Mahony Resources – June 15–30, 2002
By William Lobdell
Dallas -- The result of the U.S. bishops' conference this week wasn't just a tougher policy on the sexual abuse of minors.
It also produced a humbled group of church leaders.
These are men who operate their dioceses independently and answer only to the Vatican. The cardinals among them are used to being referred to as "your eminence."
But for two days, the 300 bishops fielded pointed questions from reporters, who outnumbered them nearly 2 to 1, heard tear-producing stories from victims of priestly sexual abuse and absorbed tongue lashings from church supporters whom they invited to speak.
"What are [people] saying about you, the successors to the apostles?" said one of the critics, Scott Appleby, a professor at the University of Notre Dame. "I don't think the suspense will be broken if we admit that at this particular moment in American history, they are not comparing you to Christ and his apostles."
In interviews Friday, many bishops said the unrelenting criticism was exactly what their group needed to hear after a half-year of mounting public outrage filtered through news media.
"I approached the conference with a certain amount of dread," said Jaime Soto, the auxiliary bishop of Orange, which covers Orange County. "Now I feel a certain amount of relief at having been able to engage the victims and the issue together with my fellow bishops. It was anguishing and uplifting."
Soto's change of emotions was mirrored by other bishops, who said the conference's opening day of victim testimony quelled any serious opposition to enacting a "zero-tolerance" policy for abusive priests.
Bishop David E. Foley, from Birmingham, Ala., was moved by the way his colleagues became silent as the abuse victims told their stories.
"And where there is silence," Foley said, "there is God. God speaks in silence."
Bishop Edward J. O'Donnell of Lafayette, La., was moved the same way. "You have to be terribly stupid not to feel it."
O'Donnell, a longtime backer of zero tolerance, said the victims' speeches also swayed bishops who thought some accusers had come forward for monetary gain or to hurt the church. The prelates "realized that we've got a serious problem of our own making. And we had an opportunity to do something about it," he said.
In the end, Soto said, the events of the conference "made him soberly aware of my own humanity and the need for God's grace."
The conference produced a different type of humbling experience for Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston. Once the most powerful Catholic leader in the nation, and still the longest-serving American cardinal, Law has been at the epicenter of the church's crisis since it was revealed in January that he moved a priest from parish to parish despite accusations that the priest had molested 130 boys.
During the bishops' meeting, in which many bishops scheduled news briefings for reporters, the gray-haired cardinal remained sequestered on the second floor of the Fairmont Hotel.
Law refused all media requests and traveled through the hotel lobby with a burly clergyman at his side. Law apologized in closed session to his fellow bishops for his role in the scandal, but offered only a few insignificant suggestions during the public debate. Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the conference, even gently rebuffed Law in the cardinal's final attempt to speak during the proceedings on sexual abuse policy. In the interest of time, Law was told, his testimony would not be heard.
Law's lot probably won't get much better at the next conference of bishops in November. During that session, a subcommittee of bishops will present ways to hold prelates accountable if they harbor molesting priests.
The conference produced plenty of evidence that Los Angeles Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, while tainted by the abuse scandal at home, remains an influential prelate.
During a single lunch break Friday, for instance, Mahony squeezed in television interviews with CNN, Fox News, CBS and MSNBC. Later, he also helped reporters on deadline by holding a series of news conferences in the hotel's makeshift television studios and in his hotel suite immediately after the conference's final vote--a media-friendly gesture unusual for a cardinal or most bishops.
The most damaging allegation against Mahony, as reported by The Times in May, is that he transferred Father Michael Stephen Baker to several parishes after the priest told him in 1986 that he had molested young boys. The cardinal later approved a secret $1.3-million settlement with two men allegedly abused by Baker in the 1990s.
The archdiocese last month hired Sitrick and Co., a high-profile public relations firm, to boost its public image. In addition to two public relations specialists from the archdiocese, Mahony brought two Sitrick executives to Dallas. A diocesan spokesman said the Sitrick executives offered no public relations advice to Mahony during the two-day conference.
In the conference proceedings, Mahony also found himself in the spotlight, forcefully advocating zero tolerance, sharing his experiences of being falsely accused of molestation, and even giving advice on how to speed up the bishops' lagging debate--which brought applause.
Mahony also pulled off perhaps his biggest feat: getting a laugh out of the weary bishops. When one of his amendments had been misplaced, Mahony, looking bewildered for a moment, said he had given it earlier to someone in the hotel hallway who wore a "staff" member badge.
Mahony said: "I hope it wasn't room service."
U.S. Bishops Adopt Policy on Sex Abuse
By Teresa Watanabe
Dallas -- Under intense pressure to stem a spiraling sex abuse crisis, the nation's Roman Catholic bishops on Friday overwhelmingly approved their first national policy to oust all priests from public ministry who molest minors.
