Mahony Resources – April 15–22, 2002
LOS ANGELES -- Archbishop Roger Mahony said Monday he expects to have "open, frank" discussions with Pope John Paul II when he and other American cardinals meet with the pontiff in the Vatican next week.
The pope summoned all U.S. cardinals to Vatican City to discuss the sexual-abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic church.
"I welcome the invitation by the Holy See to travel to Rome next week for discussions on the continuing crisis in the church with respect to clergy sexual misconduct and the abuse of minors," Mahony said.
Mahony heads the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which with 5 million parishioners is the largest Catholic archdiocese in the nation.
The spiritual leader of Southland Catholics said he expects the meetings and discussions in Rome to be "open, frank and without limitations."
"A healthy dialogue with officials in the Vatican is essential to repairing the past damage," Mahony said, "and to create a more open and honest way of dealing with any type of misconduct within the Catholic Church for the future."
In the coming days, Mahony said he "will be consulting broadly to both develop a thorough analysis of the current problems and issues, and to elaborate a set of proposals to make certain that children and youth in the church are safe."
Mahony has found his own actions under scrutiny amid the almost daily revelations of alleged sexual abuse of minors by priests.
Last week, Mahony told The Los Angeles Times he regretted not telling Cedars-Sinai Medical Center that a priest he transferred there about 14 years ago was accused of molesting children.
Mahony said he should not have assigned Father Michael Wempe to the hospital without informing the facility of the accusations. Mahony had removed Wempe from his parish and ordered him to a New Mexico treatment facility for evaluation and counseling after the allegations surfaced.
Wempe, now 62, worked at Cedars-Sinai from 1988 until last month when Mahony forced him to retire under his recent zero-tolerance policy for church employees implicated in abuse cases.
Mahony also has been criticized for not publicly naming a handful of clergymen he has removed from their jobs because of alleged sexual abuse.
The cardinal himself was the subject of a sexual abuse allegation made by a mentally ill Fresno woman, who claimed Mahony had abused her when she was a minor.
Last week, the Fresno Police Department said it found no evidence to support the woman's claim that Mahony molested her at a high school 32 years ago.
There are 13 U.S. cardinals, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic
Bishops, and eight archdioceses. Three of the cardinals reportedly do
not head archdioceses, and two are retired.
A Belief So Deep, Priest Scandals Can't Shake It
By Teresa Watanabe
Even after the Roman Catholic Church's clergy sex scandal hit home, even when her own parish priest was accused of molestation last month, Maria Lopez never doubted her faith.
How could she? Her entire life, she says, has been one long answered prayer.
Lopez, a 35-year-old electronics company supervisor in Azusa, says God has calmed her troubled marriage, miraculously provided every time her cash ran short, even sent an angel disguised as a woman to talk her out of suicide.
Her church friends, as dear to her as her own mother, have prayed with her through her illnesses, fed her family and cared for her children. On Saturday, she marched with them and 3,000 others through downtown Los Angeles in support of their faith. After Mass on Sunday, she gathered with a dozen others, clasping hands and offering fervent prayers for her church, the priests and all abuse victims.
The priests in her life have baptized her four children, blessed her home and counseled her through depression. Her own pastor, Father David Granadino of St. Frances of Rome in Azusa, is under investigation on allegations that he molested boys, but Lopez and her children say they know only his goodness.
Lopez's life offers a glimpse into why the Catholic Church's spiraling crisis is not likely to drive many devout Catholics away from their spiritual touchstone. Her faith, she says, is not rooted in a hierarchy of men, but in the redeeming and nourishing power of Jesus' love. In the rhythms of weekly Mass, in the deep friendships forged, her faith is her life and her church is her family.
"Our faith is based on God and the resurrection of Jesus Christ and not on a priest," Lopez says. "Everybody is human; everybody falls at one time or another. As Christians, we should forgive. I am not someone to judge others."
Lopez, a Mexico native, shares her testimony with an effervescent smile and a rapid, passionate stream of words. In hours of conversation about her faith, she never once mentioned Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, Pope John Paul II or issues of dogma until asked about them.
Women's ordination? Married priests?
"I never think about those things, to be honest," Lopez says.
What informs her faith is apparent the minute you approach her four-bedroom, blue stucco home near the end of an Azusa cul-de-sac. Her front door is flanked by a prominent statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Inside her immaculately kept home, every room resembles a shrine, with statues of angels and doves, religious art and prayers mounted over doorways.
Lopez's husband, Jorge, usually attends Mass on Friday mornings because his job as chef at a Glendale country club keeps him busy the rest of the week. Two of their children attend St. Frances school. Three of them won "altar servers of the year" last year and have honorary plaques and pictures of a church-sponsored Disneyland trip to show for it.
Children Attribute Success to God
All of the children have faith testimonies too, though these must be prodded out of them by their beaming mother.
Jorge, 14, shyly noted that God had helped him boost his grades enough this year to finally realize his dream of playing on the school and city baseball teams. Anabely, 12, remembers the time she prayed the rosary and subsequently aced an exam. Fernando, 11, says God helped heal his grandfather, mother and cousins during times of illness.
Christian, 8, has no particular testimony, but volunteers that he was sad because he couldn't make his first confession in March with Granadino, who has been removed from duty by the Los Angeles archdiocese pending results of the investigation. Church officials say the priest has "forcefully" denied the allegations.
"He's the best priest, because he has the same [flattop] hair as mine," Christian says.
The three oldest children, along with their parents, were interviewed by a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy during Holy Week, says Lopez. They say the deputy asked the children how they liked being altar servers, whether they had ever heard of any problems involving Granadino or other priests.
Anabely says she reported two problems--one priest, not Granadino, once yelled at an altar server for failing to set up the chalice properly; another church official once kept a server after Mass until she learned to correct the mistake she had made during service.
But the Lopez family says that Father David, as they call him, had never hurt them, had always made them happy with jokes, compliments and a perennial smile. He asked about their classes, brought in pizza for the altar server meetings and arranged the Disneyland trips. Last June, he came by to bless the new family pool--another gift from God, Lopez says, made possible by a home refinance that dropped their monthly mortgage payments by $400.
Anabely says Father David always gave homilies that even children could understand. She remembers the time he talked about how his tough Air Force experiences had taught him not to complain and to be grateful for what he had.
"In a way, I don't believe [the charges] because he's so nice," says Anabely, an honor roll student with brown hair and braces who, like her mother, wears a cross around her neck. "But anyway, I'm serving God. Father David is one priest; there are many others."
For Lopez, the bonds of faith were not always so strong. She says her mother died when she was 5, and her father immigrated to California ahead of her and 12 siblings to work. Until she joined him in 1976 at the age of 9, she was raised by an older sister in Mexico who could not afford to send her to school and did not always bring her to Mass.
It was after she came to Pasadena and joined St. Andrew's Church that she began to learn about her faith, she says. A church woman took her under her wing, taught her to pray and helped prepare her for first Holy Communion. A St. Andrew's priest protected her from a local bully, telling her: "No one will ever touch you again. Do not be scared."
After she and her husband married and bought their Azusa home 11 years ago, she had to take a full-time job. The dual burdens of work and family brought new strains. Lopez says she started drinking and partying. She started arguing with her husband, who felt she was neglecting the family.
Then, one day four years ago, things began to change. She says she decided to drive to the mountains and kill herself, but needed gas. While she was refueling, she says, an elderly woman came up to her, a total stranger. Lopez says the woman told her: Peace be with you. You have children who love you. Why are you thinking of killing yourself?
Lopez was shocked. "I believe she was an angel," she says. "No one ever touched my heart like that."
She says the brief encounter opened her for the first time to confronting the mistakes she had made in her life. Then she fell into clinical depression, began popping more than a dozen prescribed pills a day and finally went on disability leave. That's when her church community rallied around her, sending groups to her home to pray and others to feed and watch her children.
One of them was Lupita Diaz, a woman who Lopez says has become the mother she barely had. Diaz marched with Lopez and her children in the rally Saturday, carrying signs--"Sigue a Cristo," or Follow Christ--and singing exuberant hymns.
