Mahony Resources – May 17–31, 2002
It has finally come to this: A grand jury needs to investigate Catholic priests' abuse of minors in the Los Angeles Archdiocese.
Whenever an adult molests a child, it's a matter for law enforcement and civil society--whether the crime occurs at a soccer field, a school or a seminary. Anyone who can help in the investigation has a moral and legal responsibility to cooperate promptly and fully.
Unfortunately, neither Catholic parishioners nor the police nor the public can trust that the information drip, drip, dripping out of Cardinal Roger Mahony's office is accurate or complete. The Los Angeles County Grand Jury could compel Mahony and other officials in the Los Angeles Archdiocese to disclose the names of every last priest accused of molestation and to detail the allegations under oath, except when the information was divulged in the confessional. By requiring the church to turn over documents, including personnel files, the jury could cut through the archdiocese's apparent stalling and obfuscation. In doing so, it should be able to find out how many children were hurt by church officials' reassignment of accused offenders to other parishes.
In an April 8 letter, Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley asked for Mahony's "personal assurance" that all known or reasonably suspected instances of child abuse had been reported to the appropriate law enforcement agencies. In another letter, sent Thursday, Cooley added this warning: "Nothing short of a full accounting with written documentation is acceptable. If it is not forthcoming, the grand jury will be utilized to obtain it."
In Thursday's Times, staff writer Glenn F. Bunting detailed the story of a priest accused of abusing at least nine children over the years. Mahony first heard of the case in 1986, knew that the abuse continued over the years and arranged for a secret $1.3-million payout to victims and the priest's retirement in 2000. But he reported the incident to police only weeks ago, in March, as public and law enforcement pressure mounted.
At this point, even if Mahony satisfies the district attorney's office that the archdiocese has been straightforward, the public will harbor doubts. A grand jury investigation is the best way to assure that the archdiocese has stopped stonewalling.
Mahony Pledges to Turn Over Abuse Documents to DA
May 17, 2002
LOS ANGELES -- Cardinal Roger Mahony says he will turn over to the district attorney's office all documents related to allegations of child abuse by priests in the Los Angeles archdiocese.
The pledge comes a day after District Attorney Steve Cooley warned Mahony he would resort to a grand jury investigation in order to obtain full cooperation from the archdiocese.
The archdiocese says Mahony telephoned the district attorney's office today and reaffirmed his commitment to working with law enforcement officials.
A statement from the archdiocese says Mahony has pledged "to make available to the district attorney all documents related to any known or suspected instances of child abuse."
The statement indicated that all documents would be delivered to the district attorney's office next week.
Victims of past abuse responded to Mahony's move by saying it's about time.
"This is not about sin, and it is not about religion, it's about crime and it needs to stop," said sex abuse victim Mary Grant.
Grant, now 39, was molested by a priest during her teen years. She received a $25,000 settlement, but the priest was never prosecuted.
"Hopefully the warning to Cardinal Mahony will bring all the cases forward for the criminal investigations that they deserve, which have been blocked by Cardinal Mahony making decisions that really only law enforcement and district attorneys should make," said Grant.
Mahony's 'Big Problem' Is Largely of His Own Making
By Steve Lopez
He didn't call the police.
He didn't warn parishioners.
He didn't check up on the molester who had confessed to him in 1986. That left the offending priest free to prey on more children for another 14 years.
I don't know whether to ask for a grand jury investigation of Los Angeles Cardinal Roger M. Mahony or run to the nearest church and light a candle for him.
Mahony, who has held himself up as a crusader against sexual abuse by priests, is not the reformer he'd have you believe. The latest proof is the case of Father Michael Baker, as detailed by Glenn F. Bunting and other colleagues in Thursday's Times.
For months now, those of us who've been covering the scandal in the Roman Catholic Church have been aware of Father Baker. We knew about Mahony's attorneys writing a $1.3-million check in 2000 to quietly settle a claim by two brothers. They say Baker molested them for 13 years after the priest confessed his compulsion to Mahony.
But Mahony isn't an easy man to get answers out of, unless they're the ones he wants you to hear. Here's what I'm talking about.
After I'd hammered him in print for weeks, the cardinal stunned me with an e-mail invitation for a personal tour of the new $200-million downtown cathedral. It was my first clue he'd missed his true calling. He should have gone into PR.
Fine, I replied. The sooner the better, because I've got some questions I'd like to ask. But after several cordial exchanges, Mahony laid down the 11th Commandment: Thou shalt not ask questions about anything but the cathedral.
Was he kidding? He's sitting on top of a festering scandal, I've got two or three dozen queries about what he knew and when, and he thinks I'm going to come by to marvel at the Rog Mahal?