In passing the policy by a vote of 239-13, the bishops closed a controversial loophole that would have allowed perpetrators of a past single offense to eventually return to a restricted ministry after treatment.
But in a new wrinkle that outraged victims' advocates, the bishops left the door open for offenders to remain as priests with harsh restrictions that would ban them from wearing clerical garb, celebrating Mass and publicly presenting themselves as priests.
The new policy contains no direct measure to penalize bishops who continue to reassign, rather than remove, errant priests, a demand that surfaced from victims and other dissident Catholics this week. The bishops did pass a separate motion to direct a conference committee to explore the issue of accountability.
Despite the imperfections, several bishops hailed the new policy as an unprecedented document to protect children from sex abuse and seek healing and reconciliation with victims and their families.
Among other things, the document morally obliges bishops in all 194 U.S. dioceses to report all allegations of sexual abuse of minors to civil authorities, requires the expulsion of offenders from public ministry and sets up a national lay review board. The board will publicly name in annual reports those dioceses that fail to comply with the policy--a sharp contrast from the tradition of clerical secrecy.
The vote came after six months of ceaseless headlines that have chronicled a church pattern of protecting abusive priests. About 250 of the nation's 46,000 priests have resigned or been suspended during that time. Four bishops have resigned, two priests have committed suicide after being accused of abuse and another priest was shot.
"Today the [bishops] took a profound step in a long and sorrowful journey for the entire church," said Bishop Wilton D. Gregory, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. "The charter ... ensures that young people are protected, that victims are truly listened to and assisted, that all priests are trustworthy and that all bishops act responsibly."
David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, called the new policy terribly disappointing because it did not eject all perpetrators from the priesthood or seek to remove derelict bishops.
But the newly appointed chairman of the national lay review board, Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating, moved swiftly to invite victims' advocates to serve as board members. At least one of them, Mark Serrano of the survivors network group, has agreed.
Gregory and others said the uniform national policy was needed to prevent dioceses from ignoring guidelines on sex abuse that the bishops passed a decade ago. The lack of compliance led to tragic cases of predatory priests who were kept in ministry only to violate other victims, fueling widespread anger and an outcry for tough and sweeping reforms.
What was billed as one of the most important debates in the history of the bishops conference began with a ringing declaration from Archbishop Harry Flynn, chairman of the committee on sexual abuse that drafted the policy.
"This is a defining moment for us ... to root out a cancer in our church," Flynn told his fellow bishops.
"The bottom line remains, and that is: No priest or deacon who has abused a minor can remain in ministry. As good pastors attentive to those we serve, we can do no less."
However, the daylong debate revealed deep concerns and palpable tensions among bishops, who were caught between public expectations of reform and trepidation over subjecting priests to unjust actions.
Nevertheless, provisions to soften the policy were turned back one after another as bishops repeatedly spoke out against what several of them termed wiggle room.
In one exchange, some asked for amendments to require them to report to civil authorities only credible allegations, saying they did not want to stain the reputation of priests with false accusations. Others worried that the provision would break the bond of trust between priests and bishops.
Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles, among others, countered that the public had criticized bishops for trying to handle the problem within the church--and in the process had delayed justice. (Mahony has been criticized for transferring a priest to several parishes in the Los Angeles Archdiocese after the priest told him in the mid-1980s that he had molested young boys.)
Noting that he had been falsely accused twice of molestation, Mahony said immediate intervention by law enforcement had cleared him swiftly and publicly.
"I welcome police intervention.... It helps us greatly," Mahony said. The new national policy will not greatly affect Los Angeles, because the archdiocese already requires the dismissal of any priest found to have sexually abused minors.
After five hours of debate and earlier consideration of 107 pages of proposed amendments, the bishops adopted the policy.
The policy will be forwarded to the Vatican, which must approve it to make it legally binding on all bishops.
Father Thomas Reese, editor of the national Catholic magazine America, said the bishops' approval of a document containing provisions that some Vatican officials had publicly criticized, such as reporting all sex abuse allegations to civil authorities, marked a sea change in the American leaders' relationship with Rome.
In the two decades he has attended bishops' conferences, Reese said, American bishops had usually treated any Vatican concern with great deference. But the only public reference any bishop made to Rome during their two-day meeting was a comment by Pope John Paul II: "There is no place in the priesthood or religious life for those who would harm the young."
"The pope indicated that he trusted the U.S. bishops and told them to go home and fix this problem," Reese said. "The bishops basically said: If the Vatican doesn't agree with us, we'll go straight to the man in white."
Reese said, however, that worries over Vatican reaction may have had led bishops to back off on an earlier draft provision that required them to seek to defrock any offender. He said some Vatican officials had expressed concern about an overly sweeping policy that could jeopardize the due process rights of priests. Numerous bishops disagreed with Reese's speculation.