Diaz also threw a surprise birthday brunch for her in February, complete with her three favorite cakes (coconut, chocolate mousse and chocolate pineapple), and leaves messages on her voicemail: "Are you OK? I just want you to know I love you and Jesus loves you."
Such friendships led Lopez to join the church prayer group; her aith has become a central part of her life ever since.
Every time she climbs into her Dodge van, she makes the sign of the cross for safety. Every Friday, she prays the rosary and fasts for half the day. She attends "healing Masses" for others, and carries religious books with her constantly--titles like "Persevere Through God's Love." She reads them during her children's baseball practice and other moments of down time.
And Lopez returns the charity she has received. She doesn't always have much to spare; her own family has no savings and struggles to make ends meet each week on a $4,000 monthly income.
Life of Faith Includes Giving
But what she has, she shares: sandwiches for the two hungry men who knocked on her door one day asking for help; a bag of food for the 15-year-old who just lost his father; a dollar last Sunday to the new family from Mexico who came to church hungry and homeless.
Her biggest personal project each year is a food and toy drive for an orphanage in Tijuana. Throughout the year, she buys toiletries and small gifts, asks family and friends to donate what they can. Last year, she was running short when her husband volunteered $200 of his year-end bonus to help out. The family travels to the orphanage every Christmas season to cook for the children, play with them and bring them presents.
Such acts embody the Lopez family's life of faith: "to love God and love others," she says.
"Whatever happens, I am proud of my religion," Lopez says.
"I follow my God and I follow Jesus. This will not change just because
of what's going on."
Enraged Catholics vent at Agoura forum on abuse
By Tom Kisken firstname.lastname@example.org
Angry and frustrated Catholics venting at a clergy abuse forum wanted names of guilty priests. They wanted to know about money spent in settlements. They wanted reform.
"I feel like the Catholic Church is the Titanic and we've hit the iceberg and we're taking on water," said Dan Crisafulli of Agoura Hills, referring to priests accused of molestation, including the pastor of his childhood parish on the East Coast. "If we don't come clean and get rid of those people, I think the church will lose its credibility and people will start to leave."
More than 100 people gathered at St. Jude Church in Westlake Village on Monday night and unloaded in a sometimes loud meeting designed to air concerns and ask questions, many of which have no immediate answers.
Some talked of child abuse accusations involving the Rev. Michael Wempe, whose assignments from 1969 to 1987 included time as an associate pastor at St. Jude and three Ventura County parishes. Many others aimed their anger at the seemingly never-ending scandals haunting the church worldwide.
One man demanded to know if money collected for various national drives was being used by the Catholic hierarchy to pay off settlements to victims. A woman said she couldn't understand victims agreeing to settlements mandating they not go public with their stories.
Joe Manion, a St. Jude deacon, said the Catholic Church was becoming too arrogant and was losing trust.
"I think we've been betrayed," he said. "Our shepherds have let wolves into the flock."
Another speaker said the abuse allegations receiving publicity in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles are old cases, with some going back decades.
"I'm so tired of hearing that they're old priests or new priests," responded a woman from Oak Park. "These priests are not dead and they're not in jail. We're still at risk. Pedophiles are sick people and they do not change."
Demands for the release of priests' names drew applause. When a man in his 60s told of being a victim who was molested by a priest as a child, he received a standing ovation.
Several people spoke passionately about the value of Catholic faith and the need to heal any wounds. Marilou O'Halloran, who was born in the Philippines, said that as an immigrant she always considered the church home.
"I don't belittle anything, yet we have to go on," she said. "I can't see myself living without the Catholic Church."
A Westlake Village priest advised people not to allow their rage to dictate their reactions to scandals, calling it spiritual suicide.
Mothers talked of calling adult sons and asking if they had been molested. Some mentioned Wempe, who served at St. Jude in the 1970s and apparently gained a reputation as a caring, personable man of faith -- "a wonderful, wonderful priest," one longtime parishioner said.
That image was affected by Mahony's statement that he removed Wempe from the ministry earlier this year as part of a zero-tolerance policy on child abuse. An archdiocesan spokesman confirmed the cardinal also sent Wempe to a treatment facility for counseling and evaluation about 14 years ago before transferring him to Cedars-Sinai Hospital, in a move that Mahony now labels a mistake.
Last week, two brothers in Orange County filed a lawsuit against Wempe and the archdiocese. They say the priest sexually abused them when they were children living in the Conejo Valley in the 1970s and '80s. The brothers said they blocked the incidents from memory for decades.
Wempe of Seal Beach was unavailable for comment. A Los Angeles attorney who said previously he represented the priest also could not be reached.
Tuesday, the Rev. James Rothe said by telephone that when he became pastor at St. Sebastian Church in Santa Paula in 1987, Wempe had finished his stint as an associate and was awaiting a new assignment. Instead, the cardinal removed Wempe from the parish at Rothe's request and sent him to treatment.
Rothe, now retired and living in Twin Lakes, said he didn't hear of any abuse allegations but asked for Wempe's removal because he had children in his private room and had taken youths with him on a short vacation.
"I said it was a dangerous situation and I wanted him removed before anything happened," he said.
Rothe said he asked a regional church leader whether he should go to the police but was told that because he didn't have specific allegations there was nothing to report.
Wempe also served as an associate at St. Rose of Lima Church in Simi Valley from 1969 to 1973, according to a Los Angeles church source. He was at Ventura's Sacred Heart Church in 1977 before being reassigned the following year.
At the St. Jude forum, one parishioner cited Wempe's name in her insistence that people have a right to protect their children. Another hooted at Mahony's claim in a Los Angeles Times story that when he transferred Wempe to Cedars-Sinai he was not aware the hospital had a pediatric unit.
"Give me a break," she said.
As she smoked a cigarette outside the forum, another parishioner summed up her feelings about the allegations by saying she felt "sad, very sad."
"This is by far the biggest shock," she said.
Back inside the conference room, St. Jude's current pastor, Monsignor William Leser, listened to the outpouring of anger, frustration and concern about clergy abuse.
"I'm just as upset," he said, expressing the most frustration
with cases where Catholic leaders have responded to allegations by transferring
priests. "When they just move people around, that's gross negligence."
"I wouldn't call that gross negligence," he said. "I would
call that gross stupidity."
Man Accuses Former Priest Of Repeated Molestations
A 34-year-old West Hollywood man alleges that he was molested from 1976 to 1986 by a priest who Cardinal Roger Mahony said failed to comply with a church-ordered therapy program, it was reported Wednesday.
The man told sheriff's investigators he was abused repeatedly by the Rev. Michael Baker, beginning when he was 9 years old at St. Paul of the Cross Church in La Mirada, according to the Los Angeles Times.
"Father Mike did this to me, and he did it to others and needs to
answer for his crimes," the Times quoted the man as saying.
Baker left the priesthood two years ago and agreed to pay a portion of a $1.3 million settlement to the family of one victim, according to sources familiar with the deal.
Mahony, who refused to discuss the specifics of Baker's case, told the Times that the former priest is among a small group that "troubles me the most," men who have left the archdiocese and are living without any supervision.
In a telephone interview Tuesday, Baker told the Times he could not comment on the allegations or Mahony's characterization of him.
"I have some feelings of response and clarification ... but I don't think I can really comment on them right now. I have been advised not to," Baker told the newspaper.
Baker began years of counseling in the mid-1980s after the archdiocese learned of alleged child abuse, according to sources knowledgeable about Baker's treatment.
"All of our evidence showed that he was never really complying with any therapy program and therefore there was never any cooperation of any kind," Mahony said. "The experience of many in dealing with him was they questioned the truthfulness of what he said."
Mahony is under increasing pressure to reveal the names of priests who have been fired over child abuse allegations.
Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley sent Mahoney a letter warning of a grand jury investigation unless law enforcement agencies receive assurances that the archdiocese is disclosing everything it knows about the abuse allegations.
