisting that his underlings often handled such matters for him.
Mahony testified that he ordered a psychiatric evaluation of O'Grady after the 1984 incident, and was satisfied with the results, even though the report said: "Father O'Grady reveals a severe defect in maturation. Not only in the matter of sex, but more importantly in the matter of social relationships, and shows a serious psychological depression."
There were positive recommendations as well, Mahony testified, and he was comfortable that with further counseling, Father O'Grady was fit to continue in ministry.
During a break in his testimony, Mahony spoke to reporters outside the courtroom, telling them he thought the diocese did everything humanly possible to make sure there was no problem with O'Grady before sending him to San Andreas in December of 1984. When court resumed, attorney Anderson repeated the cardinal's statement about doing everything humanly possible, then asked:
"At the time, Cardinal, did you talk to the police?"
"No," Mahony said.
"You could have."
"Well, I'm not sure I could have. But .... "
"What was restraining you?" Anderson asked.
It went on like this for several minutes, Anderson knocking down Mahony's claim that everything humanly possible had been done to prevent future abuse.
Did you send O'Grady to a doctor specializing in sex offense? he asked.
"At the time, I was really unaware that there were such specialists," Mahony said.
Did you check O'Grady's file?
No, Mahony said.
Did you conduct an investigation of your own?
Sending him to a psychiatrist seemed appropriate enough, Mahony answered.
Did you interview witnesses? Anderson asked.
No, Mahony said, but the police did in 1984, "and dismissed the case."
In 1986, after Mahony's move to Los Angeles, Nancy Sloan returned to the Stockton diocese because she was wracked with guilt for not making sure Father O'Grady never got near another child. O'Grady was still at the church Mahony had sent him to, but church officials told Sloan there was nothing to worry about. Sloan, a nurse, weeps as she tells her story.
"If I had any idea whatsoever when I had gone back there in 1986, there are so many children who could have been saved from O'Grady, because I would have blown the story out. And if Mahony says he didn't know anything about O'Grady, my question is, how could you possibly do your job as bishop and not read any of the files on your employees?"
Sloan says she has thought about paying a visit to Mahony.
"I'd like to tell him he has a moral obligation. If any of these bishops and priests would take responsibility instead of pretending they didn't know what was going on, and then making excuses ... ," she says, not finishing the thought, and pausing to compose herself.
"I have so much guilt for not doing more," she says. "I
don't know how Mahony can live with himself when I can barely live with
By Henry Weinstein
When Cardinal Roger M. Mahony's attorneys failed to persuade a Los Angeles judge on Thursday night to block media outlets from publishing some of Mahony's confidential e-mails, the cardinal met the same fate as many powerful interests over the past 70 years.
Since the landmark 1931 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Near vs. Minnesota, it has been very difficult for individuals, large corporations or even the U.S. government to get a "prior restraint" against the press.
That landmark decision, written by Chief Justice Charles Evan Hughes, struck down a Minnesota law seeking to curb so-called "yellow journalists" of the era. The ruling, a ringing endorsement against state censorship, has grown in power over the years. By 1976, the Supreme Court said that prior restraints constitute "the most serious and least tolerable infringement on 1st Amendment rights" and are "presumptively unconstitutional."
But that hasn't stopped efforts to obtain court orders blocking the press from publishing sensitive material, said Jane Kirtley, professor of media, ethics and law at the University of Minnesota.
"Lots of people think their claim is different, unique," only to be disabused of that notion, Kirtley said. She acknowledged that trial judges sometimes order such restraints and on rare occasions those restraints are upheld by appellate courts.
On Thursday, at a hearing that started at 10:30 p.m. after urgent pleas from the Los Angeles Archdiocese, attorney Donald H. Steier expressed anguish at the prospect that the Los Angeles Times would publish previously confidential e-mails between Mahony and an archdiocese lawyer about the sexual abuse scandal engulfing the church. Steier cited a California statute that prohibits "use" of material that was illegally obtained.
But Kelli Sager, the attorney representing The Times, countered that a 2001 Supreme Court decision held that news media have a free-speech right to publish lawfully obtained information of public concern even if the media's source illegally intercepted phone calls or electronic transmissions.
Steier then conceded that he could cite no case to trump the one Sager relied on and Superior Court Judge David Yaffe did what hundreds of others have done over the past seven decades--denied the request for a prior restraint.