In the end, he canceled my tour, and any hope of resurrecting it faded soon thereafter. Mahony couldn't have been eager to see me after I dug up the details on the way he handled a confessed molester back when Mahony was bishop in Stockton. The priest molested again and again after Mahony moved him around the diocese in the 1980s. Sound familiar?
But if I couldn't get to Mahony, my colleague Beth Shuster did. Last month she asked him whether Father Baker had confessed his abuse of minors.
No recollection of it, Mahony said.
Later, he told Shuster he thought another church official might have met with Baker.
Then, this Tuesday, he gave a third version. In a letter to diocesan priests, he admitted that in 1986, "Baker disclosed to me that he had problems in the past of acting out sexually with two minors."
Sounds like a case of repressed memory. But what caused the epiphany?
"It's quite likely that very soon the public media will highlight the case," Mahony wrote to his priests. In the letter, he said Baker was removed from the ministry after the allegations in 2000.
Indeed he was. But not even then did Mahony call police. He wrote a $1.3-million check instead.
Then, as the scandal grew and Mahony promised everyone he had handed the names of all known molesters to police, internal memos revealed the cardinal's dilemma.
Should he tell police about Baker, even though it would reflect badly on him and the diocese? Or should he keep it quiet and risk being dragged before a grand jury and, in his own words, get hit with "charges of cover-up, concealing criminals etc. etc."
His worst nightmare might actually now come true. L.A. County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley apparently woke from his nap long enough to see that The Times was doing his job for him and ordered the cardinal to either open up personnel files or answer to a grand jury.
Either option might prove uncomfortable for Mahony, who just a few weeks ago was wagging a finger at Boston Cardinal Bernard Law. If Mahony were ever guilty of gross negligence like that, he promised, he'd have trouble walking down a church aisle.
But this story has been about hypocrisy and betrayal from Day One.
"Our biggest problem" in dealing with Baker, Mahony told The Times, "was that ... he wasn't found guilty of a criminal act. That's a big problem."
No it isn't. When a priest confesses to molesting children, there are three things to do.
First, call the police. Second, check on the victims. Third, defrock the priest.
To do anything less is a morally corrupt act of self-preservation, an insult to victims and a disservice to countless honorable priests.
Why can everyone but church leaders see the obvious?
Mahony Vows to Open Files to Authorities
By Beth Shuster and Richard Winton
One day after being threatened with a grand jury investigation, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony pledged Friday to make the Roman Catholic Archdiocese's files on priestly abuse available to the district attorney's office.
Mahony said in an interview Friday he would turn over documents that could include letters, notes of meetings and other correspondence. He said they also would be made available to local law enforcement agencies if they require them.
"We want every single thing out, open and dealt with, period," Mahony said. "The last thing I want is this going on for months and months."
Mahony said he has given the Los Angeles Police Department, the county Sheriff's Department and other agencies the names, addresses and other information that they have requested regarding priests alleged to have abused minors. Copies of that information will be provided to the district attorney, he said.
Additionally, Mahony said he would work with the district attorney's office to ask priests accused of abusing minors for authorization to release their confidential medical and psychological records.
On Thursday, Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley sent the cardinal a letter saying that law enforcement authorities need written documentation of abuse cases and that their investigations had been hampered without it. Moreover, Cooley warned the cardinal that he could face a grand jury investigation over his failure to make those documents available.
Meanwhile, in a development that underscored philosophical differences on priestly abuse between the Vatican and American Catholics, a Vatican official said in an article to be published today that bishops should avoid telling congregations their parish priests sexually abused someone if the bishops believe the priests will not abuse again.
In an article in the influential Jesuit magazine Civilta Cattolica, which often reflects Vatican thinking, the Rev. Gianfranco Ghirlanda, a Vatican appeals court judge, also said church leaders have no legal or moral responsibilities if such abuse does occur.
Ghirlanda insisted that church leaders must protect the "good name" of their priests and that only a guilty cleric truly is responsible for his actions. "From a canon law perspective, the bishop and the superior are neither morally nor judicially responsible for the acts committed by one of their clergy," said Ghirlanda, dean of canon law at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
In Los Angeles, Cooley released a written statement Friday saying he was encouraged by Mahony's promise of cooperation in turning over documents. But he appeared to take note of a sticking point between the district attorney and the cardinal. Cooley says the archdiocese must report suspected abuse to the law enforcement agency where the alleged crime occurred, while Mahony has worked primarily with Los Angeles Police Department detectives. Those LAPD investigators have been the liaison between Mahony and other law enforcement agencies.
Cooley's statement said, "We urge Cardinal Mahony and his advisors" to follow the district attorney's "direction as to how the requested information should be provided to the appropriate law enforcement agency."