Baker's attorney, Don Steier, declined to discuss the allegations. He cautioned that many priests have been accused of wrongdoing in recent months, citing the unsupported claim by a Fresno woman that she had been abused by Mahony in 1970. Police in Fresno concluded there was no evidence to support the claim.
Jeffrey Anderson, an attorney for the West Hollywood man said to have
been molested as a youth, said he sent a fax to Mahony Tuesday notifying
him of the allegations and asking whether any other claims of sexual misconduct
have been lodged against Baker.
Priest Sent to Therapy Is Accused of Abuse
By Beth Shuster, Richard Winton, and Glenn F. Bunting
A 34-year-old West Hollywood man reported Tuesday to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department that he had been molested from 1976 to 1986 by a priest who Cardinal Roger M. Mahony said failed to comply with a church-ordered therapy program.
The man, whose name is being withheld by The Times, claimed he was abused repeatedly by Father Michael Baker, beginning when he was 9 at St. Paul of the Cross Church in La Mirada. "Father Mike did this to me, and he did it to others and needs to answer for his crimes," the man said.
Baker, 54, is one of several former priests whose names were recently turned over by church officials to Los Angeles Police Department investigators.
Baker left the priesthood two years ago and agreed to pay a portion of a $1.3 million settlement to victims of one family, according to sources familiar with the deal.
Mahony, who refused to discuss the specifics of Baker's case, said in an interview the former priest is among a small group that "troubles me the most," men who have left the archdiocese and are living without any supervision.
In a telephone interview Tuesday, Baker said he could not comment on the allegations or Mahony's characterization of him. "I have some feelings of response and clarification ... but I don't think I can really comment on them right now. I have been advised not to," he said.
Baker began years of counseling in the mid-1980s after the archdiocese learned of alleged child abuse, according to sources knowledgeable about Baker's treatment.
"All of our evidence showed that he was never really complying with any therapy program and therefore there was never any cooperation of any kind," Mahony said.
"The experience of many in dealing with him was they questioned the truthfulness of what he said."
Mahony is under increasing pressure to reveal the names of priests who have been fired over child abuse allegations.
L.A. County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley sent the cardinal a letter warning of a grand jury investigation unless law enforcement agencies receive assurances that the archdiocese is disclosing everything it knows about the abuse allegations.
Lawyer Says Publicity Fuels Abuse Allegations
Baker's attorney, Don Steier, declined to discuss the allegations. He cautioned that many priests have been accused of wrongdoing in recent months, citing the unsupported claim by a Fresno woman that she had been abused by Mahony in 1970. Police in Fresno concluded there was no evidence to support the claim.
"It doesn't surprise me that there will be allegations made against priests or even the cardinal based upon the amount of publicity that is currently being generated," Steier said. "And ultimately, we will examine each case individually and determine the validity of the allegations. We've already seen that the allegations involving the cardinal were not meritorious."
Jeffrey R. Anderson, an attorney for the West Hollywood man, said he sent a fax to Mahony on Tuesday notifying him of the allegations and asking whether any other claims of sexual misconduct have been lodged against Baker.
Anderson, who represents dozens of alleged victims of pedophile priests across the country, said his client "is credible, he is earnest, and he is in a place where for the first time he could break his silence.... I told him you could put your head in the pillow tonight knowing you've done everything you can to make sure this kind of abuse doesn't happen to someone else."
In the late 1980s, Mahony assigned Baker to work with retired priests and to occasionally help with Sunday masses at various parishes. He was not allowed to work with children.
The man who reported the allegations to Sheriff's investigators claimed Baker would arrange to have him spend the night at St. Paul.
"It started off very subtly. I'd be in bed with him and gradually it progressed," the man said. "I started staying up there once every couple of weekends."
Baker, he said, took him to a home in Palm Desert, to Balboa Island and on a trip to Chicago, where he allegedly molested him. Baker, he said, lived lavishly for a priest and occasionally brought the man's mother and father on trips to Palm Desert.
"He was a very charismatic guy. He befriended everyone," the man said.
Accuser Says Priest Gave Him Money
Baker sometimes showed remorse, he said, and would "leave money on the bed in the morning. I have letter somewhere from him, after the fact, that he was sorry for everything."
Years later, the man said, he told a therapist about the molestations. He said the therapist reported them to police but nothing came of it except a single call to his mother, the man said.
Around 1990 or 1991, he said, he confronted Baker. He said for several years he occasionally received money in the mail from Baker.
The L.A. Archdiocese is one of several ministries around the country dealing with clerical sex abuse accusations, some decades old.
In Cooley's letter, sent last week and obtained Tuesday, he said recent disclosures had raised serious questions about compliance by church officials with the state law that requires clergy members to report child abuse.
"Your personal assurance that all known or reasonably suspected instances of child abuse have been reported by the Archdiocese to the appropriate law enforcement agencies is essential," the letter said.
Cooley said if the archdiocese fails to comply, "formal investigation through the Los Angeles County Grand Jury may become necessary."
In a reply received by Cooley this week, Mahony said his clergy are trained to comply with the law and that no information was being withheld. Mahony also provided details on four active cases, three involving priests and one allegation against a deacon.
Cooley on Tuesday sent another letter to Los Angeles Police Chief Bernard C. Parks, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca and Larry Lewis, president of the L.A. County Police Chiefs' Assn., requesting that they review the cardinal's reply to see whether archdiocese officials are complying with the state reporting law.
"A complete investigation to determine if there have been violations of mandatory child abuse reporting laws any or any criminal child abuse laws by persons associated with the Los Angeles archdiocese is essential," Cooley said.
Mahony told Cooley his attorneys know of four active criminal cases in
the L.A. archdiocese: an ousted priest in Bell Gardens, a South El Monte
deacon who pleaded guilty to felony sex crimes, a priest under investigation
for allegedly abusing altar servers and another former priest accused
of pinching a girl on the buttocks.
Mahony Gives Abuse Panel More Muscle
By Beth Shuster and Larry B. Stammer
Cardinal Roger M. Mahony will announce today that he is expanding the scope and authority of a panel overseeing all sexual abuse allegations in the Los Angeles Archdiocese in an effort to add more credibility to the process.
Mahony plans to discuss three new initiatives aimed at dealing with abuse cases in the Roman Catholic Church in media interviews today. In an interview Wednesday, Mahony said his initiatives are far-reaching and will help the church deal with future problems.
As he looks back over the clerical sex abuse allegations, Mahony said he wished he had two of the new programs in place: an expanded panel of mostly laypeople to examine the accusations and claims and an education program to teach children how to guard against sexual abuse and other types of violence.
The cardinal said he also plans to add "spiritual" programs aimed at helping abuse victims who want to continue their involvement in the church separate from therapy or other forms of counseling.
In addition, a separate task force will be created by Mahony to attempt to determine how much the archdiocese has paid to settle abuse claims against clergy members. Because the archdiocese had several insurance companies over the years, Mahony said he wants to determine the costs involved in these cases to get a better idea of the financial aspects of the problem.
As the sexual abuse scandal has flared across the country in recent months, a frequent complaint from rank-and-file Catholics has been that bishops who control the church's 195 U.S. dioceses have not been accountable to parishioners.
Mahony seemed intent to begin addressing that issue by not only expanding the number of laypeople on his existing sexual abuse council but giving it more authority.
"What has become obvious to me is that too much of this has been functioning within the close clerical circles. We're much better served when we involve ... laypeople," Mahony said.
Additionally, Mahony said the priests' role is somewhat "conflictive."
"One of our main roles is forgiveness, reconciliation, restoration," Mahony said.
Years ago, he added, bishops believed that "God's grace was powerful enough to help overcome this moral evil."
Mahony said that today, however, he knows that some problems cannot be solved spiritually and need to be dealt with through the criminal justice system.
The cardinal said he will expand the existing nine-member sexual abuse advisory council to 15 members, only three of whom will be priests. The council now has seven lay members and two priests. Among the lay members are the parents of two children who were molested by priests, and a retired judge.
Mahony said he wants to appoint a sexual abuse victim to the expanded panel which, he said, will have "much more authority" over deciding how to resolve complaints of priest abuse. He said the panel will develop and review sexual abuse policies for the archdiocese.