In supporting the new clause that would keep some offenders in the priesthood, Bishop David Foley argued that defrocking all offenders and throwing them into the community was irresponsible. Mahony said he expected that the only offenders who would not be forcibly defrocked were the very elderly or infirm, and Auxiliary Bishop Timothy Dolan of Pittsburgh said compassion for such men prompted him to support their retention in the priesthood.
And Keating said he would, as review committee chairman, recommend to the Vatican the removal of any bishop who covered up abuse. Keating, a former FBI agent and local prosecutor, also said any cover-up could constitute obstruction of justice.
Still, victims of abuse, who moved bishops Thursday with tearful testimony about their experiences, expressed shock and anger that perpetrators could still technically remain priests.
"They're still in a place of honor and they still have access to families," said Peter Isely of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests. "Catholics need to voice their displeasure, because their money will be used to house and feed sex offenders."
Times staff writers Larry Stammer and William Lobdell contributed to
61 L.A. priests face investigation
Los Angeles Daily News
Sixty-one current or former priests face investigation by the LAPD and the Sheriff's Department after 115 people filed complaints alleging they were sexually abused as youths, the Daily News learned Wednesday.
Because of the volume of cases, both the Los Angeles Police Department and Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department have assembled special teams of investigators assigned exclusively to the widening sex abuse scandal involving Los Angeles Archdiocese clergy members. "We have, in the past, investigated religious leaders, but the complaints against the (Archdiocese of Los Angeles) more or less exploded with all the allegations that happened in Boston," said LAPD Lt. Dan Mulrenin, who is heading that agency's task force.
Officials said 59 people have lodged complaints with the LAPD against 40 priests, eight of whom might be deceased. The Sheriff's Department has received 56 complaints lodged against 21 priests, three of whom might be dead.
A check with numerous other local law enforcement agencies within the Los Angeles Archdiocese's area, which includes Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, yielded no additional complaints.
Mulrenin said the complaints were filed within the past four months, with most alleging molestation by a priest years, or even decades, ago.
"There's strength in numbers," Mulrenin said, speculating on the reason for the explosion of complaints. "They realize that because of the exposure in the media, they're not isolated. Maybe a lot of them have been repressing it and now they feel compelled to have their stories brought to the attention of law enforcement."
Mulrenin said the LAPD has sought information from the archdiocese, and "we continue to try to establish open lines of communication with them."
Archdiocese spokesman Tod Tamberg said the church was not aware of all of the complaints being investigated by Los Angeles law enforcement, but said "a handful" of priests has been suspended as a result of allegations of sexual abuse.
"It certainly is not 60 or even 30," he said. "Police don't have to tell us they're conducting an investigation so they would probably have more names than we do. Nevertheless, I can say with confidence that every single priest who has been found to have abused a minor has been removed from ministry."
The probe into the Los Angeles Archdiocese is now nearing the magnitude of the scandal that has rocked the Archdiocese of Boston, where 85 clergy members are under investigation.
Los Angeles County sheriff's Sgt. Dan Scott said that in following up on complaints, investigators are seeking corroborating evidence because the alleged incidents typically occurred so long ago.
"We need something more than the victim's word on its own," Scott said.
Mulrenin said his unit is treating each clergy sex abuse case just like it would treat any other sex abuse allegation.
"We will go wherever the evidence leads us," Mulrenin said. "If someone is a child molester, irrespective of whether they're a priest, they need to be held accountable."
Police have formally submitted one case to prosecutors to review for criminal charges, but no case has been filed to date. The District Attorney's Office has one year from the date the complaint was made to file charges.
Also, under state law, clergy are required to report cases of sexual misconduct to police if the alleged victim was a child at the time the complaint was made. Mulrenin said investigators will try to determine whether church officials have complied with that law.
Sandi Gibbons, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, said the office has also assembled a special team to handle juvenile cases involving clergy.
"We're reviewing these cases as they come in," Gibbons said. "We're working very closely with all law enforcement organizations that have investigations under way."
She refused to say whether a grand jury has been impaneled to look into allegations of sexual abuse by priests.
So far this year two San Fernando Valley cases have been made public. On June 8, Los Angeles police opened a criminal inquiry into allegations that Monsignor Chris Van Liefde, 53, of St. Genevieve's Catholic Church in Panorama City, engaged in "inappropriate conduct" 28 years ago.
Van Liefde also served as the Los Angeles Fire Department's chaplain. The archdiocese has placed the pastor on administrative leave.
In March, the Rev. Dominic Savino, president of Crespi High School in Encino, was removed after church officials found evidence supporting allegations of sexual misconduct with 10 teen-age boys between 1966 and 1979. The case also remains under investigation by authorities and the archdiocese.