Indeed, media organizations prevail in the overwhelming majority of cases where prior restraints are sought. In the landmark 1971 Pentagon Papers decision, for instance, the Supreme Court rejected the government's contention that U.S. "national security" would be gravely endangered if a secret history of the Vietnam War were published by the New York Times.
Still, the court cautioned, as had Hughes 40 years earlier, that there could be situations where a prior restraint was justified--citing the possible publication of troop movements in wartime. The court never has been confronted with that set of facts, though.
Conflict of Free Press vs. Fair Trial
Prior restraints frequently are sought in situations where an individual charged with a crime asserts that publication or broadcast of certain information will endanger his 6th Amendment right to a fair trial.
The seminal case on the "free press-fair trial battle" arena came to the Supreme Court in 1976. A Nebraska trial judge had issued an order forbidding the press from publishing a murder defendant's confession that had been discussed in an arraignment attended by reporters in a small town. The judge said the order was necessary to protect the defendant's 6th Amendment right to a fair trial.
Although the justices acknowledged that publicity about the confession "might impair the defendant's right to a fair trial," the Supreme Court, in Nebraska Press Assn. vs. Stuart, overturned the prior restraint, saying that such orders violate the 1st Amendment.
The court said that a party seeking to restrict what could be published would have a "heavy burden of demonstrating, in advance of trial, that without a prior restraint a fair trial will be denied."
The justices also said "pretrial publicity, even if pervasive and concentrated, cannot be regarded as leading automatically and in every kind of criminal case to an unfair trial."
Over the past quarter-century, the Supreme Court and many appellate courts have rejected prior restraints in a variety of situations.
The degree of protection afforded the press in situations where it has lawfully obtained information--regardless of how a source obtained the material--was vividly illustrated in the celebrated narcotics case involving auto mogul John Z. DeLorean.
In 1983, CBS obtained a copy of a key tape that federal prosecutors planned to use at trial, in which DeLorean was inspecting a suitcase full of cocaine and proclaimed it "better than gold." A federal trial judge in Los Angeles issued a temporary restraining order barring CBS from airing the tape. But the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned him, saying the order violated the prior restraint doctrine first enunciated in the Near case and refined in the Nebraska Press decision.
Both DeLorean's attorneys and the prosecutors contended that CBS should be barred from showing the videotape. But Judge William Norris said they had failed to establish that "further publicity, unchecked, would so distort the views of potential jurors that 12 could not be found who would, under proper instructions, fulfill their sworn duty to render a just verdict exclusively on the evidence presented in open court." Ultimately, DeLorean was acquitted.
Nonetheless, several media experts emphasized that defendants in criminal cases have a slightly better chance than parties in civil cases to obtain a prior restraint because there are instances where courts decide that a defendant's 6th Amendment right trumps the 1st Amendment rights of the press.
For example, in 1990, U.S. District Judge William Hoeveler in Miami ordered CNN not to broadcast tape recordings it had obtained of conversations between deposed Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega and his attorney in a prison where Noriega was awaiting trial on drug-trafficking charges. CNN refused to turn the tapes over to the judge so he could review them, and it broadcast one of the tapes. But it eventually paid a price for this action.
The network had contended that under the Nebraska Press decision, no prior restraint could be issued unless two conditions were met: a finding that broadcasting the information would threaten Noriega's right to a fair trial and that prohibiting the broadcast was the only means of protecting that right.
However, the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled CNN could not insist that the trial judge make these findings while denying him access to the tapes. CNN asked the Supreme Court to review the decision, but the high court declined.
Hoeveler eventually held CNN in contempt for broadcasting the first tape and threatened to impose a "substantial" fine on the network. To avoid that outcome, CNN broadcast an apology and paid $85,000 to cover the government's legal fees for prosecuting the contempt case.
"The Noriega decision is an extraordinary exception" to the general pattern, Floyd Abrams, the noted 1st Amendment attorney who filed CNN's brief in the Supreme Court, said Saturday.
Judge Bars Photos of Accused Officer
Just a few days before Mahony was spurned in his bid for a prior restraint, a San Bernardino police officer obtained one in another situation where 6th Amendment rights were raised.