Asked if the council would have the final word on how a case is decided, Mahony said that is "the thrust" of his intention. Currently, the panel makes recommendations to Mahony.
Cardinal May Be Trying to Take Lead Nationally
Mahony's proposals were met with praise from some who believe the cardinal is attempting to take the lead on these issues.
Mahony said he will discuss these ideas, among others, when he and other American cardinals meet with Vatican officials in Rome next week.
Bill Ryan, a spokesman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, said that the scope of Mahony's initiatives appears to be unprecedented. He said he does not know of any other church programs as comprehensive.
"This certainly does sound very far-reaching," Ryan said. He said that a number of other U.S. dioceses have sexual abuse review councils whose members include a majority of laypeople. But he said Mahony's intention to give his council greater authority in resolving cases may be unique.
The Most Rev. William S. Skylstad, vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said Tuesday that Mahony's proposals are the "most specific" he has seen.
"We've talked about some of those issues but haven't gone ahead as far as planning. I'm very impressed," Skylstad said.
The education programs, which are expected to be implemented in the 287 parishes in the three-county archdiocese, are aimed at teaching children ways to avoid potentially dangerous situations, including sexual abuse, kidnapping and neglect by any adult.
"These programs are designed to help children and young people in all kinds of situations," Mahony said. "How do you avoid being kidnapped? How do you avoid pornography on the Internet? How do you deal with advances by abusers?"
He said there are several good existing programs that involve both minors and their parents. He said an archdiocesan working group is looking at programs now and should have recommendations to parishes within a few weeks.
Mahony said his offer to create spiritual programs for sexual abuse victims may not appeal to some, but he said he believes it is important for the church to make a "spiritual outreach."
The Roman Catholic Church faces sexual abuse allegations around the country. The accusations, some new and some years old, first surfaced in Boston earlier this year when it was revealed that a priest had molested more than 130 boys and was transferred from parish to parish.
Mahony insists that his archdiocese is cooperating with law enforcement authorities and that he has a "zero-tolerance" policy toward maintaining abusers in the church. He said he has turned over names of alleged abusive priests to the Los Angeles Police Department, and he is continually meeting with victims.
The LAPD has a special phone line for victims to report abuse by clergy,
and detectives say they are receiving new tips nearly every day. The phone
number is (213) 485-2883.
Mahony Launches New Initiatives to Deal With Priest Scandal
Cardinal Roger M. Mahony plans to announce Thursday that he is expanding the scope and authority of a mostly lay panel overseeing all sexual abuse allegations in his vast archdiocese.
Mahony planed to give interviews Thursday to NBC4 and other TV stations serving the Southland to outline three new initiatives aimed at dealing with abuses cases in the Roman Catholic Church.
On the eve of his on-air interviews, Mahony told the Los Angeles Times that his initiatives are far-reaching and will help the church deal with future problems.
He said that, as he looks back over the clerical sex abuse allegations, he wishes he had two of the new programs in place: an expanded panel of mostly laypeople to examine the accusations and claims, and an education program to teach children how to guard against sexual abuse and other types of violence.
The education programs, which are expected to be implemented in the 287 parishes in the three-county Los Angeles archdiocese, are aimed at teaching children ways to avoid potentially dangerous situations, including sexual abuse, kidnapping and neglect by any adult.
Mahony also told the Times that he plans to add "spiritual" programs aimed at helping abuse victims who want to continue their involvement in the church separate from therapy or other forms of counseling.
Additionally, the Times reported, Mahony plans to create a separate task force to attempt to determine how much the archdiocese has paid to settle abuse claims against clergy members.
Because the archdiocese had several insurance companies over the years, Mahony told the Times he wants to determine the costs involved in these cases to get a better idea of the financial implications of the problem.
As the sexual abuse scandal has burgeoned across the nation, a frequent complaint has been that bishops who control the church's 195 U.S. dioceses have not been accountable to parishioners.
Mahony seems intent to begin addressing that issue by not only expanding the number of laypeople on his existing sexual abuse council but giving it more authority, the Times reported.
"What has become obvious to me is that too much of this has been functioning within the close clerical circles. We're much better served when we involve ... laypeople," he told the Times.
Years ago, he said, bishops believed that "God's grace was powerful enough to help overcome this moral evil" of abuse by priests.
Today, however, he realizes that some problems cannot be solved spiritually and need to be dealt with through the criminal justice system.
Mahony said he will expand the existing nine-member sexual abuse advisory council to 15 members, only three of whom will be priests. The council now has seven lay members and two priests. Among the lay members are the parents of two children who were molested by priests, and a retired judge.
Mahony told the Times that he wants to appoint a sexual abuse victim to the expanded panel which, he said, will have "much more authority" over deciding how to resolve complaints of priest abuse.
He said the panel will develop and review sexual abuse policies for the Los Angeles archdiocese, which serves Catholics in Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.
Asked if the council would have the final word on how a case is decided, Mahony told the Times that is "the thrust" of his intention. Currently, the panel makes recommendations to Mahony.
Mahony said he will discuss these ideas, among others, when he and other American cardinals summoned by the pope meet with Vatican officials in Rome next week.
Bill Ryan, a spokesman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, told the Times that the scope of Mahony's initiatives appears to be unprecedented. He said he does not know of any other church programs as comprehensive.
The Roman Catholic Church faces sexual abuse allegations around the country. The accusations first surfaced in Boston earlier this year when it was revealed that a priest had molested more than 130 boys over several years and was transferred from parish to parish.
The LAPD has a special phone line for victims to report abuse by clergy,
and detectives say they are receiving new tips nearly every day. The phone
number is (213) 485-2883.
Mouth Wide Shut
By Ron Russell
When the now-infamous e-mails between Cardinal Roger M. Mahony and his top lieutenants were leaked to a Los Angeles radio station earlier this month, revealing a religious leader obsessively preoccupied with spin control, John Durham was one person who wasn't surprised. "They don't call him Roger the Dodger for nothing," says the Stockton loading-dock supervisor, referring to Mahony's tireless efforts to avoid revealing the names of child-molesting priests he claims to have purged from the Los Angeles Archdiocese. First, someone inside the archdiocese told the press that he had booted six to 12 priests. Mahony next said it was "a few." Then, in the hacked e-mails, he wrote that it was eight. And in recent days, while remaining characteristically fuzzy, he has backpedaled once again, acknowledging that at least 15 sex abuse cases occured in the archdiocese during his watch.Durham is no ordinary Mahony critic. In fact, he is among a handful of people (12 to be precise) who can say they've judged the powerful cleric's utterances regarding sex abuse among Catholic clergy up close and under oath, and found them extremely wanting. As a juror in a 1998 civil trial in which the Stockton diocese -- where Mahony was bishop before coming to Los Angeles -- was accused of harboring a priest who had molested children, Durham thought Mahony was lying then, and he thinks he's lying now. Of the cardinal's role as the star witness in the case involving former priest Oliver O'Grady, Durham insists, "I found Mahony to be utterly unbelievable." And he is not alone. "I didn't believe Mahony," echoes Abraham DeLeon, a lifelong Catholic, who also served on the panel. "I think it's pretty obvious that none of us [jurors] did."
Lawyers for two boys molested by O'Grady, James and Joh Howard, argued that Mahony and other diocesan officials knew that O'Grady was a child molester and that they covered it up for years, during which time the Irish-born priest abused at least 20 children. O'Grady was an equal opportunity pedophile, targeting males and females, with whom he variously engaged in oral and anal sex, masturbation, digital penetration, groping and fondling. This, while having illicit affairs with at least two of the children's mothers. At one parish where Mahony sent him despite a psychiatrist's warning that O'Grady was sexually and emotionally troubled, the priest kept a play pen at the rectory to make unsuspecting parents more comfortable leaving their children in his care. His youngest victim -- a girl who medical tests suggest was digitally raped -- was 9 months old. After a seven-week trial, the jury of four women and eight men awarded the Howards $24 million in punitive damages (later cut in half by a judge) and another $6 million in compensatory damages. Although the church has had to fork over larger compensatory damages in other cases, the punitive judgment awarded by the Stockton jury remains the largest ever in a child-molestation case.