Tamberg said the archdiocese will cooperate with the investigations in anyway it can.
"We welcome police involvement," Tamberg said. "If it's a false report, the police are the ones that are able to determine that very quickly and exonerate the person against whom the charges are made."
Staff Writer Dana Bartholomew contributed to this story.
Archdiocese Gives Files on Priests to Grand Jury
By Richard Winton
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles has handed over the personnel files of three priests under criminal investigation for alleged sexual abuse of minors. But prosecutors won't see what is in those files any time soon.
An attorney for the three priests filed a motion seeking a court hearing on whether the archdiocese's releasing of the files violated the priests' privacy. Until that hearing next month, the files will remain in the office of the county grand jury, which had subpoenaed them at the request of the district attorney's office.
Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley turned to the grand jury for subpoenas last Thursday to obtain the personnel files after the priests' lawyer, Donald Steier, protested the disclosure.
Archdiocese officials insisted that they always have favored the handing over of the files to prosecutors. "It is now an issue between the district attorney's office and Don Steier," said Michael Hennigan, attorney for the archdiocese.
The district attorney's office declined to comment Wednesday on the battle for the records, citing rules governing grand jury secrecy.
Cooley has gradually pressured Cardinal Roger M. Mahony to turn over information and records related to priests accused of abusive behavior toward minors. Cooley at one point accused the cardinal of delaying investigations by failing to turn over to police investigators vital information on abuse.
That pressure culminated last Thursday when Bill Hodgman, head deputy in charge of the sex crimes unit, successfully sought the subpoenas from the grand jury for documents related to Father Michael Stephen Baker and Father Michael Wempe, both retired, and Father David Granadino.
Steier's motion to quash the disclosure of the documents is set for early July before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Dan T. Oki, sources said. Because that hearing involves grand jury subpoenas, it will be behind closed doors, sources said.
Court officials declined to provide any details about the proceedings because of grand jury secrecy rules.
Steier contends that state and federal privacy laws protect his clients from the revealing of the files' contents, which include psychological evaluations.
Mahony transferred Baker to several parishes after the priest told him in 1986 that he had molested young boys.
He later approved a secret $1.3-million settlement with two men who had allegedly been abused by Baker in the 1990s.
The cardinal has said that he erred when he transferred Wempe, who is accused of molesting children, to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center about 14 years ago without telling hospital officials.
Wempe was among eight priests whom Mahony forced to retire earlier this year after the archdiocese adopted a "zero tolerance" policy for abusers following a lawsuit settlement
All three priests named in the subpoenas are under investigation by the
Los Angeles Sheriff's Department. Prosecutors are expected to seek subpoenas
for personnel records of some of the 34 priests under investigation by
Los Angles police, sources said.
New Panel on Priestly Abuse Is Planned
By Teresa Watanabe
The Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles plans to unveil a newly revamped clergy misconduct review board today with more lay members, authority to review every allegation of priestly sex abuse in the region and direct reporting access to Cardinal Roger M. Mahony.
The revamped board, which will be headed by former Los Angeles County Superior Court Presiding Judge Richard P. Byrne, will replace a more informal group whose responsibilities were not as clearly spelled out.
In the past, members essentially advised the vicar of clergy on whatever cases he chose to bring them, and recommendations were not always implemented quickly, according to board member Nanette de Fuentes, a psychologist and sex-abuse survivor who helped found the original board in 1994. But she said the old board had also successfully pushed the archdiocese to make several tough changes, such as more quickly removing priests under investigation from active duty and informing parishes that their priests had been removed for sexual misconduct.
The new Clergy Misconduct Oversight Board, among other things, will conduct an annual review of archdiocesan sexual misconduct policies, review all complaints and verify that the archdiocese has reported them to civil authorities. The board will also make recommendations to Mahony on such issues as outreach to victims, whether a priest should be removed from ministry and whether a parish should be notified of the alleged misconduct.
The new board represents one of several changes Mahony has made in the last several months to strengthen policies against priestly sex abuse in the region. Today's announcement comes just days after the nation's Roman Catholic bishops approved a sweeping national policy to permanently oust from public ministry all priests and deacons found to have sexually abused minors.
"I truly believe this is a reaffirmation of many years of professionalism and commitment of the archdiocese ... to effectively and compassionately deal with the problem of clergy sexual abuse," De Fuentes said.
She said she was initially "a little skeptical" about whether the new board would represent any substantive improvement. But two days of meetings on the board's new duties and Mahony's assurances of a more central role in archdiocesan policymaking have convinced her that the panel will become a "cutting edge" model for other cities, she said.
More than 50 priests in the three-county archdiocese are under investigation by authorities for alleged abuse of minors. Although Mahony is regarded as one of the nation's leading proponents of tough reform, he has also come under fire for his handling of some misconduct cases.