Joe Scott, Cooley's director of communications, said, "If he sends a truck [of documents] down here, we're not going to open the boxes; we're going to send them to the appropriate law enforcement agency as the district attorney's May 16 letter made elaborately clear."
Mahony said the LAPD's role as liaison between the church and other agencies has worked well, particularly in cases where the archdiocese does not know exactly where an alleged crime occurred. But he said he would cooperate with law enforcement authorities and that he has directed "all representatives and personnel of the archdiocese to continue to cooperate fully" with all civil authorities. He said he would send backup copies to Cooley's office.
Cmdr. Gary Brennan confirmed Thursday that some archdiocesan documentation has been provided to the LAPD. County Sheriff Lee Baca said he was unsure whether the archdiocese is cooperating fully with his detectives.
"You never know" if detectives are getting all the information from the church files, Baca said. "People could say on one hand they are providing all the information they have," but detectives don't know "until perhaps face to face, investigator to source ... when they say: 'May I inspect your files?'"
Cooley has said his staff decided last week to urge the cardinal to provide written materials to police agencies, but a Times story on former priest Michael Baker stepped up that request.
The Times reported Thursday that Baker told Mahony in 1986 that he molested young boys, but the cardinal reassigned him to parishes where he allegedly continued his sexual abuse of minors for more than a decade. Mahony in 2000 approved a secret $1.3-million payment to alleged victims and arranged for Baker to quietly retire from the archdiocese. Mahony earlier this week faxed a letter to 1,200 priests in the archdiocese stating that he mishandled the Baker case and that he assumed full responsibility.
Baker is one of more than 30 current or former archdiocesan priests under investigation by local law enforcement authorities.
Mahony said he has files containing one or two pages and others that are far more detailed, including cases such as those of Baker and Michael Wempe, a former chaplain at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center who was forced to resign by Mahony because of prior abuse allegations.
"We told [the LAPD detectives] whatever they wanted, they could have" in the Baker case, Mahony said.
Last month, Mahony and the archdiocese were sued under a federal racketeering law typically used to dismantle organized crime operations. In two lawsuits, attorneys alleged Mahony protected abusive priests as head of the archdiocese, a pattern of behavior that the lawyers said constitutes a criminal enterprise.
Cooley's letter earlier this week is the toughest yet from local law enforcement. Prosecutors in two states have impaneled grand juries while others have made similar demands for documents. Victims rights groups and attorneys representing victims say they believe each diocese maintains considerable files on suspect priests.
Priest's Abuse Case Dates to '67
By Richard Winton and Beth Shuster
The Los Angeles Archdiocese knew for three decades about 1967 child abuse accusations against Father G. Neville Rucker, a retired priest living at Corpus Christi church in Pacific Palisades until his April 23 removal.
Rucker was ordered to move from the Corpus Christi rectory and permanently leave the ministry as Cardinal Roger M. Mahony and other prelates met last month at the Vatican to discuss the growing sex abuse crisis.
Rucker is last of the seven Los Angeles Archdiocese priests forced out of the ministry this year after Mahony began enforcing a zero-tolerance policy for clerics accused of sexual abuse. The policy was included in a $5.2-million lawsuit settlement last year involving the Orange and Los Angeles dioceses.
The 82-year-old priest was accused of molesting two 9-year-old girls at St. Anthony parish in El Segundo during the 1960s, according to a police report and court records. Rucker at the time denied any misconduct at the church, where he served as associate pastor from 1962 to 1967. He did not respond to requests for an interview.
Rucker's forced departure from Corpus Christi came 35 years after Mahony's predecessor, then-Bishop Timothy Manning, persuaded the mother of one of the El Segundo girls not to press criminal charges. Manning asked the woman to let the church deal with Rucker, according to police reports.
The archdiocese moved Rucker to four other parishes before he was made pastor at Corpus Christi in 1979. He was allowed to live there and continue to live there after his retirement in 1987. Corpus Christi, like St. Anthony and three of the other parishes where he worked, operates its own elementary school.
Lawsuit Filed Against Archdiocese in 1993
The alleged victim whose mother was persuaded against pursuing criminal charges against Rucker filed a lawsuit against the archdiocese in 1993, alleging childhood sexual abuse and negligence. Two years later, the priest settled the lawsuit with a confidential $20,000 payment.
The woman, now 44, is angry that parishioners of the Pacific Palisades church were never told of the accusations or the settlement.
"I put the archdiocese on notice that he was living at a parish with a school," said the woman, who lives in Northern California. The Times does not identify victims of alleged sexual abuse without their permission.