However, more significantly, especially in view of the current scandal engulfing the church, not to mention Mahony's well-publicized stonewalling of Los Angeles law enforcement, the verdict was a repudiation of the man who presides over the nation's largest Roman Catholic archdiocese and has even been mentioned as a future pope. As bishop of Stockton from 1980 to 1985, Mahony shuffled O'Grady around and even promoted him in 1984 shortly after the diocese persuaded the Stockton Police Department to drop its investigation of a sexual incident with a child in which O'Grady was implicated. But when he took the witness stand as the highest-ranking American Catholic official ever to testify in a molestation case, Mahony tried to convey the impression that he knew little about the wayward priest. He repeatedly said that he never knew or couldn't recall key episodes related to his handling of the O'Grady matter. Stockton was, and is, a small diocese. During the time Mahony was there, it employed only about 80 priests. By contrast, there are some 1,200 priests in the sprawling L.A. Archdiocese that encompasses Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.
Indeed, a New Times examination of hundreds of pages of trial testimony and interviews with principals in the case raises numerous questions about the role of Mahony -- who declined to be interviewed for this article -- in the Stockton matter. A Catholic psychiatrist who evaluated O'Grady testified at the trial that it was common knowledge at the diocese in 1984 that O'Grady was a pedophile. A letter of apology from O'Grady to the parents of a young girl he molested in 1976 was included in his personnel file, to which Mahony had access. So was a 1980 letter from the Howard boys' father, who, although estranged from his wife, nonetheless wrote the diocese to complain that O'Grady was spending too much time with his children. Yet Mahony claimed no knowledge of the 1976 letter. He said he never bothered to examine the priest's personnel file and had no idea about what might have been in it. He acknowledged having been told by a subordinate about the 1980 letter, but said he didn't recall any issue related to children, and assumed that O'Grady's troubles were limited to his "excessive" visits to a married woman. Amazingly, during four hours of sometimes hostile questioning, the cardinal conveyed the impression that it was his underlings at the chancery office -- certainly not him -- who advanced O'Grady's career.
If it all sounds similar to accusations against Cardinal Bernard Law and the scandal that has riven the Boston Archdiocese since it was revealed that a pedophiliac priest under his watch molested up to 130 children while being shuffled from parish to parish for years, news media in Los Angeles and nationally didn't care much about the O'Grady case. The Boston scandal -- in which at least 80 priests by now have been accused of pedophilia -- set off a wave of recent media coverage focusing on sex-abuse cases across the country, many of which (we know now) had been brewing for up to two decades or longer. Yet the Stockton case -- which would have brought the problem of pedophilic priests in the Roman Catholic Church to light much sooner, and spared countless victims -- was barely covered in the press. "We were just flabbergasted that there was so little attention paid to the story," says Nancy Sloan, 37, who was abused by O'Grady as a girl and who testified at the Stockton trial. "I can remember calling up reporters and trying to get them to cover it and getting nothing but a ho-hum response. Now, since Boston, it's funny. I've got reporters from those same newspapers who refused to write much of anything about Mahony calling up begging me for interviews."
The result -- to the amazement of child- protection advocates and those victimized by Catholic clergy -- was that Mahony managed to skip away from the trial with minimal damage to his carefully cultivated image. Except perhaps in California's Central Valley.
After the trial got under way, lawyers for the plaintiffs were told that the only way to guarantee Mahony's testimony would be to provide him a private jet -- which was done. At the conclusion of his day on the witness stand, the cardinal flew home and immediately entered USC's Norris Cancer Center to undergo a prostate operation. There, for the next two weeks -- during which time the jury returned its blockbuster verdict -- Mahony remained conveniently unavailable for questioning. "I call him the Teflon Cardinal," says Jeff Anderson, a St. Paul, Minnesota, attorney who represented the Howards and has handled more than 300 sex-abuse cases against members of the clergy, including scores of priests. "Nothing has stuck to him yet."
Even now, as he continues to bob and weave regarding the unfolding scandal in L.A., Mahony displays the kind of behavior that rendered him unbelievable in the Stockton case. Besides stonewalling authorities, he has hunkered down in his residence overlooking the soon-to-open $193 million Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral, refusing to speak to any but a carefully chosen few reporters. His public pronouncements have been textbook examples of spin doctoring, either coming after leaks (as in the purloined e-mails that wound up in the hands of KFI radio) or as an attempt to put the best face on an unflattering story by offering scraps of information once reporters have gotten wind of something.
For instance, last week Mahony apologized publicly for having reassigned a priest who had been removed from his parish in 1988 for molesting two boys to chaplain duty at Cedars Sinai Medical Center -- without ever telling officials at the hospital that he had sent them a pedophile. Mahony said that if he had it to do over he would have drummend Father Michael Wempe out of the priesthood. But the episode involving Wempe (whose known track record as a child molester doesn't hold a candle to O'Grady's) raises more questions about Mahony's actions than it answers. It was only a month ago, amid the fallout from the current sex scandal, that Mahony finally saw fit to dump Wempe, forcing him into retirement. And as recently as two years ago, the cardinal thought well enough of the pedo-priest to be the star guest at a luncheon in his honor.
Almost from the time Mahony, 65, arrived in Los Angeles on Labor Day of 1985 after becoming archbishop here (Pope John Paul II elevated him to cardinal in 1991), he has been a larger-than-life figure. From humble origins as the son of a Hollywood electrician who later opened a poultry business, Mahony has surrounded himself with powerful and politically influential friends. (Former L.A. mayor Richard Riordan once gave him a $400,000 helicopter, which the cardinal flew around his archdiocese for several years before he was persuaded to give it up.) He has long cultivated a reputation as hardworking, organized and with a politician's facility for recalling the names of people, places and events. According to several priests in the archdiocese who agreed to speak about Mahony on condition of anonymity, he always has been intimately involved with even the most trivial affairs in his gargantuan realm. He's legendary for keeping a tight rein on his troops, including sending out midnight missives known as "snot-grams" to his subordinates to keep them in line. "The term control-freak comes to mind," confides one priest.
In essence, he doesn't strike anyone as the type who could be clueless about a potential scandal brewing in his midst. "If you really want to know who Roger Mahony is, all you need to do is look closely into the Stockton fiasco," says Father Thomas Doyle, a U.S. Air Force chaplain who is coauthor of a pioneering 1985 report on priestly sexual abuse that was distributed to every bishop in the United States. Doyle testified as an expert witness for the Howards. "Mahony was a key player in the grossly immoral cover-up involving Oliver O'Grady, and when I see him and others stand up now and apologize on behalf of the church for these sorts of crimes I have to ask myself, "Do they think we're stupid?'"
Oliver O'Grady's exploits would have stood out in the smarmy world of priestly child molesters even if such a prominent figure as Mahony weren't linked to his tragic legacy. "I've never seen a longer and more clearly documented pattern of cover-up by a diocese," says David Clohessy, who heads SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. Although no one could have known it, O'Grady was carrying heavy emotional baggage when he arrived at the Stockton diocese as a newly ordained 25-year-old priest in 1971. He confided to one of his victims that he had been sexually abused by two priests in his native Ireland during a rough-and-tumble childhood in which his father died when he was six and his mother struggled to make ends meet while raising seven children. "Everyone liked Oliver," recalls former priest Cornelius DeGroot. "But he kept people at a distance. You could never really get to know him." O'Grady served as associate pastor to DeGroot in the Central Valley town of Lodi in the 1970s.For diocesan officials, alarm bells went off in 1976, four years before Mahony arrived in Stockton as the new bishop. While helping oversee a church youth camp in the Sierra foothills the previous summer, O'Grady had struck up a friendship with a Fairfield, California, couple who were parents of a young girl. They were thrilled when O'Grady invited their daughter, 11-year-old Nancy Sloan, to visit him in Lodi for what amounted to a four-day weekend. "My parents considered it an honor that a priest would take such personal interest in me," recalls Sloan, now a registered nurse. During her visit with O'Grady, she says, he groped between her legs while they were in a swimming pool, forcibly kissed her on the lips in a church after performing a wedding ceremony, fondled her at the state capitol during a day-trip to Sacramento and forced himself on her as she lay sleeping in a downstairs bedroom of the Lodi rectory. Horrified and confused, she revealed the abuse to her parents upon returning home, including O'Grady's threats against her if she told anyone.