The cardinal had, for instance, transferred Father Michael Stephen Baker from parish to parish even after the priest confessed his sexual misconduct of minors to archdiocesan authorities in 1986. Baker was finally asked to retire in 2000 after a $1.3-million settlement was made.
Asked how such a case could fall through the review board's cracks, Byrne replied, "I'm not really sure." But De Fuentes said she was upset after reading of the Baker case in The Times and met with Mahony to find out if it had been reported to the board. (Cases come to the board without the names of priests, parishes or victims, she said.)
According to De Fuentes, Mahony told her the Baker case first surfaced before the board was formed and had subsequently been taken to the board, but not in great detail.
De Fuentes, who could not remember the board's recommendation on the case, said Mahony's explanations assured her that such handling of cases "would not happen now."
"I do not feel there was any malicious intent," she said. "I really feel [the lack of board involvement] had to do with it being an old case."
The national policy adopted by the nation's bishops in Dallas last week requires all dioceses to establish lay-dominated review boards to assist dioceses in evaluating allegations and assessing an accused perpetrator's fitness for ministry.
Some Catholic reform groups have argued that the only way such boards can act truly independently of church authorities is for members to be appointed by lay pastoral councils rather than bishops and to have binding, not advisory, authority. But no diocese has yet created such a board--including in Los Angeles, where Mahony has appointed all members to serve in a strictly advisory capacity.
"The bishops are not letting go of any control, which means the same people who made the mistakes that created this crisis are still the ones making the decisions alone. So we haven't really progressed very much," said Linda Pieczynski, spokeswoman for Call to Action, a Catholic reform group.
Byrne, who helped develop the new board's duties in consultation with Mahony and his representatives, disagreed.
"Cardinal Mahony is the CEO, is the fellow in charge," Byrne said. "He's the one who's going to have to make the tough decisions and take ultimate responsibility. He can't give that [authority] to some lay board such as ours."
In April, Byrne helped direct an archdiocesan attorney on which court official to call to arrange an extraordinary late-night court hearing seeking to prevent The Times from publishing e-mails by Mahony and others. But Byrne said he is unbiased and "can be completely independent" as board chairman.
Unlike the previous board, all members of the new panel will be publicly identified, as a step toward making archdiocesan policies more transparent.
The new board will have 13 rather than nine members, nearly all of them laypeople. They will include one or two priests, a nun, an abuse victim, parents of abuse victims and mental-health professionals.
One new member, Sister Diane Donoghue of Esperanza Community Housing
Corp., said she hoped the new board would "live by the Catholic social
and economic justice teachings of accountability, transparency and challenging
abusive power." She also said she would bring the values of her Sisters
of Social Service to champion "those without voices."
Sisters Allege Abuse by Transferred Priest
By Richard Winton
Three sisters are alleging they were molested as youngsters by a priest after the Los Angeles archdiocese transferred him to their parish despite knowing allegations of abuse had been made against the priest in the past.
The sisters allege they were abused by Father G. Neville Rucker in the early 1970s at St. Agatha Church in Los Angeles' West Adams district. They are demanding an apology from Cardinal Roger M. Mahony and a face-to-face meeting with the now-retired priest.
Rucker came to St. Agatha in 1970, three years after two 9-year-old girls told the El Segundo police that the cleric molested them while he was at St. Anthony Church, police records show. Rucker retired in 1987. In April, Mahony removed him from the ministry because of the 1967 allegations and forced him to move out of the Pacific Palisades rectory, saying Rucker had run afoul of the archdiocese's new zero tolerance policy for priests who molest minors.
Rucker's removal came 35 years after Mahony's predecessor--then-Bishop Timothy Manning--persuaded the mother of one of the El Segundo girls not to seek criminal charges against Rucker, records show.
The mother told police Manning had assured her "he would like the Church to take care of the matter, and he would see that it was done properly," according to a police report.
The Times' report of Rucker's removal from the ministry in April caused one of the sisters who claim he molested them at St. Agatha to go to the police.
Los Angeles Police Lt. Daniel Mulrenin said the publicity caused others to call, and detectives now are investigating "several" reports of abuse by Rucker.
"After all these years, I hoped he'd died of natural causes," said the middle sister, now 40. The recent report of Rucker's removal "forced me to relive some horrible memories. They are memories I'll never forget. I locked them away. I prayed no one would open that door. Now I learn he's done it before. I just want to know, why did they let it happen?" The Times does not name alleged sex crime victims.
Rucker, who lives in a Catholic retirement facility in West Los Angeles, refused to comment.
The sister recalls Rucker as the pastor who liked to share cookies, hugs and touches in places that she could not tell anyone about. She and her sisters said the abuse occurred for parts of two years, 1973 and 1974. Then, one night, overhearing her mother say how glad she was her children attended St. Agatha's school, the girl blurted out her secret.