"Everyone at that parish should have been told," the woman said. She filed the lawsuit, she said, after archdiocese officials "told me to keep my mouth shut" when she asked that church members be warned about Rucker.
"I was incensed," the woman said.
Tod Tamberg, archdiocese spokesman, confirmed the 1967 police investigation of Rucker. "There were no allegations in years following that investigation. He was living in retirement at Corpus Christi when he left," Tamberg said in a statement.
Rucker now lives at Nazareth House, an assisted-living facility for priests in West Los Angeles.
He is one of five retired priests ousted from the ministry by Mahony since February. The cardinal also removed two active priests, the Rev. Michael Wempe, who was working as the chaplain at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, and the Rev. Carl Sutphin, associate pastor of the new downtown Los Angeles cathedral. Wempe also lived at a parish that operates a school.
The allegations against Rucker are contained in a 1967 El Segundo police report. Rucker told police he did nothing wrong, the report said, and the girl denied being molested.
But days later, the girl's mother said her daughter told her, "Father Rucker has been touching me where he should not," according to the police report.
Rather than press charges against Rucker, the mother told police she had spoken to Bishop Manning, who later became Los Angeles' cardinal, and "he would like the church to take care of the matter, and he would see that it was done properly," the police report said.
The police report includes the woman's signed refusal to file charges. "I just want the father helped and feel the church can best do it," the mother wrote.
An unidentified parent in the same 1967 police report alleged that a daughter of hers was molested by Rucker. That second girl told detectives that Rucker "looks away and talks about things as if he is not doing it," according to the police report.
That girl also told police she saw another youngster molested--identifying the girl who years later sued the priest. Two other girls told police the second girl was prone to "to make up stories," the report said. El Segundo police said they cannot determine the outcome of the other allegations.
Four days after police closed the case, the archdiocese transferred Rucker to St. Teresa of Avila in Los Angeles.
He was transferred seven months later to Holy Trinity in Los Angeles and then to Holy Cross church in September 1968. He went on to St. Agatha church in Los Angeles in July 1970. In 1979, the Iowa native became pastor at Corpus Christi.
Judge Cited Statute of Limitations
Rucker was known among members of the wealthy Pacific Palisades parish for his love of music. He helped persuade a donor to buy an expensive church organ.
He was sued, along with the archdiocese, in 1993 by the woman who alleged that he had molested her between June 1966 and May 1967. In the lawsuit, she said her memory of events had been suppressed until 1991, when another alleged victim of Rucker told her of a similar experience.
The woman's attorney in a court filing warned the archdiocese that Rucker was living a parish with a school. A Los Angeles Superior Court judge dismissed the case against the archdiocese in July 1994, citing the statute of limitations.
Rucker's attorney denied the allegations and argued that the woman was suffering from false memories created by a therapist. Rucker later settled his part of the lawsuit in October 1994, paying $20,000 without acknowledging any misconduct, according to those familiar with the settlement.
Report: Priest Dismissed from L.A. Archdiocese
LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Archdiocese knew for three decades about sexual misconduct allegations against a priest who recently became the seventh clergyman dismissed from the archdiocese for alleged abuse, it was reported Saturday.
The Rev. G. Neville Rucker, retired since 1987, was accused of molesting two 9-year-old girls at St. Anthony parish in El Segundo during the 1960s, according to a police report and court records cited by the Los Angeles Times.
At the time, Rucker denied any misconduct at the church, where he served as associate pastor from (1962-67).
Then-Bishop Timothy Manning persuaded the mother of one of the girls not to press criminal charges and asked her to let the church deal with the situation, police reports said.
Last month, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony ordered Rucker to permanently leave the ministry under his zero-tolerance policy for clerics accused of sexual abuse that was included in a $5.2 million lawsuit settlement last year.
Rucker had been moved to four other parishes before becoming pastor in 1979 at Corpus Christi church in Pacific Palisades, where he had lived until his April 23 removal.
Tod Tamberg, an archdiocese spokesman, said no other sexual abuse allegations had been received about the priest.
Rucker now lives at Nazareth House, an assisted-living facility for priests in West Los Angeles. He was not immediately available for comment Saturday at the facility.
One of the alleged victims filed suit against the archdiocese and Rucker in 1993, claiming she suffered childhood sexual abuse between June 1966 and May 1967.
Her suit stated her memory of the acts had been suppressed until 1991, when another alleged victim of Rucker told her of a similar experience.
A Los Angeles Superior Court judge dismissed the archdiocese from the case in July 1994, citing the statute of limitations.
Rucker settled months later, paying $20,000 without acknowledging wrongdoing. Rucker's attorney argued that the woman had believed false memories created by a therapist.
