Mahony Resources – May 1-2, 2002
By Charles A. Coulombe
It was a straightforward assignment. On Thursday, April 4, radio personalities John and Ken (kfi am 640) were going to broadcast live from the sidewalk outside the offices of the archdiocese at 3240 Wilshire Boulevard. Their topic was Cardinal Mahony's dealing with the child molestation problem among archdiocesan priests -- or more specifically, Mahony's removal of what had been given as "six to 12" priests from their ministry due to evidence of such activity in their pasts. Given that the cardinal had claimed to have had a "no tolerance" policy for such folk since 1988, this sudden revelation was a surprise; but his subsequent refusal to give any names, places, dates, or even exact numbers was disturbing. He followed up his refusal by claiming that the Los Angeles police department had all the names -- a claim the police department disputed. Ever on the lookout for scandal, John and Ken smelt blood. Thus the decision to broadcast live in front of the chancery and to invite those who claimed to have been molested to come and share their tales over the air.
John and Ken are a duo not noted for their subtlety nor for their grasp of complex issues beyond their own experience. Typical of their style was their dismissal of the Queen Mother on her death, "Who cares that some fat, old, ugly lady who never did anything died?"
A couple months back, John and Ken played a key role in forcing accused child molester, Judge Robert Kline of Orange County, into a runoff election. Given that Kline was under house arrest for his alleged crimes at the time of the election (a fact which would not have affected the outcome of the usually unopposed judicial race), the pair's work in publicizing the case may well have determined the outcome. Encouraged on that front, they have seemed to set their sights on bigger molestation prey.
At 3 p.m. a large crowd of people was bearing signs in front of the chancery office. Many of the self-described molestation victims were bitter about the Church, claiming to have lost all belief in her. Others were more thoughtful.
Out in force were members of SNAP, a victims' advocacy group. Its spokesman, Jim Falls, a lively, jovial thirty-something from Los Angeles, said: "We're all here to try to get the cardinal to stop the cover-up and release the names -- all the names of all the perpetrators throughout all the years. Then we want to know why he doesn't resign. He's been lying and covering up child molestation for probably 30 years. As you know, in Stockton, he perjured himself, saying he didn't know about a child molestation case that he actually transferred himself.
"I was born and raised Catholic in Southern California," continued Falls. "I went to St. Louise De Marillac, which is in West Covina. I was victimized for a number of years. It started in the 70s when I was about 15. This priest would come over to our house for dinner. Very outgoing, very gregarious guy. A pillar of the community. Everyone loved him. When you went to his Mass, it would be standing room only. He was very intelligent; no one suspected anything but the greatest things from this man.
"He started hugging me. He would take me back to his rectory where the priests lived and he would perform oral sex on me. This went on for a while. He would show up at my house. It was actually as if he were stalking me. Other people refer to it as if he were 'courting' me. He'd take me out to dinner, to a movie, then take me back to the rectory. I'd get home from school and I wouldn't want to see the man, but he would just show up. He'd call my parents and tell them he was going to pick me up and take me out. And they thought it'd be great because it would be better than me being out with my friends who were drinking....
"A lot of people ask me, 'Why didn't you say anything? Why didn't you come forward when you were younger?' But when you're young (and this was 20 some years ago) you don't go around telling your buddies that some priest is giving you that kind of attention. From there, it becomes a self-incriminating thing, like, 'Why am I letting this happen?' I imagine it 's a lot like a woman who goes on a date and is date-raped, and somehow feels partially responsible for what happens. There's a lot of guilt.
"This guy killed himself a while back: Father [Ted] Llanos -- you've probably heard about him. There are actually 28 victims who came forward on this one perpetrator. He's probably one of the worst serial rapists who ever came out of the L.A. archdiocese. And Cardinal Mahony's position is that it' s not his responsibility. There are a lot of people here who are victims of the same sick individual, and we got no justice. Their attorneys outmaneuvered our attorneys and used the statute of limitations against us."
Then there was Bob Scipioni, a self-described skeptic from Northridge, who said he was not a victim: "I'm just here for the media circus. I enjoy it. I'm a Catholic, but my argument is with the Lord. Why did the Lord even give a vocation to these people in the first place? That's my question. If the Lord is supposed to be up there running the Church, engineering all of these vocations and making sure the Church lasts until the end of time, then this is His fault as to why all of these people were given vocations. If these people were prone to homosexuality or pedophilia, they should never have been given a vocation.