Upon receiving a phone call from the parents, DeGroot confronted O'Grady, who confessed. DeGroot says he then called Bishop Merlin Guilfoyle to tell him what had happened, and drove O'Grady to the chancery office in Stockton to "turn him over" to Guilfoyle. However, to his surprise, Guilfoyle took no action against the errant priest other than to suggest that he seek counseling from a local psychiatrist at the diocese's expense. "It was shocking really," recalls DeGroot, 72, who eventually left the priesthood to practice law in Stockton. "It should have been curtains for [O'Grady] as a priest right there. It wasn't just an allegation. He was an admitted child molester."
But O'Grady got even luckier. The staunchly Catholic Sloans did not press criminal charges, and neither did they sue. Instead, they chose to let the diocese pay for therapy for their daughter. The now-deceased Guilfoyle, who was then nearing retirement, swept the budding scandal under the rug. Neither he nor anyone else from the diocese contacted authorities. "My impression," says DeGroot, "was that he decided to leave O'Grady for his successor [Mahony] to deal with." The one thing the bishop did do was ship O'Grady to another parish. But before O'Grady left Lodi, DeGroot persuaded him to write a letter of apology to Sloan's parents for molesting their daughter. The typewritten two-page letter, dated August 23, 1976 (a copy of which was placed in O'Grady's secret file at the chancery office), played a role many years later in convincing the civil jury that the diocese had covered up the matter during the Mahony era and beyond.
Nancy Sloan wasn't the first person O'Grady molested. He was regularly abusing a young girl in the Lodi parish while a guest in that family's home. The girl's parents had been clueless, with the mother even putting out pajamas for the priest during his occasional overnight stays. Of the suspected 20 victims that prosecutors and plaintiffs attorneys say exist, only nine came forward -- most of them long after it was too late to file criminal charges or civil suits because statutes of limitation had expired. Except for Sloan, all the known victims, from the mid-'70s to the early '90s, attended parish churches to which O'Grady was assigned. They included three boys and a girl from among Roland and Ann Howard's nine children. The Howards were living in the town of Turlock when O'Grady landed there as associate priest after he was transferred from Lodi. By the late '70s, he had begun to molest James and Joh Howard, while both were preschoolers. He did so, off and on, for 10 years.
At the same time, court records show, he had also begun an affair with the boys' mother that continued after the Howards moved away to Merced. In October of 1980 -- six months after Mahony arrived as the new bishop -- Roland Howard wrote his letter to the chancery office. In it, he complained, although the couple had split up, about O'Grady's continued visits to his wife and about the priest's spending too much time around his children. He groused that O'Grady had showed up on his day off dressed in "street clothes" and had taken his two-year-old son away alone for the day. That letter also went into O'Grady's secret file.
The letter prompted Mahony to summon O'Grady to meet with him. At the conclusion of their talk, the bishop ordered the priest to stay away from Merced. O'Grady didn't. In fact, his accusers say he continued to molest the Howard children while carrying on his priestly duties. Whether or not it was to keep a better eye on him, Mahony transferred O'Grady into Stockton in 1982. It was there in 1984 that problems with him erupted anew. Just what prompted what follows isn't certain, but Mahony's vicar general, Monsignor James Cain, approached a local Catholic psychiatric social worker in October of that year about providing counseling for O'Grady. It was an unusual request for a couple of reasons. Not only was the counselor, William Guttieri, a parishioner in O'Grady's Stockton church, but the two socialized. Nevertheless, during one of their sessions, O'Grady alluded to having engaged in recent pedophiliac activity with a boy, who turned out to be James Howard. As he was obligated to do under state law, Guttieri reported what he had been told to Stockton police and to San Joaquin County Child Protective Services. He also informed Tom Shephard, the diocese's lawyer.
What happened next was extraordinary. Stockton police detective Jerald Cranston went to Merced to interview Ann Howard, who acknowledged that some of her children had spent nights with O'Grady at the rectory 50 miles away in Stockton and that O'Grady was an occasional overnight guest in her home. The detective had less luck talking to the alleged victim, her son James, who was nine at the time. The boy didn't volunteer that he had been molested and the detective didn't press him. When Cranston got back to Stockton, he received a call from Shephard, the diocese's lawyer. According to police records, Shephard told him that diocese officials -- he didn't say who -- had interviewed O'Grady and felt the alleged episode involving the boy was an isolated incident. According to the police officer, the diocesan lawyer assured him that O'Grady would get counseling through the church and that he would be transferred to a new assignment where he would be working with adults away from any children.
Shephard was essentially making a pitch to Stockton police to leave O'Grady's future in the hands of Bishop Mahony -- who, by then, enjoyed an almost legendary reputation among the farm belt diocese's many Latino parishioners for his early support of United Farm Workers president Cesar Chavez during the labor organizer's struggle against wealthy San Juaquin Valley grape producers. (Ironically, Mahony's image as a friend of poor working people later took a beating when he snuffed out efforts by mostly Latino workers at the L.A. Archdiocese's cemeteries to organize a union in the early 1990s.) After the call from Shephard in late November, the police investigation fizzled.
Mahony did order a fresh psychological evaluation of O'Grady. But amazingly, he then shipped the priest to a parish in the remote Sierra foothills community of San Andreas two weeks before Christmas of 1984, without even waiting for the psychiatrist's report. When the report arrived nearly three weeks after O'Grady was in the new assignment, it couldn't have been what Mahony wanted to hear. O'Grady had admitted to the psychiatrist, John Morris, that he had molested children, although he didn't say how many or for how long. Although Morris didn't include those particular facts in the written report he sent to Mahony (and, at the 1998 civil trial, didn't seem to recall exactly what he told Mahony during one or more conversations with him years earlier), the written document spelled out clearly Morris' conclusion that O'Grady exhibited serious sexual and social immaturity. In a rather revealing suggestion -- considering that the secular psychiatrist was informing a Roman Catholic bishop about one of his priests -- Morris also urged that O'Grady be given "spiritual" help.
But O'Grady had already lucked out again by that time, and Mahony wasn't about to do anything to change that. Interestingly, O'Grady, always before an associate pastor, had been promoted by Mahony when he was transferred to San Andreas. So instead of landing in jail or getting defrocked, O'Grady -- despite the psychiatrist's shocking evaluation -- would continue handling the administrative duties of an ailing elderly priest in a parish brimming with children. The year after the pedo-priest's promotion, Mahony was himself promoted and transferred. He became archbishop and headed to L.A., presumably putting O'Grady behind him.
It was while at San Andreas that Oliver O'Grady came into his prime as a sexual predator. The crimes committed against James and Joh Howard that eventually got him sent to prison occurred after he was transferred there. It was also after the transfer that he allegedly committed offenses against two of the boys' siblings. He was never prosecuted as a result of those allegations since authorities didn't become aware of them until statutes of limitation had expired. While he continued a long-distance relationship with Ann Howard in Merced, O'Grady also zeroed in on a young married woman -- and her children -- in his new parish. The woman, now 46, who has never been identified publicly in connection with O'Grady, agreed to tell her story to New Times on condition that she be identified only as Jane Doe. She and her husband agreed to an undisclosed settlement with the Stockton diocese in 1995 stemming from O'Grady's molesting two of their children, including a daughter who was only nine months old when the abuse began.Doe and her husband were among the unsuspecting parishioners on hand to welcome O'Grady to San Andreas. Slender -- barely five feet five inches tall and sporting a comb-over to conceal a thinning hairline -- O'Grady scarcely fit the description of a lady's man. But those who knew him say he was the quintessential nurturer. "He had this quality of seeming to always be absolutely listening to you, of hearing everything, being emotionally supportive, feeding you the things you needed to hear," recalls Doe. He became "like a member of the family," a confidante to both her and her husband. The couple didn't consider it unusual that the priest gave their grade-school-age son gifts and showered him with attention. After their daughter was born, he volunteered to baby-sit. For her part, Doe had turned to O'Grady for pastoral help as she struggled with episodic depression and her husband's excessive drinking. Gradually, she says, she became emotionally involved with him. "Looking back on it, I was pathetically ill at the time. I actually thought I loved this man." Their first sexual encounter occurred during a counseling session at the rectory in 1992. It was the start of a year-long affair that ended abruptly -- with what she describes as the most horrifying phone call of her life.