After that night, she and her mother said, her father marched down to the rectory and confronted parish officials.
Tod Tamberg, archdiocese spokesman, acknowledged that Rucker was transferred after the 1967 El Segundo molestation claim.
Rucker told El Segundo police he was innocent. One of the two alleged victims, whose mother agreed not to press charges, sued Rucker and the archdiocese in 1993. Two years later, the priest settled the lawsuit with a confidential $20,000 payment. In the settlement agreement, he maintained his innocence.
Rucker's name was turned over to authorities early this year, Tamberg said. Los Angeles police and sheriff's deputies now are investigating allegations against 50 current or former priests.
Amid the growing number of complaints, the archdiocese this week revamped its clergy misconduct review board. An attorney for the three sisters said he sent a letter Monday to the board's chairman , retired Judge Richard P. Byrne, and to Mahony. The attorney, Arthur Goldberg, said he requested an apology from the cardinal, an explanation for why Rucker was allowed to continue as a cleric after the 1967 abuse complaint, and a face-to-face meeting with the priest so the women can "confront their demons."
"What is disturbing to these now mature women is that officials of the Catholic Church knew as early as the 1960s that Father Rucker was a sexual predator of young girls," Goldberg wrote.
Goldberg also asked for the church to cover therapy costs, issue a public declaration on a zero tolerance policy and provide financial compensation to the victims for their "pain and suffering." "These women are not seeking revenge. They will work as long as it takes to achieve justice."
Four days after the police closed the 1967 case, the archdiocese transferred Rucker to St. Teresa of Avila in Los Angeles, then to Holy Trinity Church in Los Angeles and Holy Cross Church and eventually to St. Agatha Church in July 1970.
At St. Agatha, the middle sister said, "Rucker would take me to the rectory. He'd give me an oatmeal cookie. He'd be smiling and talking and then reach inside my panties."
She said it left her scarred mentally and struggling with her faith. Seven years ago, she said, she went on a pilgrimage to Venezuela in hopes of forgiving Rucker and restoring her trust in priests. Today, she attends the Faithful Central Baptist Church, which holds its services at the Forum, but she says her fear and depression have turned to anger. "I want him charged," she said.
Her younger sister said she suppressed her memories of Rucker until she was told about his ousting by Mahony this year. "I'd never talked to anyone about this. I remember going into the rectory with him and him touching me," the 37-year-old woman alleges.
The oldest of the sisters said Rucker was always "over friendly" with her. "He'd pull me close," she said. "We did not say anything because he was the priest."
What happened when their father went to see parish officials remains unclear because he is dead. "My husband went to the church, and we never saw the priest after that," said the sisters' mother.
Rucker was the pastor assigned to St. Agatha Church until 1979, when
he became pastor at Corpus Christi Church in Pacific Palisades.
Stronger Clergy Sex-Abuse Board Getting Started in L.A. Archdiocese
By Teresa Watanabe
A newly strengthened clergy misconduct review board vowed Thursday to rid the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles of any priest who sexually preys on children.
Board members, some of whom were formally introduced Thursday by Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, include a sexual-abuse survivor, parents of young children, mental-health professionals, attorneys, a priest and a nun.
The new board, which will address only sexual misconduct, replaces a more informal advisory group whose names were kept secret. It wields broader authority to review every such allegation against clergy in the three-county archdiocese and make direct recommendations to Mahony, archbishop of Los Angeles. "The main thing we're interested in is ensuring that the priests ... are not predators, that they're not going to take advantage of our children or anyone," said board Chairman Richard P. Byrne, a former Los Angeles Superior Court presiding judge. "If there is a bias at all, it is in removing a person from ministry."
Mahony said the new panel, called the Clergy Misconduct Oversight Board, represents "another chapter in efforts of the archdiocese ... to make certain all [churches] are safe for children and young people."
Asked about further measures that would strengthen the board's independence, such as making board recommendations binding, or allowing an outside lay council to make some appointments, Mahony said there were roadblocks. He said he could not surrender such authority because only bishops are empowered under canon law to make personnel decisions about priests. He said, however, that he had widely consulted the community about potential board members and had closely followed the past board's advice.
More than 50 priests in the archdiocese are under investigation by law enforcement for allegations of sexually abusing minors.
The new board will have 13 members, not all of whom have yet been appointed by Mahony. Among other things, it will annually review archdiocesan sexual abuse policies, review all sexual misconduct complaints and verify that the archdiocese has reported them to civil authorities. It will also make recommendations on such things as pastoral outreach and whether to notify parishes of abuse allegations or remove offenders from ministry.
Unlike the previous board, the new oversight panel will monitor how closely Mahony follows its recommendations.
Other board members include:
* William and Judi Arnold, parents of boys molested by a priest.