On March 29, San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge Robert Fawke ordered the Los Angeles Times and other newspapers not to publish photographs of officer Ronald A. VanRossum, who is accused of assaulting 11 women while on duty.
Earlier that day--one day after VanRossum was arrested--Fawke initially granted requests from several media organizations, including The Times and the Riverside Press-Enterprise, to take still photographs or film in the courtroom.
Then, after meeting in chambers with VanRossum's attorney and the prosecutor in the case, Fawke changed his mind, according to statements he made in a subsequent proceeding. But before Fawke took any formal action, photographers from The Times and the Press-Enterprise took pictures of VanRossum as he entered the courtroom. The judge then ordered the papers not to publish the photographs or risk being held in contempt of court.
The judge said the order would remain in effect until April 19, when VanRossum is scheduled to be formally arraigned. He said that if VanRossum's photograph appeared in a newspaper before investigation of the case was completed, it could compromise the investigation and VanRossum's right to a fair trial.
Attorneys for The Times and the Press-Enterprise asked the judge to reconsider his decision. The newspapers, citing state and federal cases, maintain that because the judge's order granting permission to photograph was in effect at the time the pictures were taken, he had no authority to restrain their use.
Fawke declined on Thursday, saying VanRossum's "picture adds nothing to the story." However, the judge said he would be hard pressed to continue the restraint after April 19.
On Friday, the newspapers filed an emergency appeal with the state Court
of Appeal in Riverside asking that the judge's prohibition be lifted as
soon as possible.
Mahony Goes on the Record with NBC4
LOS ANGELES -- Cardinal Roger Mahony called allegations that he molested a girl at a Fresno high school 32 years ago bizarre and untrue.
In an interview with NBC4, Mahony said that, when he first heard of the accusation, he was concerned about the woman's mental health.
"I just knew of course this wasn't true, and I thought whatever is happening in this lady's life, I really feel sorry for her, I want to pray for her and see if she can get some help for whatever's troubling her," he said.
"My first reaction was that obviously I've never done anything like that in my life, and secondly, I've never heard of this person," Mahony said.
Mahony, the head of the most populous Roman Catholic archdiocese in the United States, said the accusation was one of many made against him, and he did not consider it to be realistic, especially since the woman is on medication for schizophrenia.
"I've had so many things said against me over the years that in a sense I'm kind of used to it," the cardinal said. "I've had people call -- a lady who said the cardinal is poisoning her through her water system."
"This is kind of what happens when you're in public life," he said.
Mahony defended his refusal to release the names of priests dismissed for sexual abuse, saying he had complied with requests from the police for information.
"The chief asked me about cases in the jurisdiction of the Los Angeles Police Department and I said, yes, there were two cases, you already knew about them. They're in your court files," Mahony said.
Revealing the entire list of priests accused of sexual abuse -- Mahony said the total was eight priests -- would have hurt their victims, he said.
"When you reveal the name of the priest, the media will end up at the front door of the victim," Mahony said.
Mahony refused to go into detail about e-mail messages -- they were obtained by KFI radio and the Los Angeles Times -- that he sent to archdiocese lawyers, urging them to turn over to police the names of three priests suspected of sexual misconduct.
"I don't wish to discuss -- I've answered questions about it. That
material is stolen. It is stolen property and it is being investigated
actively," he said.
Priest Removed As Head of Seminary
LOS ANGELES -- A priest has been removed as head of a Santa Barbara County seminary and reported to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department for allegedly molesting boys at a Catholic school in La Canada Flintridge more than a decade ago, it was reported Tuesday.
The Rev. Christopher Kearney, a former teacher at St. Francis High School, was removed from his position as guardian of the San Lorenzo Seminary in Santa Ynez two weeks ago and reported to sheriff's deputies, Father Gregory Coiro, a Capuchin Franciscan spokesman, told the Los Angles Times.
Kearney, 59, has been sent by the order for "an evaluation," Coiro said, adding that his removal was prompted by an anonymous call last month to the Tom Leykis radio talk show.
The caller alleged that Kearney, who taught at St. Francis from 1970 to 1995, molested him while the two were wrestling at the school several years ago, Coiro said.
Kearney was transferred from St. Francis in 1995, after allegations he had molested another student during an impromptu wrestling match two decades earlier.