Mahony has ousted five retired priests from the ministry since February. The cardinal also has removed two active priests.
A separate report Saturday said the Catholic Diocese of Orange allowed a priest to remain at his parish in Huntington Beach for at least two years after learning he'd paid money to settle a charge of sexual molestation.
Diocese officials told the Orange County Register they'd been informed in 1995 of the allegations made against the Rev. Gus Krumm. They said they were also told of the settlement in 1996.
But the officials said the payment of an undisclosed sum did not include any admission of guilt.
"There are sometimes settlements made for allegations that aren't true," >said Maria Schinderle, a diocese spokeswoman.
Krumm now serves as head pastor of the Ascension Catholic Church in Portland, Ore. He declined to discuss the accusations with the Register and was not immediately available for comment Saturday.
"We would not have anyone with credible accusations against them serve in public ministry," said Bud Bunce, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Portland.
Cardinal Mahony Named in Sex Abuse Lawsuit
LOS ANGELES -- A racketeering lawsuit filed Monday accuses Cardinal Roger Mahony of protecting a child-molesting priest who spent more than a dozen years in the nation's largest archdiocese.
The suit, which seeks unspecified damages, was filed in state court and cites federal laws involving conspiracy in a criminal enterprise.
Mahony "belongs in prison for aiding and abetting Michael Baker, for protecting a pedophile priest," said attorney Jeffrey Anderson, who filed the suit on behalf of four alleged victims. "The deception has to end."
Matt Severson, 34, (pictured left) of Los Angeles, alleges that Baker abused him for a decade, beginning in 1976 when he was 9 years old.
He did not come forward then because he felt "I did not have a voice at that time," Severson said at a news conference. "I was too embarrassed to tell anyone. I felt great humiliation and pain."
In a statement, Mahony called the lawsuit claims "baseless and irresponsible."
"I will let the legal system address the technical issues surrounding these claims. I am confident that they will be resolved appropriately," he said.
Mahony also pledged to continue cooperating with law enforcement agencies, the statement said.
Baker, 54, is one of several former priests being investigated by police amid accusations that he molested at least nine youths beginning in 1976.
Two men who claim they were sexually abused as children by Baker from 1984 to 1999 later agreed to a $1.3 million settlement with the archdiocese.
Baker told the Los Angeles Times that in December 1986 he met with Mahony and reported he had engaged in sexual misconduct with children.
Baker alleges that Mahony never asked for specifics and appeared willing to let him remain in the priesthood.
"I told Mahony I had a problem," Baker said. "He was very solicitous and understanding. I was glad I brought it up."
Baker continued to have access to children over the next 14 years while he was assigned to nine parishes around Los Angeles, the newspaper said. He was asked to retire in late 2000.
Mahony said last month that there were few solutions for dealing with Baker in 1986 because the allegations were never proved.
"Our biggest problem was that ... he wasn't found guilty of a criminal act," Mahony said.
The suit named Mahony individually and in his official role as head of the archdiocese. It is the latest in a series filed by Anderson and other attorneys against U.S. Roman Catholic dioceses this year in connection with an ongoing sex-abuse scandal.
The federal Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act originally was aimed at organized crime but includes provisions for civil cases when someone is harmed by a "pattern" of illegal activity. RICO lawsuits allow damage awards to be tripled.
Also Monday, a former priest at a Roman Catholic church in Fremont pleaded innocent in Alameda County Superior Court to charges of unlawful sexual conduct and sexual penetration with a child under age 14.
Stephen M. Kiesle, 55, once worked at the now-closed Santa Paula Catholic Church, the same church where the Rev. Robert Freitas allegedly molested a boy in 1979. Two alleged victims, now in their 40s, have told Fremont police Kiesle molested them several times in the early 1970s. During the investigation, a woman came forward and alleged similar abuse.
Ex-Altar Boy Alleges Priest Abused Him
By Glenn F. Bunting and Richard Winton
A former altar boy alleged in court papers filed Monday that he was molested at a Van Nuys church by Father Michael Stephen Baker, bringing to three the number of victims who say they were abused after the priest admitted engaging in sexual misconduct to Cardinal Roger M. Mahony.
The lawsuit alleges that Baker abused at least a dozen young boys between 1975 and 1999. The complaint, filed under a federal racketeering law, states that Mahony and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles failed to keep Baker away from children after his admission, did not report the abuse to authorities and paid money to victims to keep the misconduct secret.
"Cardinal Roger Mahony belongs in prison for aiding and abetting Michael Baker, for protecting a pedophile priest," attorney Jeffrey Anderson told reporters outside the Los Angeles Superior Courthouse after filing the suit. "The deception has to end.... We have come forward to say: no more secrets, no more crimes." Mahony called the racketeering suit "baseless and irresponsible" in a statement released Monday.