* Nanette DeFuentes, a psychologist. DeFuentes said she was abused by a minister in a nondenominational Christian church from age 18 to 22, an experience she said has helped drive her passion to help survivors and help treat perpetrators.
* Sister Diane Donoghue, director of Esperanza Community Housing Corp., which builds affordable housing for low-income families. Donoghue, a member of Sisters of Social Service and a community organizer, said she brings experience working with immigrant communities and Catholic values of social and economic justice.
* James McGough, a professor of clinical psychiatry at UCLA, specializing in treatment of adults and children. McGough said he also brings the perspective of a father with two young children.
* Kevin Jablonski, a Los Angeles clinical psychologist.
* The Rev. Jarlath Cunnane, pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle Church in
Los Angeles. Cunnane works on immigrant rights, labor issues and improving
community-police relations. A strong advocate of "zero tolerance"
for sexually abusive priests, Cunnane said he hopes the new board will
"bring some openness and transparency to the process and to the judgments
that are made here."
Mahony Asks Forgiveness for Handling of Scandal
By Richard Winton
Acknowledging his own shortcomings in handling sexual abuse by the clergy, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony on Sunday asked "for forgiveness" from Southern California Catholics "for not understanding earlier the extent of the problem" or acting sooner to remove priests who abused minors.
Reading a pastoral letter at a Mass at his childhood parish in North Hollywood, Mahony also told parishioners that he deeply apologized to "members of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and especially to the victims of clergy sexual abuse."
"I ask for your forgiveness for not understanding earlier the extent of the problem, and for not taking swifter action to remove from the ministry anyone who had abused a minor in the past," Mahony said, reading from a two-page letter that was read to congregations at the 287 churches throughout the three-county archdiocese.
"The crisis has caused me many sleepless nights filled with concern for the victims, as well as sadness and anger toward those priests who have preyed upon the most vulnerable among us—our children."
At St. Charles Borromeo Church, some parishioners called the cardinal's letter his most forthright statement yet on past errors and how to ensure that children never fear for their safety in the church again. "I think it is great [the cardinal] is trying to be as upfront with people," said Tom Soule of Los Angeles.
Another parishioner, John Adair of Los Angeles, said Mahony's pastoral letter seeks forgiveness for the past and offers a vision to improve the future. "It goes some of the way to addressing the hurt felt by many Catholics," he said.
'Zero Tolerance' Policy
Mahony's letter to parishioners in the nation's largest archdiocese is his first since the U.S. Conference of Bishops in Dallas adopted a "zero tolerance" policy for clergy abuse nationwide.
During Sunday's Mass, Mahony said such a policy was already in place in the Los Angeles Archdiocese. It was instituted after the settlement of a lawsuit with a victim last year.
When asked about the letter Mahony read, Mary Grant, Southern California regional director for Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said the cardinal is "cranking up the PR campaign because he does not want to end up like Cardinal [Bernard] Law." A grand jury is examining whether Law covered up cases of clergy abuse in Boston.
"The only reason Cardinal Mahony is doing anything is because he got caught covering it," Grant said. "It is like a public plea bargain: 'Please don't call it a cover-up. It was just a mistake.' "
Mahony made no mention Sunday about specific priests he has transferred after learning they had been accused of sexual misconduct.
Mahony transferred Father Michael Stephen Baker to several parishes after the priest told him in 1986 that he had molested young boys. He later approved a secret $1.3-million settlement with two men who had allegedly been abused by Baker in the 1990s.
Mahony has admitted he erred in transferring Father Michael Wempe, who is accused of molesting children, to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center about 14 years ago without telling hospital officials about the accusations.
Mahony forced Baker to retire in 2000 and Wempe to retire this year. A grand jury has subpoenaed from the archdiocese all documents related to Baker and Wempe. They are among more than 50 current and former priests under investigation in the archdiocese. Nine grand juries are examining priest abuse nationwide.
Before reading the letter Sunday, Mahony told parishioners that no message is stronger in the Gospels than the message of forgiveness, that every Mass begins with an acknowledgment of everyone's sinfulness and that the church is made up of human beings.
Church Is a 'Safe Place'
"Our church is safe. It is a safe place most especially for the most vulnerable of vulnerable," he told St. Charles parishioners.
"I can assure you today that as far as is humanly possible to know, there is no priest serving in ministry in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles who has abused a minor even one time," Mahony said later in the letter. "Moreover, I pledge to all of you that I will never knowingly allow a priest who has abused a minor to be reassigned to any ministry."
Archdiocese spokesman Tod Tamberg said a "handful" of priests under investigation are still with the archdiocese; they have been removed from active church work and placed on temporary administrative leave pending the criminal investigation.