Coiro said the school paid an out-of-court settlement to the former student but would not disclose the terms because of a confidentiality agreement. The case was not reported to police, Coiro said, because "our legal counsel determined it was not necessary" at the time.
"However with the latest allegation, the archdiocese (of Los Angeles) thought it was appropriate to report it to the Sheriff's Department," Coiro said.
Sheriff's Department officials confirmed they received the report, which was filed at the La Crescenta station, but would not comment further, the Times reported.
Kearney's removal comes weeks after the Archdiocese of Los Angeles fired eight priests who had been involved in past molestations.
The Capuchin Franciscans operate independently of the Los Angeles Archdiocese,
which covers Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. The order
staffs churches, schools and seminaries.
Police Clear Mahony of Alleged 1970 Molestation
By Mark Arax
FRESNO -- A Fresno police investigation has cleared Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of allegations that he sexually abused a female student at a Catholic high school 32 years ago, the department's chief of criminal investigations said Thursday.
Lt. Dwayne Johnson said the three-week investigation uncovered no evidence of a crime and that no further action would be taken. He said Mahony was interviewed in person about the alleged incident, which he denied had taken place, and that he cooperated fully with detectives.
The accuser, a 51-year-old Fresno woman, has a history of mental illness.
"We couldn't find a single thing to substantiate the allegations," Johnson said. "We even went back to students and staff at the high school at the time and they couldn't remember any event like this occurring."
The cardinal's office said in a statement that he "welcomes the confirmation by the Fresno Police Department this afternoon of his previous denial of this allegation." The statement also said Mahony was grateful to the department "for conducting a professional and thorough investigation."
Mahony's accuser said he had molested her on campus grounds during school hours while she was a student at San Joaquin Memorial High School in 1970. She said she was knocked out during a fight outside the band room. She said that when she awoke, the bottom half of her clothes had been removed and that she saw Mahony's face hovering over her. She said she passed out again. (Although the woman said her name could be published, The Times generally does not use the names of those who say they have been sexually abused.)
Even as the woman insisted that her account was true, she conceded to reporters that it lacked details and sounded farfetched. She told The Times last week that she was diagnosed with schizophrenia in the 1970s and was still taking medication to ease the symptoms. She said she was motivated to press forward with her allegations, in part, because the state is cutting her disability payments and she needs a cash settlement from the church.
She also said that nearly everyone she has encountered in her life—from her parents to her high school classmates to her former co-workers—had either molested, abused or emotionally mistreated her.
Woman's Case Quickly Unraveled
The allegations against Mahony, which surfaced last week, quickly made headlines across the country in the midst of what has become a nationwide child-abuse scandal in the Catholic Church.
The Fresno woman said the climate of suspicion and heightened awareness encouraged her to come forward last month and talk to a priest at St John's Church. The priest took her claim to police.
But almost as soon as the woman appeared in front of local TV cameras last week, it was evident that the allegations were sketchy and that she had trouble talking in a coherent manner. She said her mental problems, despite taking the drug Risperdal for schizophrenia, had grown worse in recent weeks as people have knocked on her apartment window and threatened her.
Fresno Diocese Interviewed Woman
Lt. Johnson said the woman's psychiatric history made the investigation more complicated. Any impulse to dismiss her claims outright because she suffers from schizophrenia, an illness characterized by delusions, was outweighed by the fact that victims often suffer emotionally and mentally from sexual abuse.
"These are always difficult investigations, and we never comment on the mental state of the alleged victims. But we do look at their credibility and the credibility of the accused," he said.
E-mails from Mahony and his staff, which were obtained last week by the media, indicated that the Fresno diocese had tape-recorded a two-hour interview with the woman. The e-mails showed that Mahony and his staff were confident that the accusations would not stand up under scrutiny.
"Good work!" Mahony e-mailed his attorney and media relations director March 28. "It will be key to get the [woman's] transcript in the hands of both the Fresno PD and the LAPD. They should then interview her themselves."
Times staff writer Larry Stammer contributed to this report.
Sheriff's Department Set To Wrap Up Azusa Priest Investigation
LOS ANGELES -- The Sheriff's Department is about to complete an investigation into allegations that a Catholic priest molested boys at his church in Azusa. The department interviewed nearly 100 altar boys, students and other youths.
The interviews were conducted over the last two weeks in connection with allegations against the Rev. David Granadino of St. Francis of Rome Catholic Church.