The call, from one of Ann Howard's grown daughters, came the Monday after Father's Day in June of 1993. "She told me who she was, that she and three of her brothers had been molested by Oliver O'Grady as children, and that she feared he may have now moved on to my children," recalls Doe. O'Grady's brazenness had triggered the warning. A short time earlier, the priest had flown to San Diego to attend a wedding of a Howard relative. At the reception, one of the Howard sons, whom the priest had molested, noticed O'Grady paying undue attention to one of his little brothers and exploded in anger, creating a scene. The San Diego episode left O'Grady visibly shaken, but by the time he greeted Doe, who picked him up at the Oakland airport upon his return, there was no hint that anything was wrong. However, the incident had pushed four of the Howard children to a horrible mutual realization -- they had each been victimized by O'Grady without the others ever knowing.
Doe recalls feeling suicidal while listening to the Howard daughter's voice on the phone. But by the time the conversation ended, she says, "I was very calm, and I believed her." She called her husband and told him to come home immediately to stay with the kids. Then she called her sister-in-law to accompany her on the 45-minute drive to the town of Hughson, near Modesto, where O'Grady had been transferred recently. She was so shocked and angry that she was determined to confront him. In the church parking lot she was greeted by Ann Howard, who had driven up from Merced with her daughter and the daughter's boyfriend so that Doe would not have to face the priest alone. The daughter and her friend were already inside the rectory talking to O'Grady. By the time Doe and Howard entered, fisticuffs had broken out between the cleric and the boyfriend. O'Grady grabbed a phone to dial 911. "If you do, I'm going to tell the whole world what you did!" Doe recalls Howard's daughter shouting. O'Grady put down the phone, but it was too late. The emergency center already had determined the number from which the call had been placed. Within minutes, sheriff's deputies arrived.
The deputies took a disturbance report without making an arrest. But it was the beginning of the end for O'Grady. Doe and her husband, as part of a preliminary criminal investigation, pushed to have their daughter, who by then was barely two years old, examined by doctors at UC Davis to determine the extent to which she may have been molested. The results revealed vaginal scarring consistent with digital penetration. Since the little girl had not begun to talk when the abuse occurred, the local district attorney's office shied away from pursuing charges. As for their son, who then had just turned 14, Doe and her husband embarked on the difficult task of drawing the boy out about what O'Grady had done to him. "He was extremely traumatized and became extremely withdrawn," Doe recalls. After finally breaking down and telling his parents what had happened, he became so distraught that he attempted to kill himself.
Meanwhile, James and Joh Howard (whose abuses, like those of the Doe children, hadn't happened so long ago that O'Grady couldn't be prosecuted because of statutes of limitation) decided the time had come to go to the authorities. O'Grady was arrested in early August of 1993, based on charges brought by the brothers. Still, it was little consolation to Jane Doe, who wanted to know the truth about what the priest had done to her children, especially to her daughter, who couldn't speak for herself. When he refused to talk to her when she visited him in jail shortly after his arrest, she sent a pastoral counselor, the Reverend Deborah Warwick Fabino, an Episcopal priest, to see him. To Fabino's surprise, O'Grady confessed to molesting the Doe children and several others. "His attorneys were advising him to plead not guilty" to molesting the Howards, Fabino tells New Times, "but when I said I needed to let the police know [about his confessions] they apparently changed their minds." Charged with 21 counts of lewd and lascivious conduct involving the two Howard boys, O'Grady admitted guilt to four of the counts as part of a plea bargain. He was sent to Mule Creek State Prison in nearby Ione to begin serving seven years behind bars.
Doe says she feels fortunate -- though she was shattered spiritually and her son, now 22, has been rendered "emotionally unstable" by the abuse, despite years of therapy. The week she confronted O'Grady her husband quit drinking. "He told me that I'd stuck with him for years, and that it was his turn to stick with me. It's a nightmare we've lived through, but we're still there for each other." Citing a confidentiality agreement, she declines to say how much the Stockton diocese paid to settle their civil complaint, but she is convinced that it was far less than what a jury would have awarded had they not chosen to forego a trial to spare their children further trauma.
She says Mahony has been the biggest impediment in her healing process. In 1994, after O'Grady went to prison, Doe, using Fabino as an intermediary, sought an audience with the cardinal as a way of seeking closure. "I just wanted to understand from him how he could have allowed this man to have continued as a priest and how he could have sent him [to San Andreas] knowing what I'm convinced he knew," says Doe. Fabino says she wrote a letter to the cardinal appealing to him as a pastor, asking him to see Doe, but that Mahony refused. "I got a cursory letter back from one of his representatives saying it wasn't possible," Fabino says. "That was it."
Had Nancy Sloan followed through with a promise she made to herself, the Doe family and others might have escaped a lot of pain. Sloan had turned 21 in 1986 and with support from a therapist felt compelled to confront O'Grady for what he had done to her as a child 10 years earlier. Mahony had moved to L.A., and the Most Reverend Donald Montrose had taken over as bishop in Stockton by then. Sloan wrote to the chancery office seeking information about O'Grady, and was immediately put off by the response. Diocesan officials didn't tell her much of anything. Persisting, she drove to Stockton in May 1986 and sat down with several of them, including Monsignor Cain, who was still the vicar general. The interchange became testy, she says, especially after one of the priests tried to explain away the church's handling of her abuse by saying that there might have been a different response if she had been a boy. Sloan says she was assured by diocesan officials that O'Grady had voluntarily submitted to counseling; that there had never been another incident with him involving a child after her 1976 experience; that he had been assigned to duties that kept him away from children and that he was a highly respected priest doing wonderful things.Of course, it was all lies.
She told Cain and the others that she wanted to confront O'Grady as part of her healing process, but they didn't think it was a good idea. Neither did her parents. So she backed off. But not for long. On a winter Sunday in March of 1987, she drove an hour-and-a-half from her home to Saint Andrew's Parish Church in San Andreas, knowing that O'Grady would preside at mass that morning.
Since she doubted he would recognize her, she had a plan. She would confront him before the entire parish. She would pretend to partake of communion, and just before he extended the Eucharist, she would blurt out what she had come for. If she couldn't get her nerve up, there was a backup plan. She would go into the confessional and tell him that she had been abused by a priest and wait for his response before revealing herself to him. "I think more than anything I wanted to hear him offer some mitigating circumstance, or say he was sorry, or that he felt self-loathing, just something, anything. But mostly I wanted to see the look on his face when I told him about how he robbed me of my childhood." Driving past the town cemetery on the way to the church she fantasized that he might be dead, even though she knew better. She had printed copies of the apology letter DeGroot had compelled him to write a decade earlier and intended to put one on every car in the parking lot.
But none of it went as intended. He was already at the sacristy when she entered the church, and she took a seat near the back. When the service was over, she waited until a contingent of parishioners gathered around their priest near the front of the church had thinned out before approaching. But just as she got close, a woman with a little girl stepped in front of her. "Give father a hug," the woman exhorted. "It was more than I could take," recalls Sloan, who says she sat in a pew and wept. O'Grady, she says, walked past her without saying a word.