"I will not let these claims distract me from continuing to focus all of my energies on ... reaching out to victims of clergy abuse and their families, assisting with their spiritual and emotional healing, and expanding our programs to protect children throughout the archdiocese," the statement said.
Baker and his attorney, Donald Steier, could not be reached for comment Monday. In previous interviews, Baker acknowledged telling Mahony in a 1986 meeting that he had abused "two or three" children. Baker said the cardinal did not press him for details and he did not provide any.
The Times reported last week that Mahony transferred Baker to nine parishes after learning about the priest's history of sex abuse and later approved a secret $1.3-million settlement to two men. The victims' attorney, Lynne M. Cadigan of Tucson, said the archdiocese insisted on a strict confidentiality clause.
Mahony arranged for Baker to quietly retire from the priesthood in late 2000 without notifying law enforcement authorities or informing parishioners about the alleged abuses.
The two victims, who are brothers in their 20s now living in Mexico, alleged in a letter of complaint to the archdiocese that they had been repeatedly molested by Baker over 15 years. The Times does not identify victims of sexual abuse without their consent.
The third purported victim to emerge since Mahony learned of Baker's abuse is identified in the lawsuit only as "John Doe 53." He was raised in a devoutly Roman Catholic family and served as an altar boy at St. Elisabeth parish in Van Nuys, according to the suit.
The abuse began in 1990 when the altar boy was 12 or 13 years old and continued for about three years, said attorney Anderson.
"This happened after Baker's cozy chat with Mahony," Anderson said. "What did [Mahony] do with that? Nothing.... All of these victims suffered in secrecy, silence and sham."
Archdiocese records show that Baker lived at St. Elisabeth from 1988 to 1991. The pastor at the time, Father Paul Hruby, said he knew of no allegations against Baker of sexual abuse during Baker's time there. Hruby declined to say whether archdiocese officials informed him of Baker's history when the priest was assigned to the Van Nuys parish.
Monday's lawsuit was filed on behalf of the former altar boy and three other men.
One of the four men appeared at the press conference Monday. Matt Severson, 34, of West Hollywood claimed that Baker abused him for a decade, beginning in 1976 when he was 9.
"I did not have a voice at that time," Severson said. "I was too embarrassed to tell anyone. I felt great humiliation and pain."
Severson, called "John Doe 50" in the lawsuit, said he came forward to "reclaim some of the power that was taken away from me as a child.... I want an apology, not just for me but for my family. My family was very devastated."
The suit is the second in which Anderson has cited racketeering laws against Mahony and the archdiocese. He has also sued under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act on behalf of alleged victims of Father Carl Sutphin, an associate pastor at the new downtown cathedral until his recent removal from the ministry.
Anderson alleges that Mahony's actions amount to a pattern of illegal activity. RICO lawsuits allow damage awards to be tripled.
Mahony said last week he will turn over records to the district attorney's office on the Baker case and all others, as necessary. Regarding Baker's files, Mahony said, "We told [LAPD detectives] whatever they wanted, they could have."
In response to the story in The Times last week, Los Angeles County District Atty. Steve Cooley warned the cardinal that he would seek a grand jury investigation unless the Los Angeles archdiocese turned over all documents related to allegations of sexual abuse by priests.
Times staff writer Beth Shuster contributed to this report.
Cardinal Mahony, Police Ask for Extradition of Fugitive Priest
LOS ANGELES -- Glendale police have asked the district attorney's office to seek the extradition of a fugitive priest accused of sexually abusing a teenage boy.
Prosecutors believe Father Tilak Jayawardene returned to his native Sri Lanka after he was asked to surrender to police in December 1990, a district attorney's office spokeswoman told the Los Angeles Times.
Cardinal Roger Mahony said he recently wrote to church officials in Sri Lanka asking they they return the priest to Los Angeles, The Times reported.
Barbara Moore, chief of the district attorney's extradition unit, said that Glendale police made the request for the priest's extradition on May 9 after The Times questioned police about their efforts to locate the fugitive.
Jayawardene worked at Incarnation Church in Glendale as associate pastor from 1987 to December 1990, when he disappeared amid a police investigation, The Times reported.
My Hopes for Dallas
By Roger M. Mahony
The expectations surrounding the meeting in Rome on April 23-24 of the U.S. cardinals, the leaders of our bishops’ conference and members of the Roman Curia were enormously unrealistic. Those hopes ranged from a quick and final plan to end decades of child abuse in the church to a “Third Vatican Council look” at every conceivable issue facing the church across our country. Because few had their expectations met, many declared the meetings a failure and a setback.