Detectives expect to complete the investigation in the next few days, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Granadino, who also served as a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department chaplain, was removed by the archdiocese as head of St. Francis when the investigation began. He has denied engaging in misconduct.
The Sheriff's Department inquiry was triggered by an anonymous call on March 22 to a hot line set up by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to field sexual-abuse allegations.
Archdiocese officials provided sheriff's detectives with a tape of the telephone call. The hot line is providing scores of tips, including many false leads, officials said.
Thursday, Cardinal Roger Mahony was cleared by authorities of an abuse allegation made by a Fresno woman.
In the Azusa case, sheriff's Capt. Patti Minutello said 15 investigators are interviewing boys, girls and parents, as well as gathering evidence and following up on new allegations.
The Sheriff's Department did not reveal the name of the priest to the Times, but law enforcement sources confirmed that Granadino is being investigated.
Investigators are conferring with the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, advising prosecutors about what they've learned, Sheriff's Sgt. Dan Scott told the Times.
The Mission Is on a Mission
by Joseph Treviño
DISCLOSURES ABOUT PEDOPHILIA among Catholic priests have, for the first time, become front-page fodder in newspapers around the country. And locally, readers are now learning about allegations that Cardinal Roger Mahony, one of the city's most powerful and revered figures, covered up the case of a pedophilic pastor while serving as bishop of Stockton.
But for readers of the Los Angeles Lay Catholic Mission, such stories are old news.
The Mission, a scrappy religious monthly, has only 20 pages and a claimed circulation of 20,000. Its layout is more 19th century than 21st, but it's got the attention of the archdiocese, which apparently worries that the Mission's stories, disclosures and accusations carry a currency as never before for affecting mainstream public opinion.
Take, for example, the case of Father Oliver O'Grady. In July 1998, a Stockton jury awarded two brothers, James and Joh Howard, $30 million in damages -- then the largest judgmnet of its kind -- for years of molestation by O'Grady, their family priest.
The plaintiffs and other witnesses contended during the trial that, in 1985, Roger Mahony, then the bishop of Stockton, knew or should have known that O'Grady had previously molested parishioners -- and that Mahony's files included a police report and two psychiatrists' evaluations of O'Grady. But instead of being fired or removed from contact with children, O'Grady was reassigned to another parish, where he committed more molestations before being arrested, tried and convicted. Last year, upon his release from prison, O'Grady was deported to his native Ireland.
The Stockton media, of course, and some other newspapers reported the O'Grady verdict, but the case went almost unnoticed by the Los Angeles press, except for a 1995 Los Angeles Times article mentioning that Mahony was a witness in the lawsuit. A 1998 story, picked up from the Associated Press news wire, failed to mention the cardinal.
The Mission, by contrast, was all over the story, including alleged links to Mahony, in its July and September 1998 editions, which relied heavily on reports published in Stockton. "According to former Stockton police officer Jerry Cranston," the Mission recounted in 1998, "a year before Mahony ended his five-year stint as bishop of Stockton, the diocese's attorney persuaded police to drop child molestation charges against O'Grady."
THE ARCHDIOCESE DID NOT RETURN calls from the Weekly, but for years, the Chancery's policy has been to ignore the Mission. However, a series of recent e-mails within Mahony's brain trust, which were leaked last week, betray internal concerns. Among other things, the e-mails acknowledge that a writer for the Mission was asking questions about Carmelite Crespi High School in Encino, where the head of the school was recently removed amid allegations that he molested minors in the 1970s.
In the e-mails, archdiocesan attorneys seem to be debating whether to remove another priest, Father Peter Liuzzi, the former head of the archdiocese's prestigious Gay and Lesbian Ministry, from his teaching post at the all-male Encino school. The attorneys were apparently worried that the Mission would exacerbate a public- relations crisis by dragging in Liuzzi, a gay priest who teaches a one-hour course. Liuzzi has never been the subject of molestation allegations.
Liuzzi, noted the e-mail, "is gay and the Catholic Mission (the off the wall right wing throwaway newspaper) has been gunning for him for years."
The e-mails underscore that the Mission is hardly progressive when it comes to tolerance or politics. Its March issue profiles a teacher who warns of a homosexual "take-over" in schools and that curricular materials in Los Angeles "urge children to visit a homosexual pornography store" where there are "books about gays in the military and their sexual experiences." The article also airs claims that school- district materials encourage sex between adults and minors, including gay sex.