"I'm one of the skeptics. I'm questioning organized religion. I was an altar boy, but I never got abused. Evidently there are all of these people who did, so I must be one of the lucky ones."
One well-dressed older gentleman, Jim Dunlap, came from Orange County to be at the event. He said his son had been molested by Llanos. "This has destroyed our family. I have five sons, ok? All of them hate the Church. They'll have nothing to do with it. They're at each other's throats. They are suspicious of my wife and I. And the finger-pointing that goes on is endless. You're not going to break that cycle. What that bastard sowed is being reaped today. I go to bed crying sometimes that I don't have five sons that are in a loving relationship with their mother and father. There was just one son abused, but when the rest found out, it destroyed them.
"I can't put on tape what I want Mahony to do. I wouldn't dare do that. He needs to recognize the damage he's done to these victims, these tragic, tragic young men whose lives are ruined. You can talk counseling till you're blue in the face, but you'll never erase the stigma that was put upon them. They've had knives put to their throats, broken bottles put to their faces, and they've been raped over and over again. You can't erase that in a lifetime. I still go to church -- every Sunday, sometimes daily. I love Jesus Christ, he's my Lord and my Savior, and I believe he instituted the true Church. But the garbage that has taken over the Church today needs to be cleaned out. A lot of these cardinals or these bishops need to resign or be thrown out. It's a travesty when you know what they're doing is evil.
"I know skeletons buried in these closets like you can't believe. I used to be a confidant for Cardinal Manning before he died. He was my friend on a first-name basis. I loved the man. And he assured me that this problem would be taken care of back when it first came up in 73. He absolutely stood in a kitchen of a rectory with his arms around me and said, 'I love you my brother, and I will take care of this problem.' The problem got taken care of all right. He [Llanos] went on to rape another 28-30 young men."
An elderly man, carrying a sign saying "mahony is a phony," identified himself as a former homosexual, although not a molestee. He declared that the problem was all the gays in the priesthood and seminary, who looked after their own. He went on to say that all of these goings-on were part of the great apostasy, and the Church would have to be purified.
During a break, I interviewed John and Ken. Asked what stood out in their minds about the whole affair, Ken declared: "their [the archdiocese's] obsession with secrecy, and total lack of care for the victims. They're acting just like a major corporation, like Enron." Did this affect their view of the Church? "No," John replied. "We were both raised Catholic, but I checked out of the Church a long time ago. The prehistoric rituals, the sexual obsessions -- nah, I don't care." What would they say to the cardinal directly? "Just show more concern for the victims, and less for your lousy image."
So things stood. But more was in the offing. Prior to the broadcast, private archdiocesan e-mails had been sent to the show's producer, Ray Lopez, from an unknown source. John and Ken began to read them over the air. Suddenly, a call came from the station. They had been presented with a cease-and-desist order from the archdiocese; John and Ken declared that they would stop reading the e-mail messages immediately while their lawyers scrambled to make sense out of the whole thing. More molestees were put on, and in between their testimonies, John and Ken would take turns berating the cardinal as a "charlatan" and "not a good man." They called for his resignation.
At five o'clock, the duo decamped to the nearby kfi studios to take calls. One of these was from a woman identified as "Bernadette," who said, "the cardinal says he takes full responsibility. But what does that mean? He'll do jail time, or resign? He should resign!"
At 10 p.m., attorneys for the archdiocese, kfi, and the Los Angeles Times met a judge in court to argue the case. The archdiocese claimed that the e-mails had been obtained illegally, and that they included privileged client-attorney communications, and were so marked. The advocates for the press retorted that, since they had no idea from where the e-mails had come, they were not obligated to keep them private. The judge agreed with them, and the e-mails were made public.