That is not the way I see it. I believe that several important things happened in Rome during those two days:
Pope John Paul II spoke words of solidarity, prayer and pastoral concern to victims of abuse in the church. He made it clear that there is no room in the priesthood or religious life for anyone who would harm the young; and he expects the bishops of the church to take every possible step to put an end to abusive behavior.
The leaders of various Vatican offices understood that child abuse is not a problem confined to the United States, but a worldwide problem for the church; many of them acquired insights into a terrible and hidden problem that has plagued the church for a very long time. They offered their assistance in crafting church processes for dismissing guilty clergy from the clerical state quickly and for making official visitation of seminaries and religious houses of formation.
We were clearly sent home to prepare for the Dallas meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and to produce tangible results. I am convinced that the Holy See is waiting for the U.S.C.C.B. to develop a comprehensive plan that can serve as an impetus for other bishops’ conferences that have not yet put their own plans in place.
The eyes of our Catholic people, and others around the world, have now shifted to Dallas. The Dallas meeting must be an overwhelming success, and we bishops must leave there in full agreement on a number of action steps. My personal hopes for the Dallas meeting are divided into three sections—six overall goals to guide us forward, six concrete action steps that I believe we must take and three longer-range agenda items that still need the church’s attention.
1. We as bishops need to acknowledge and apologize for decisions made in the past regarding priestly abuse that were not in the best interest of young people and the church. True, many of us made decisions based upon the best professional knowledge and advice available in past years, and that knowledge has grown and changed greatly since then. Our decisions in 2002 are far different from those of the 1970’s and 1980’s. But still, the overall healing of the church would be enhanced by our admission that at times mistakes were made.
2. A genuine expression of apology to all who have become victims of sexual misconduct and abuse in the church. We can never state often enough how deeply sorry we are for the immeasurable loss, pain and suffering so many have suffered over the decades because of clergy sexual misconduct and abuse.
3. We must renew our pastoral outreach to all victims and their families and extend opportunities for counseling and other needed personal services. The current national crisis has brought to the surface many hurting past victims, and they need the church’s collective care and concern.
4. We must be able to assure our Catholic people that their church is a safe place for all, especially children and young people. No parents or guardians should feel the slightest hesitancy in entrusting their children to the church’s ministries and care.
5. Dallas will be a unique ecclesial moment for the church, one that allows us to bring alive the vision and spirit of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). The council envisioned involving all of God’s people in the entire life of the church. Now is the time to invite our laity and women religious to join us in finding the right path forward. The Holy Spirit is poured out upon all through baptism and confirmation, and that same Spirit will assist us greatly through our gifted people. The problems and the scandal may be clerical, but the solutions must be ecclesial.
6. We bishops must take the lead in organizing special days of prayer, healing and penance and invite all our fellow Catholics to join us as humbled disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. We must not, and cannot, seem to advocate some type of “corporate fix” to a terrible church problem. We bishops must enter fully into this purification process by emptying ourselves and acknowledging our sinfulness; only then will the redeeming power of the risen Jesus sustain us forward. Special days of prayer, healing and penance across the country will help the church greatly.
1. National Lay Misconduct and Abuse Commission. One of the ideas that emerged in Rome and gained enthusiastic support is the establishment of a special National Lay Commission to help oversee the next steps in the process of correcting past problems and assuring against new misconduct in the church. The bishops should approve the establishment of such a national commission, and if possible, even announce some of its members at Dallas. These lay men and women should represent the wide spectrum of expertise needed to help shape the church’s full response to misconduct in the church, as well as represent the geographical regions of the country. Their charge would be to develop both the needed minimal national standards to handle misconduct allegations and accountability systems to make certain all dioceses are in full compliance.
We have been blessed here in Los Angeles over the past 10 years with a nine-member board—seven laypersons and two priests—to oversee the development of our policies and to implement appropriate recommendations in cases of alleged abuse or misconduct. Their insights are invaluable to me, and many other dioceses across the country use similar lay boards with great success. Our board is being expanded to 15 members, mostly lay, with increased authority.
2. “Zero Tolerance.” I personally subscribe to a policy of total zero tolerance for anyone in church ministry or service who abuses a minor. Our Holy Father’s words were quite clear: “People need to know that there is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young.” I interpret that to mean zero tolerance, past, present and future—no exceptions.
Some may suggest possible “what-if” exceptions to full zero tolerance. But just ask any Catholic lay persons. They are adamant that the church must adopt a national zero-tolerance policy. A new threshold has been set, and I believe that our national standards should unequivocally call for zero tolerance. In a rare case, should a diocesan lay board decide to make an exception for very special circumstances, then so be it. But the national policy should be clear and consistent with the Holy Father’s call.