THE MISSION'S STAFF, ACCORDING to editor Christopher Zehnder, is made up of orthodox conservatives who believe that the cardinal has turned his church into a warm and fuzzy hybrid dominated by New Age Catholicism. Zehnder, a 37-year-old former teacher, writes most of the paper from his home in Tehachapi, where he also edits freelance submissions.
The Mission began in 1994, running mostly features, but by 1996 it took direct aim at the archdiocese, Zehnder says. At first, the archdiocese would return phone calls, but that changed when the paper began writing stories critical of the Chancery's plan to demolish historic St. Vibiana's Cathedral, says Zehnder. The demolition plan has since been aborted.
"I don't know why Cardinal Mahony hates us so much," Zehnder comments, speaking by telephone from his home. "I think he just doesn't like any opposition."
The Mission belongs to a chain of Catholic newspapers owned by Jim Holman, an orthodox Catholic who is also the publisher of the alternative weekly the San Diego Reader. His religious newspapers -- all of them conservative -- are distributed in San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Most are not circulated in Catholic parishes, except for La Cruz de California, a Spanish-language monthly edited in Tijuana, which has been tolerated in Los Angeles churches despite being critical of the archdiocese. The Mission also is distributed in orthodox Catholic bookstores.
"I think that their stories are very provocative and eye openers," one priest tells the Weekly. He adds: "Some of their stories are true."
The priest asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation from his superiors, who might label him a "pre-Vatican II" sympathizer. Vatican II, of course, was the church council, lasting from 1962 to 1965, that liberalized and modernized many church practices, for example, allowing Mass in languages other than Latin and disavowing church doctrine that blamed Jews for the death of Jesus.
The Mission's jihad is to expose the archdiocese's alleged retreat from "real" Catholicism, part of a larger, ongoing conflict between so-called progressives and orthodox conservatives in the church. In this internecine struggle, Mahony, despite relatively conservative beliefs, is considered the embodiment of institutional progressivism.
Every year, orthodox papers like the Mission and local groups such as Concerned Roman Catholics protest Mahony's Religious Education Congress in Anaheim for including speakers the conservatives judge to be pro-choice and pro-gay. Mahony also is a regular target of The Wanderer, a national conservative Catholic newspaper.
Zehnder says the Mission will keep the pressure on. He asserts that promiscuity, as well as a general decline in moral values, has sickened the church -- and vice versa.
"True Christian charity is willing the good for someone else. It is not sentimentalism, but something rooted in the truth of Christ," says Zehnder. "I love the church, but love is sometimes a pretty harsh thing."
Mahony Regrets Transfer of Priest
By Beth Shuster and Richard Winton
Cardinal Roger M. Mahony said Friday he erred when he transferred a priest accused of molesting children to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center about 14 years ago without telling hospital officials about the allegations.
In his first public comments on a sex abuse case involving the Los Angeles Archdiocese, Mahony said he never should have assigned Father Michael Wempe to Cedars-Sinai without informing hospital officials that he had removed Wempe from his parish and ordered him to a New Mexico treatment facility for evaluation and counseling.
After the treatment, Mahony said, he was told Wempe could be trusted to work as a priest if he were in a supervised job without access to children. Mahony said he was told Wempe could serve in a prison or a hospital.
When he assigned Wempe to Cedars-Sinai, Mahony said, he did not know it had a pediatric unit.
"I think that was a mistake on our part then to not simply tell them of his background," Mahony told The Times. "That should have been done. I take responsibility for that."
In retrospect, Mahony said, he should have forced Wempe to immediately resign after hearing of the abuse allegations. "Fourteen years [later] is so different," said Mahony, who has headed the L.A. Archdiocese since 1985. "If that had been today, he would have been out of the priesthood."
Mahony said he did not report Wempe's abuse allegations to police at the time. He assigned Wempe to Cedars-Sinai, where he worked from 1988 until last month, when Mahony forced him to retire under his recent "zero tolerance" policy against maintaining abusers in the church.
Mahony said he recently gave Wempe's name to the Los Angeles Police Department to review past allegations against him.