Available on KFI's website, the e-mail messages are most revealing about the atmosphere in the cardinal's inner circle. Readers of the Mission, mentioned in the e-mail messages, will be happy to know that they are considered "retro-Catholics" at the chancery. More important, however, is the cardinal's CEO-like response to the current problem. [See, in this issue, "I Don't Even Know What the Numbers Are Myself!"] An intriguing correspondent in the e-mail dialogue is Sister Judith Ann Murphy, of the Congregation of St. Joseph, the archdiocese's general counsel, whom Mahony, it seems, must cajole into doing his bidding. On Monday, March 25, she sent a note, labeled "8:00 am visit," to Monsignor Craig Cox, vicar for clergy, and Monsignor Richard Loomis, head of the Secretariat for Church Ministerial Services, who were to be interviewed by sheriff's deputies, William Bevins and Thomas McNeil. A copy was sent to Cardinal Mahony.
"Well, Men, here's the drill," writes "Sister Judy": "William Bevins to be known as Bill and Thomas McNeil to be known as Tom will be at the acc [Archdiocesan Catholic Center] at 8 am to interview Msgr. Cox and Msgr. Loomis. Badges are down at the mezz. level and instructions left was for them to call you Msgr. Cox when they arrive and you will direct them from there. Your extension is on the badges.
"I will leave the tape of the anon. call on your chair Msgr. Cox to be given to the Sheriffs. The addresses were faxed to Sergeant Boyett.
"As to the interview, remember Sergeant Joe Friday -- 'Only the facts sir, only the facts.' Listen to their questions and take your time answering. Do not volunteer information. This is not a session to be chatty. I am not sure if you will interviewed together or separate. I believe in the spirit of cooperation, therefore, I will not be present and besides 8 am is against my religion. You both will be fine.
"I'm afraid this investigation will take some time. I was asked when Easter vacation began, etc. If they decide to go the school route, I see no activity until April 8th. Sergeant Boyett interviewed a victim today for this case. The da's office is involved but a specific da has not been appointed. Sergeant Boyett said this is happening because the Sheriffs want to avoid mistakes. It will not be inappropriate to push for a speedy investigation at the end of the interview. The number 94 has them scrambling.
"At the end of the day, Sergeant Boyett left a long message on my audix which will be typed out tomorrow praising our cooperation and how happy the Captain is. I guess they figured out that honey works better than vinegar. All for now."
Given the cardinal's anger at the release of these memos, it is ironic that he is the only official quoted in the e-mails who shows any concern for the victims. In a note dated March 30, entitled, "Victims," Mahony recounts a meeting with several victims whom he is happy to report still love the Church. He then writes: "I am now thinking about beginning some type of Victims' Group that would be almost entirely spiritual. It would be headed by two folks: a Sister and a priest who would be skilled spiritual leaders. I have some names in mind.
"They would meet probably once a month; purely voluntary. No legal issues would be discussed, etc. This group, or groups, would be spiritual support groups, not therapy groups.
"I would like to announce some initiatives soon in April, and this would be one of them. I have a couple more in mind, and will share those with you shortly."
Save for complaints about the difficulties of Holy Week, this was the only spiritual message in the whole correspondence.
The day after the outdoor broadcast, a Fresno woman declared that Cardinal
Mahony had molested her back in 1970. In the event, it turned out that
she was a paranoid schizophrenic and had made the same charge against
a number of people, including her mother. Fresno police investigators
in mid April cleared Mahony of the charge.
I Don't Even Know What the Numbers Are Myself!
Los Angeles Lay Catholic Mission
What follows are excerpts from Cardinal Mahony's e-mail correspondence with members of his archdiocesan staff concerning the current clergy molestation crisis. The e-mail communications were leaked to kfi radio in the first week of April, and were read on the "John and Ken Show," Thursday, April 4. [See "Just Here for the Media Circus."]
Some of the messages deal with the cardinal's past refusal to reveal the names of dismissed priests to law enforcement officials. According to Associated Press, Los Angeles County district attorney Steve Cooley on March 13 sent a letter to the archdiocese saying that California law required clergy to report to law enforcement agencies "instances of known or reasonably suspected child abuse, including sexual abuse." In his response to Cooley the same day, Mahony wrote that "to the best of my knowledge, allegations of known or reasonably suspected instances of child abuse or neglect were reported to the appropriate agency."