3. Minimum National Procedural Standards. It is important that at Dallas the bishops agree to all of the essential elements that would comprise national procedural standards. They would include such things as the expanded use of lay boards to handle such cases in the future, the need to work closely with law enforcement agencies at all levels and the like. These elements would build upon those already put in place over the past several years.
These essential elements would be given to the national commission, proposed above, as part of their work. Those elements could be improved upon, added to—whatever is needed to make them most effective across the country to assure that everyone who comes in contact with the church’s ministries and apostolates is safe.
4. Systems of Accountability. One of the continuing calls from our Catholic people is for the establishment of systems of accountability to make certain that each diocese has in place the needed procedural standards and process to deal with allegations of misconduct and abuse, as well as to make certain that preventive systems are in place for seminarians and priests.
The national commission could recommend some possible models, maybe small review teams functioning at the provincial level, to help everyone in the church know that the needed processes and standards are in place, are working and are kept up to date.
I would welcome such systems of accountability, since they would help us bishops expand our systems of governance to be far more inclusive of the entire church.
5. Encouragement for Our Priests. Ninety-eight percent of our priests across the country are dedicated and virtuous. They have not been and are not now involved in any form of sexual abuse or misconduct. But all are being painted with the same broad brush: guilty until proven innocent. They are hurting, they feel ashamed of their fallen brothers, and they are taking the brunt of much public ridicule and criticism. We must reach out to them, encourage them, gather them for prayer and keep them involved with the overall purification and healing process.
Our people overwhelmingly support our priests at the parish level, since they have experienced them to be dedicated, caring and hard-working priests of Jesus Christ. Surveys show that our priests enjoy a far higher level of support than we bishops. We truly need each other in new ways today.
6. Preventive Measures. The seminary visitations will be very helpful to make certain that all our seminaries and houses of formation have in place clear, stringent application processes. Once admitted, mature seminary candidates need a deep and thorough formation in human sexuality, in establishing healthy relationships in their ministry and in priestly chastity and celibacy. No one can be promoted to sacred orders who has not proven that he can maturely assume the duties of lifelong celibate and chaste living.
Post-ordination programs must be enhanced and expanded to assist all our currently ordained priests. There has been unevenness over the years in seminary formation programs, and we need to reach out to our priests with ways to deepen their spiritual lives, to help them develop healthy friendships and working relationships and to offer support for their celibate lifestyle.
It is my hope that we will be able to accomplish all of the above—maybe even more. The special committee headed by Archbishop Harry Flynn of St. Paul and Minneapolis has its work cut out for it, and I offer them my prayerful cooperation in moving a concrete agenda forward.
There are three additional areas that need the church’s attention at the national level, which I mention here lest they somehow be forgotten.
1. Research Projects. The church needs to commission several top-flight research projects across the country to find out what factors led to this incredible betrayal within the church over a period of at least several decades. What questions need to be asked? What information needs to be gathered? How could priests, committed to modeling the life of the Good Shepherd, end up sexually abusing the most innocent of Christ’s flock? While our full attention at the moment must be focused upon reaching out to the victims and preventing any further abuse, we cannot leave aside the research projects that must be launched in a coordinated fashion.
2. Hemisphere Gathering. We are acutely aware that the problem of misconduct and abuse in the church is not confined to the United States. My experience in Los Angeles demonstrates that this is a worldwide problem for the church, and we have had too many experiences of misconduct by priests from other countries.
Following up on the Special Assembly for America of the Bishops Synod in 1997, I recommend that there be a hemisphere-wide gathering of lay leaders, women and men religious, deacons, priests and bishops to discuss this phenomenon and to make certain that the church throughout America is taking all the necessary steps to prevent such misconduct everywhere in our hemisphere. The church in Canada, for example, has exercised excellent leadership over the years in developing national policies and strategies for dealing with this difficult problem. We have much to learn from one another, and we all have a collective responsibility for the church throughout the hemisphere.
3. Special Care Centers. Is there a need for the church in our country to create a few special care centers to house priests who have been found guilty of the abuse of minors and who have been removed entirely from ministry, especially since many are near or at retirement? Does the church have a role in providing a supervised setting for these men in their senior years? Would children be safer if such men were in special care centers instead of living in the broader community—often alone—without any church supervision? The question needs further exploration.
We bishops are facing the worst scandal and calamity in the history of the church in our country. Its origins, repercussions and the loss of the church’s leadership role are unparalleled. The expectations and the longings of our Catholic people for our meeting in June are also unparalleled. We cannot fail.
Those are my hopes for Dallas.
Bishop Accountability © 2003