Since returning from Dallas, Mahony told parishioners, he has expanded the membership and powers of an existing board whose members examine accusations of sexual misconduct by priests. Establishing such boards was among the changes agreed upon by the bishops in Dallas. Mahony said he will seek to laicize all priests found guilty of abusing a minor—a position the bishops declined to take.
St. Charles parishioners greeted the conclusion of Mahony's pastoral letter with gentle applause.
"It was a well thought out letter, very direct and to the point," said Sami Kawaratani of Sherman Oaks. She said she agrees with Mahony that the scandal is part of the process of renewal for the church, one that eventually will make it stronger.
"Finally, something has been done," said Thamara Mendez of
North Hollywood. "It does not matter how long it took."
Mahony on Web Site's List of 'Worst Bishops'
By Teresa Watanabe
Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, was named Tuesday by a leading religion Web site as one of the nation's nine "worst bishops" in handling clergy sexual abuse cases.
Beliefnet.com said that despite Mahony's recent efforts to take a tough stand on reform, he had failed to promptly dismiss at least three priests who reportedly admitted to sexual abuse of minors. The Web site said plaintiffs have charged Mahony with "concealing information" from law enforcement officials on abuse allegations and it criticized the archdiocese's approach to victims as "potential litigants rather than wounded souls." Those developments and claims have been chronicled by The Times.
The respected site, which reaches nearly 5 million people a month, features news, features and commentary on a broad range of religious traditions. Columnists range from Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention to Catholic sociologist Andrew Greeley to Starhawk, a leader in goddess spirituality. The site's posting on Mahony--based largely on its editors' interpretation of news media reports rather than independent research--comes two weeks after the nation's Roman Catholic bishops passed a tough "zero-tolerance" policy that calls for permanently ousting from public ministry all priests and deacons who sexually abuse minors. The leaders failed, however, to take substantive action to hold the American church's nearly 300 bishops accountable for failing to properly discipline predatory priests--an omission that has triggered discontent among many Catholics.
Archdiocese spokesman Tod Tamberg criticized the Web site for failing to contact the Los Angeles Archdiocese to verify the information on Mahony before posting the list. He said he was first contacted by Beliefnet at 2:45 p.m. Tuesday, nearly three hours after it had sent out a news release naming the nine bishops. Tamberg declined to say whether the report on Mahony was inaccurate, however.
"Beliefnet has done a great disservice to readers who look to it for reliable information, and to those in the church who are working diligently and compassionately to reach out to victims and to ensure that all of the ministries of the Catholic Church are safe, especially for our children and young people," Tamberg said.
He added that the cardinal had established a tough "zero-tolerance" policy against abusive priests, formed an independent clergy misconduct oversight board to review all allegations of sex abuse and was expanding "child-safe programs in all of our 287 schools and parishes."
Beliefnet Editor in Chief Steven Waldman said the list was compiled in an attempt to "put the spotlight on bishops who failed to solve the problem." He said he was "struck over the head" by the anger many bishops voiced during their recent national conference in Dallas against the minority of bishops who had mishandled cases, creating a crisis for the entire church.
"We've been hearing from all quarters about not just how horrible the crime of child abuse is, but how people are upset with the actions and inactions of the bishops," Waldman said.
Waldman said the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops did not return a call to comment on the list in advance of its posting this week. He added that he would promptly post any comments from bishops or other church authorities on the list.
In a poll posted Monday night by Beliefnet and ABC News, eight in 10 Americans--and seven in 10 Catholics--favored criminal charges against bishops who failed to act on abuse allegations. The poll, which surveyed 1,023 Americans, including 251 Catholics, also found dissatisfaction with the bishops' performance in Dallas.
Although 77% of Catholics believed the Dallas meeting would produce "meaningful improvements," only 44% said such progress had actually materialized. Only two in 10 of those surveyed--Catholics and non-Catholics alike--supported the bishops' policy to allow some offenders to stay in the priesthood, even with the harsh restrictions of stripping them of their Roman collar or right to celebrate Mass.
Aside from Mahony, the Web site named as "worst bishops": Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston, Bishop Charles Grahmann of Dallas, Bishop Thomas J. O'Brien of Phoenix, Bishop John B. McCormack of New Hampshire, Archbishop Manuel Moreno of Tucson, Bishop Gerald Gettelfinger of Evansville, Ind., Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y., and Bishop Elden Curtiss of Nebraska.
Beliefnet also cited three bishops for "exemplifying a positive
approach to the crisis." They were Bishop Donald Wuerl of Pittsburgh,
who appealed to Rome when the Vatican refused to accept his request to
defrock an abusive priest; Bishop John Kinney of St. Cloud, Minn.; and
Bishop Wilton Gregory of Belleville, Ill., president of the bishops conference,
who led the efforts in Dallas to adopt the tough reform policy.
Bishop Accountability © 2003