In a Thursday, March 28 reply to Los Angeles police chief Bernard Parks, who asked for names of those priests recently dismissed for sexual abuse of minors, Cardinal Mahony stated that all such cases under the jurisdiction of the Los Angeles police department "have been duly reported." The priests in question, said Mahony, "were prosecuted and served probation many years ago. These cases are a matter of public record and known to your detectives." Mahony noted that, since individual clergy are required to report cases of molestation to the police, but not to the archdiocese, "there are undoubtedly reports of which we have no knowledge." An April 3 Times interview with the cardinal noted that "Mahony stressed that all of the recently dismissed priests were involved in old cases, many of them decades old, and that they had been through the criminal justice system." So it was, said Mahony, that their names were already known to law enforcement officials.
According to the March 29 Los Angeles Times, though, on Wednesday, March 27, archdiocesan officials gave "additional information" to juvenile division detectives of the Los Angeles police department. What was this additional information? Detectives, said the Times, "would not disclose specifics." But, said police commander Gary Brennan, "the archdiocese promised to cooperate and make known new information on allegations of abuse. As a result of that meeting, we are confident that the archdiocese is committed to cooperating and we feel they have been cooperating."
The meeting may have been the fruit of one of the leaked e-mail messages, dated March 27, sent by Cardinal Mahony to Sister Judith Ann Murphy (called "Sister Judy"), the archdiocese's general counsel. In this message, Mahony pointed out what he considers the archdiocese's "greatest tactical mistake of the past few weeks." Mahony wrote that "of the 8 priests involved [in molestation cases], 5 had already been reported to local law enforcement agencies. That leaves 3. I pressed for you to meet with Det [sic] 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."
The resistance of "Sister Judy" to the cardinal's suggestion "was a huge mistake on our part," said Mahony. "I hope you have changed your mind by now! By doing it back then, we would not appear to be crumbling under public pressure. 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. 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. 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."
The following excerpts from the e-mail messages will be presented with only clarifying comment. Each message will be preceded by the date of the correspondence and the names of the principle sender and recipients. Nearly all carried the heading, "Privileged Client -- Attorney Communication."
Tuesday, March 19. Father Dick to Sister Judy and attorney John McNicholas. Subject: Storm on the horizon. [This message, and the two following, refer to the case of Carmelite Father Dominic Savino, president of Crespi Carmelite High School. See "News," this issue -- Ed.] "I have learned that the Carmelites at Crespi High School are currently preparing an announcement for faculty, parents and students concerning Father Dominic Savino's removal from active ministry....
"Also, though hearsay has it that these allegations are from years ago and all alleged victims are now adults, I certainly hope they have thought of obtaining legal advice regarding the reporting laws..
"A complicating fact: I believe that Father Peter Liuzzi is being assigned to Crespi Carmelite hs as a faculty member. A representative of the 'Lay Catholic Mission' has approached a Carmelite priest who occasionally helps here at Saint Charles to question 'the wisdom of assigning Father Liuzzi to an all-boy school.' On top of that, Father Liuzzi and Father Savino have lived in the same community house for as long as I have worked at the acc [Archdiocesan Catholic Center] -- not quite seven years. They are close friends. I am not sure how many people know these facts and I would not want to tip my hand.
"Everything in this 'complicating fact' paragraph would be tracked right back to me. I would not want it made public if it can be avoided. But my thought is that one issue might ignite the other in the press, both secular and retro-Catholic."
Wednesday, March 20. John McNicholas to Sister Judy and Monsignor Richard Loomis. Subject: Storm on the horizon. "On the subject of who should report the matter to the authorities, he wants to talk to you first. [Monsignor Cox] is of the opinion that you [Sister Judy] should be the one to report it because of your working relationship with Det. Barraclough. He also said that you and he agreed that this is not reportable under the statute. Fr. Kevin McBrien, O. Carm. told me that the Carmelites did not report it because of the statute of limitations. Msgr. Cox is opposed to the removal of Fr. Liuzzi who teaches a one hour course once a week at Crespi reasoning that if he was good enough to be on the Cardinal's staff, he is ok to teach at Crespi h.s. (Disagree.) All homosexuals are not pedophiles. (Agree.) If the Cardinal was to tell the Carmelites to remove Fr. Liuzzi, that is his decision. There has never been a claim about Fr. Liuzzi."