Wempe, 62, could not be reached for comment Friday. He had been living at a church parish attached to a school south of Hancock Park, according to a parish directory and interviews, but has since moved to Seal Beach.
Cedars-Sinai officials said they learned Friday about past allegations against Wempe. Grace Cheng, spokeswoman for Cedars-Sinai, said officials contacted the archdiocese earlier this week after inquiries from The Times. Representatives of the archdiocese met Friday with top officials of Cedars-Sinai.
"There were absolutely no complaints or claims or any issues of impropriety or misconduct" while Wempe was at the hospital, Cheng said.
Hospital officials described Wempe as well-liked. Mahony said he attended a luncheon in the chaplain's honor a couple of years ago. A retirement party scheduled for this month was canceled at Wempe's request, officials said.
"To the best of our knowledge . . . this particular priest was functioning very well and effectively," Mahony said. "As far as we know, there was never a hint" of any impropriety at the hospital.
On Wednesday, two brothers, now grown, filed a lawsuit in Orange County Superior Court alleging they had been sexually abused by Wempe from about 1976 to 1985. The suit also names the archdiocese, alleging that senior priests knew--or should have known--of Wempe's misconduct but failed to intervene.
Brothers Say Transfers Didn't Stop the Abuse
In an interview Friday with their attorney present, Mark and Lee Bashforth, who asked that their names be published, said the abuse began in a Ventura County parish and continued as Wempe was transferred to other area churches. Both men said they only recently remembered the abuse.
"I was 8 or 9 years old and I am staying in the rectory in his room overnight, where there is only one bed," said Lee Bashforth, 32.
Archdiocese officials had not seen the lawsuit and would not comment Friday.
Mahony said he believed a therapist Wempe saw in 1987 reported the case to authorities, but the cardinal was not certain. A source with knowledge of the case said allegations about Wempe were reported to the archdiocese in 1987 or 1988.
The Los Angeles Archdiocese is among a number of Roman Catholic ministries enmeshed in the widening sex abuse scandal. Recent and decades-old accusations of abuse by priests and others affiliated with the church began drawing national attention after highly-publicized cases in Boston earlier this year.
The Times reported in March that six to 12 priests had been dismissed by Mahony in February for past sexual abuse of minors. Mahony, under growing pressure to reveal details about the cases, would say only that "a few" priests, almost all of them retired, were involved.
On Friday, Mahony continued to refuse to name priests accused of sexual abuse, repeating earlier statements that he has been asked by two victims not to divulge the priests' names.
For the first time, however, Mahony clarified the number of known sex abuse cases. He said seven cases allegedly occurred before 1997, four in the last five years and another four were connected to priests who have since left the ministry and cannot be found. There were also a smaller group of allegedly abusive priests who are now dead, Mahony said.
In a 90-minute interview, conducted Friday afternoon in the residence receiving room of the new downtown cathedral, Mahony said the cases "gnaw" at him. He said he has trouble sleeping when he thinks about the victims.
"I keep reaffirming my own pledge to do everything in my power to make sure no one is harmed by the church," Mahony said. "That's what keeps me up at night: real sadness, sorrow, devastation."
Priest Was Trusted Friend of the Family
Mark Bashforth said that Wempe, who was a trusted family friend, began molesting him when he was 12. Then Wempe turned his attentions to Lee, who was 8, the brothers claim. They allege they were molested on overnight trips and during other activities.
Lee Bashforth said he recalled the abuse, which he had suppressed from his memory, about a month ago, watching coverage of the growing sex scandal. He said he had allowed Wempe to help officiate at his wedding ceremony last year.
"Do you think I'd let him anywhere near my wedding, if I had remembered?" Lee said.
After recalling the abuse, Lee Bashforth said, he called Mark, 39, and they began to sob together on the telephone.
"Because it such a traumatic memory, the mind does not let you recall these things," Mark Bashforth said. "[Wempe] gave a blessing in Lee's wedding ceremony. He did that knowing what he had done to my brother. How could he carry on this charade?"
R. Richard Farnell, a Newport Beach attorney representing the brothers, said Wempe had a history of abuse that was ignored by the archdiocese.
"The church concealed the truth about this priest for decades, moving him from parish to parish, without any thought for the children," Farnell said. "There are going to be other victims out there. A pedophile does not just do this once."
Bishop Accountability © 2003