By the time she composed herself and left the church, there were no cars in the parking lot on which to place O'Grady's letter. But she had another chance. He had headed off to the nearby community of Mokelumne Hill, eight miles up the road, to preside at a second mass that morning. Sloan followed. Again, she sat through the service. This time, in a scene that she says was reminiscent of Little House on the Prairie, the parishioners lined up outside on the front steps of the tiny church to greet the priest after the service. Biding her time, she waited until the last person left before drawing close. "Nancy, isn't it?" she recalls him saying, as if she were an old chum. He quickly became agitated and asked her to leave. "He wanted to pretend it never happened," she says of his abuse of her, "and he let me know in no uncertain terms that he wanted me to disappear. He even threatened to sue me when I told him I was thinking of distributing his apology." Disappointed yet pleased that she had had the courage to face her abuser, Sloan got in her car and drove away. Except for O'Grady, not a soul in San Andreas -- least of all Jane Doe -- knew why she had come.
Considering O'Grady's many alleged victims, the priest's arrest, guilty plea and prison sentence related to just the four felony counts regarding the Howard brothers must have seemed a momentary blessing in disguise for the diocese and Mahony. Avoiding a nasty criminal trial, not to mention civil litigation, meant less publicity. The diocese quickly instituted settlement talks with Doe and her husband, who in truth were never keen on a rigorous court proceeding.That left the Howards, and they were a different story. Their local attorney, Laurence Drivon of Stockton, teamed up with Anderson, the Minnesota lawyer, who had already gained a tough-as-nails reputation in prosecuting dozens of civil cases across the country involving priestly sexual abuse. In James and Joh Howard the lawyers had clients who were not only willing to endure the emotional strain of going to court, but who stood to help inflict heavy financial damage on the diocese once a jury heard about how Mahony and the others had embraced a sexual predator. Drivon and Anderson would have a field day making the three bishops of Stockton -- especially the, by then, exalted Mahony -- appear derelict in letting O'Grady run amuck among the unsuspecting faithful.
It's no exaggeration to say Mahony came off horribly on the witness stand, and it wasn't because the air-conditioning in a storage area converted into a courtroom was no match for Stockton's muggy June heat. "I did not know of [O'Grady's] admission to these matters at the time of these appointments," Mahony told the rapt courtroom. But what the bishop-turned-cardinal acknowledged about his priest struck Durham, the juror, as unconscionable -- especially in view of Mahony's approach of merely shuffling the pedophile from parish to parish. For instance, when asked about Roland Howard's 1980 letter, Mahony said he hadn't seen it, but that Cain, the vicar general, had told him about it and that he had no understanding at the time that the letter alluded to any concern Howard may have had about O'Grady's being around his children.
"Apparently there was a concern that [O'Grady] was still having some kind of visitation or relationship with this woman in Merced, and that's the basis of the -- that's where I learned about it," Mahony testified, referring to the letter. He told the court that Cain informed him that the avowedly celibate priest had been carrying on a relationship with Ann Howard, that she and her husband were having marital problems and that O'Grady's involvement with her "may have been excessive." (Ann Howard did not respond to interview requests for this article. A long-time acquaintance says "she and her children want to put the O'Grady saga behind them.")
Mahony's explanation of the events surrounding O'Grady's 1984 admission of having engaged in sexual conduct with James Howard and the diocese's role in talking the police out of pursuing the matter was particularly troublesome, Durham recalls. He refers to Mahony's contending that he didn't know about previous allegations of misconduct by O'Grady involving children -- which was disputed by at least one other witness who testified that O'Grady's reputation as a child molester was well-known among diocesan priests. "That's the sort of thing that, once it gets out, it spreads," DeGroot, who pulled the plug on O'Grady in 1976, tells New Times. For that matter, O'Grady's written admission of his misconduct with Nancy Sloan was on file in the chancery office. "To me it's inconceivable that [Mahony] didn't know," DeGroot says.
Even more jaw-dropping was the cardinal's Orwellian rationale for not probing the 1984 O'Grady confession to Guttieri, the psychiatric counselor, about O'Grady's abuse of James Howard before assigning the pedophile to the San Andreas post. Mahony testified that he never once bothered to speak to Guttieri about O'Grady. The mere notion of a bishop -- and especially a hands-on manager like Mahony -- not deigning to consult with someone to whom one of his priests had confessed pedophilia smacked of incredulity. Not only that, but the counselor had already testified that he had informed the diocese's attorney about O'Grady's revelation even before notifying the police and child welfare authorities. Mahony said the police had investigated the matter, dismissed it and there was therefore "no need to pursue it." Never mind that Cranston, the Stockton police investigator, refuted that assessment in court. According to the officer, it was the diocese, through Shephard, its lawyer, who approached him seeking to sweep the matter under the rug. Cranston said Shephard assured him that there were no previous allegations of misconduct with children involving O'Grady and that the diocese would reassign him to duties that didn't place him in contact with children. (In his testimony, Shephard denied telling that to the officer.) For someone who dismissed what O'Grady had confessed to his counselor as not worth pursuing, Mahony wasted no time in calling Morris, the psychiatrist, to have O'Grady evaluated in November, even as the police were trying to collect the facts about what O'Grady had done to the boy.
But it was Mahony's attempts to shift responsibility for O'Grady's being shuffled around that provide perhaps the most revealing insight into the cardinal's mindset concerning child-molesting priests. "If you had known that he had, in fact, admitted to touching a child in 1976, would you have committed to him the full care of souls at [San Andreas]?" attorney Drivon asked. "No," said Mahony, who quickly jumped to defending his response to O'Grady's 1984 problem: "We relied on the judgment of professionals."
Drivon: "Cardinal, if you had known that he had admitted to a touching of a nine-year-old boy to Mr. Guttieri in 1984 and conduct of [a] similar nature, would you have committed to him the full care of souls at the church in [San Andreas]?"
Mahony: "It's a bit speculative. In any case and all cases we -- if there's a suspicion or problem -- refer to competent professionals to assist in making the recommendations. And if the competent professionals do not raise any flag or cautions or concerns, then we act according to their judgment."
Drivon: "Are you saying, Cardinal, that if Father O'Grady had admitted to you that he had molested a child and you referred him to a professional that said he could be placed [in a parish], you would have placed him?"
Mahony: "Again that's hypothetical. If Father O'Grady had had a conversation with me that raised suspicions with me, I would have most likely put any permanent assignment on hold until we got it clarified one way or the other."
A moment later, Anderson, the Howards' cocounsel, bore into the sensitive point one more time: "Cardinal, are you suggesting that you would have considered placing him in that parish [at San Andreas] if a professional would have recommended it notwithstanding a molestation by Father O'Grady?"
Mahony replied, "No. I said we would have withheld [an appointment] depending on what the situation was. We would have either taken him out of there possibly for further evaluation. We would not have proceeded without taking adequate steps to make sure there were no problems."
As the trial made clear, no such steps were taken. And before it was
over, lawyers for the plaintiffs made certain the point wasn't missed.
O'Grady, looking haggard and dressed in prison garb, took the witness
stand to be glared at one last time by accusers who had waited years to
hear words of contrition. He didn't bestow any. Neither did he have anything
to say upon being released from prison early last year over the objections
of numerous of his alleged victims. Having forced him to serve a required
seven years behind bars, state officials declined to evoke a law that
allows convicted child molesters to have their sentences extended when
their release is deemed a threat to society. O'Grady walked out of jail
into the arms of agents of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
They promptly escorted him to the airport in San Francisco, where he was
placed on a flight bound for his native Ireland. "I guess the thinking
was why let American taxpayers pay for his upkeep, when they could just
turn him loose to molest Irish kids," says Sloan, who opposed the
release.O'Grady wasn't on trial in Stockton, but in a real sense, Mahony
was. "In order to bring in that verdict, the jury had to believe
the cardinal was not telling the truth," says Anderson, the attorney.
"If they had believed the cardinal, there would not have been punitive
damages under the law." After the verdict, when some of the lawyers
were standing around talking to jurors, Anderson says he asked a 50-year-old
woman juror and lifelong Catholic how she felt seeing Mahony walk into
the courtroom. "I just prayed that you wouldn't be too hard on him
because my mother and dad always taught me that a cardinal is like a saint,"
she told him. "And so I said, "Well, how did you feel afterward?'
She just broke down sobbing, and said, "He lied.'"
Original material copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.