Wednesday, March 20. Sister Judy to John McNicholas. Subject: Storm on the horizon. "Please put a call into Msgr. Cox. He is in santa [sic] Barbara today with the last Boundaries Workshop. The carmelite priest below is well know in the Valley and is a therapist. Presently, some of our priests go to him. An adult came forward and made a complaint that he was molested as a minor. The priest denied this charge but from what I know admitted another which happened years ago. When you reach Msgr. Cox, see if you can find out who their lawyer is and deal with him/her. For the Carmelites (and ours) best interest, they should call this in to law authorities. If the Order does not have some police contact, then suggest Detective Barraclough. As to the other priest, he is the priest who ministered at the acc to gay and lesbian Catholics. He stayed on the narrow line until he wrote his book. He is gay and the Catholic Mission (the off the wall right wing throw-away newspaper) has been gunning for him for years."
Monday, March 25. Monsignor Craig Cox to Cardinal Mahony. Subject: Press Conference. "I just finished meeting with Tod [Tamberg, archdiocesan spokesman] and we spoke about the press conference you will be having this evening. You are in my prayers. I want to add one comment that is -- to my way of thinking -- very important. To say or even give the impression that none of the 'priests removed' were in parish ministry creates multiple problems. First, it 'narrows the search' for any news organizations that are trying to ferret out names. It would realistically almost certainly 'out' one or more. Even those not in parish ministry were assisting in parishes, and you could be challenged about that. Some were resident in parishes. Not being assigned full time to parishes does not mean there was no parish ministry. All the men involved were doing Sunday supply at times. In the popular mind set that will be seen as parish ministry. Secondly, should some names be 'outted' of men who were in predominantly parish ministries, even if restricted, the distinction will not carry any weight in the press. You will again be attacked mercilessly. I recommend that in your press conference you make no indication whatsoever of the 'type' of ministry involved, but indicate that no priest was put into any ministry where we had any concern that he would be a danger to young people. If asked to say more than that, you can respond by going back to your principles about not disclosing names...."
Wednesday, March 27. Cardinal Mahony to attorney John McNicholas and Sister Judy. Subject: Our Big Mistake. Privileged Client-Attorney Communication. "John: when drafting the letter to Parks, we need to state very clearly something along these lines: 'In those few old cases involving allegations of the sexual abuse of a minor, each case has been referred to the appropriate law enforcement agency for their review and investigation. We have no cases, old or new, that have not been referred appropriately.' I think we also need to refresh Parks' memory about other aspects of the statute, including the fact that the responsibility for mandated reporting is an individual mandate, that the statute states clearly that confidentiality must be maintained [11167.5 (a) and (b)]. Since we have only 2 cases of the 8 that fall within the lapd, I think our best approach is to tell him that and give him the lapd case numbers for those two cases. We need to inform him that since they investigated the cases, they would have all the information, even more, than we would have. We need to review a draft of that letter today, if at all possible. Many thanks to all! What a Holy Week -- filled with Good Fridays, no Easter Sundays!!"
Saturday, March 30. Sister Judy to Father Dick and Monsignor Cox. Subject: St. Frances of Rome. [The "H." referred to in this message seems to be a priest whose "case in under scrutiny." He is discussed in the first April 1 message, below -- Ed.] "Now I get to tell the Cardinal, I forgot H. in reply to his 'Question' e-mail. I was planning to do it on Monday which I will do. Early dementia on my part. Oh well, another 'Our One Big Mistake' e-mail. What he hasn't put together and probably never will was my plan that we had to give the lapd some names for continuing cooperation concept. Just consultations without names was not going to cut it."
Saturday, March 30. Cardinal Mahony to Sister Judy, John McNicholas, Father Dick, Monsignor Loomis et al. Subject: Victims. [Here, in private correspondence, Mahony reiterates his reasons for not revealing the names of all of the clerical abusers -- Ed.] "Just a brief note to tell you that I have met confidentially with three victims Thursday and Friday. Worked out really well. All Catholics, all not bitter at the Church. A real life-giving experience. All from very old cases, two from the big 8. They are anxious to have the Church do something for them spiritually, not just psychologically. I was deeply moved! All insisted strongly that I not release the names of their perpetrators since their own personal lives would be placed in jeapordy [sic] -- marriages, jobs, etc. I am now thinking about beginning some type of Victims' Group that would be almost entirely spiritual. It would be headed by two folks: a Sister [sic] and a priest who would be skilled spiritual leaders. I have some names in mind. They would meet probably once a month; purely voluntary. No legal issues would be discussed, etc. This group, or groups, would be spiritual support groups, not therapy groups. I would like to announce some initiatives soon in April, and this would be one of them.... It is my hope to be able to announce three different, broad initiatives: one to help protect our children, one to nourish spiritually our victims, and one to help our priests spiritually...."
Sunday, March 31. From Sister Judy to Monsignor Craig A. Cox. Subject: Status. [Here Sister Judy evinces some annoyance at, it seems, a memo sent by Cardinal Mahony -- Ed.] "When I saw the 'number' memo this morning, I couldn't believe it! His need to bring this to closure is getting in the way. When he said, 'We are in for the long haul,' I guess long for him is 6 weeks. Since you two are 'j's', you can understand, but for this 'p ', we have just begun. As to the dear Sheriffs, should I try for a 'Come to Jesus' meeting with me tomorrow afternoon?"
Monday, April 1. From Monsignor Craig A. Cox to Sister Judy. Subject: Status. "Sister Judy, The plan for H is to have a new evaluation, then return to a restricted ministry, including a move to a parish with no school. I have not been able to free up the time to go visit. I am beginning to fear I will have to do this by phone. Far less ideal, but the time is short."
Monday, April 1. Cardinal Mahony to Father Dick, Sister Judy, John McNicholas, Monsignor Richard Loomis, Tod Tamberg et al. Subject: Giving Numbers. "Good arguments all around re numbers!! I'm still considering how to approach it. Maybe the best thing to do is 'to state that in working closely with the lapd and other law enforcement agencies they prefer that no further public information about the identity of the priests under investigation be given at this time. That may change in the future, and if it does, I would be open to re-visiting the question of numbers.' And since that is weeks and months down the road, I hope interest by then would have waned. We definitely have to get ourselves to July 1st!!."
Wednesday, April 3. Cardinal Mahony to Sister Judy, Father Dick, John McNicholas, Monsignor Richard Loomis, Tod Tamberg et al. [The following refers to an April 3 interview Mahony gave to Larry Stammer of the Los Angeles Times in which the cardinal defended his handling of the clergy abuse scandal. -- Ed.] "Well, the Times article did not turn out as negative as I feared. They were able to get in some positive things for a change. As always, they got a few factual things wrong or inaccurate. But now I am freed from the accusation that I am hiding from the press and unwilling to discuss these issues publicly. Larry Stammer said that a lot of good has been done with the press and media by doing the interview, and that he stands ready to help if we have a story we want to get out. Larry is going to do a story on our Seminaries soon -- that will be helpful. My best estimate is that by mid-May any new problems will have been uncovered, and that we can begin the healing process over the coming months. If it starts before then, that is fine. It's the new cases, like the Jesuits today, that keep the story alive. And I did not give numbers!! In fact, with our various cases now I don't even know what the numbers are myself!!"
Los Angeles Lay Catholic Mission
A CARMELITE PRIEST, Father Dominic Savino, has been dismissed as president of Crespi Carmelite High School for sexual abuse of minors. In mid March, a woman whose two sons Savino had molested on a school field trip in 1979, contacted the Los Angeles archdiocese's abuse hotline to report the incident. Savino underwent therapy for this and other incidents of sexual molestation that occurred in the 1970s.
Since the archdiocese has no jurisdiction over the Carmelite school, the hotline report was turned over to the Carmelite order. The order removed Savino as president of the school and from active ministry. He will be placed under therapy and will be continually supervised by another priest. Since police authorities in Los Angeles want to investigate Savino further, he will remain in Los Angeles. Savino served as Crespi's school psychotherapist.
By William Lobdell, Richard Winton, and Beth Shuster
An alleged victim of priestly sexual abuse said Wednesday he wore a hidden recording device to confront the cleric in an effort to help prosecutors and detectives develop evidence against the priest.
The move was intended to overcome statute-of-limitations problems that could compromise prosecution in some cases of priest abuse, a law enforcement source said. It demonstrated the difficulty authorities face in cases in which the alleged crime is often a decade or more old.
Jeff Griswold, 31, who asked that The Times publish his name, said he made his story public because he is frustrated by state statute-of-limitation laws and the possibility that his complaint against an Azusa priest won't be prosecuted. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said Wednesday that Griswold's allegation against Father David Granadino, who until recently worked at St. Frances of Rome Catholic Church, is one of 18 investigations of 16 Catholic priests involving about 50 victims. It was the first accounting by the Sheriff's Department. The Los Angeles Police Department has said it is investigating 50 allegations of priestly abuse.
Sgt. Dan Scott of the department's Family Crimes Bureau said some of the cases stem from years-old allegations and that some could fall victim to statute-of-limitations laws.
Currently, there is a 10-year statute of limitations on cases involving most types of molestation of children 15 and younger. However, prosecutors can pursue these older cases if they have "clear and convincing" contemporary corroborating evidence. Examples include additional victims, a confession, letters or diaries--and evidence of substantial sexual conduct, Scott said.
In Griswold's case, Scott said, no decision has been made about whether to move ahead with criminal charges. However, sheriff's officials were privately upset that an alleged victim had taken his case to the media before they completed the investigation.
Griswold, a Norwalk resident, told sheriff's investigators in December that he had been sexually abused by the priest beginning when he was 13 and continuing into his early 20s. Detectives also are investigating allegations by two others against Granadino that allegedly occurred beginning more than 15 years ago.
The Sheriff's Department opened a second investigation into sexual abuse accusations against Granadino in March, after an alleged victim reported the abuse to the Los Angeles Archdiocese's hotline.
Cardinal Roger M. Mahony has said he moved Granadino from St. Frances of Rome after that anonymous allegation was made. Sheriff's detectives have interviewed about 100 children and adults in that probe.
When the allegations became public, Granadino was transferred to a retreat at an abbey south of Palmdale. Detectives say they have not interviewed the priest, and they say his attorney has told them he has "relocated" from the abbey to an undisclosed location.
Sheriff's officials said they were unsure when the archdiocese was notified about the December allegations.
Asked whether the archdiocese was cooperating with the Sheriff's Department, Scott said he had "no comment."
Granadino, who is also a Sheriff's Department chaplain, has "forcefully denied any misconduct," according to an exchange of e-mails by top archdiocese officials. His attorney, Don Steier, said, "Father Granadino is upset, but more upset for what is going on in his parish than for himself."
Scott would not confirm the contents of the recording Griswold made but added, "We aren't going to deny what the victim said about helping us."
Griswold, who conducted media interviews in the Irvine office of attorney Katherine K. Freberg, said he wore a small tape recorder--disguised as a pager--while meeting with Granadino in the rectory of St. Frances of Rome.
Griswold said he began the short conversation with the priest by saying, "I'm trying to understand some things that happened in the past."
He said he went on to detail some alleged molestations and the priest replied: "It's not your fault."
Griswold said he didn't remember the priest apologizing, but recalled the priest saying more than once, "It's not your fault. It's my fault."
He said he made contact with the police Dec. 10, before a national sex abuse scandal erupted in Catholic parishes across the country. Griswold said he came forward after receiving "a gift from God" that told him to make sure other children would not be molested.
"I finally realized what [Granadino] did was wrong," Griswold said. "It was time. I didn't want any other kids to be hurt."
Griswold said his father died when he was 7, and when he was a young teen, Granadino, then a priest at St. John of God Catholic Church in Norwalk, became like a second father to him. He said the priest took him to dinners, movies and on overnight trips.
Griswold said the relationship continued even after Granadino was transferred to parishes in Pacific Palisades and Azusa.
"He told me, 'You're my godson,'" Griswold said. "He told me that he loved me. My father wasn't around. He definitely filled the father void. I just didn't understand it."
Sheriff's officials and prosecutors would not comment on whether Griswold's case would be harmed by the disclosure of the recording device. Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. Steve Katz, who works in the sex crimes unit, said prosecutors won't discuss the case until they decide whether to press charges.
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has forwarded the names of at least eight priests removed from the ministry this spring to police as well as several others reported to its hotline.
On Monday, Mahony and the archdiocese were named in two racketeering lawsuits filed by four men who allege that they were molested as boys by the Rev. Carl Sutphin.
They allege church officials promised to remove Sutphin from the church
in 1991, but instead transferred him to the new downtown cathedral before
forcing him to retire recently.
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