Mahony Resources – August 18–31,
By Glenn F. Bunting, Ralph Frammolino, and Richard Winton
Faced with allegations that parish priests had sexually abused minors, the Los Angeles Archdiocese under Cardinal Roger M. Mahony for many years withheld information from police and allowed clerics facing prosecution to flee to foreign countries, internal records and interviews show.
At the same time, Mahony has been more aggressive than many U.S. bishops in dismissing members of the clergy. According to newly obtained information, the cardinal quietly removed 17 priests from ministry during the last decade who had either admitted or had been credibly accused of molesting minors.
In recent months, as the Roman Catholic Church has struggled to contain the clergy sex abuse scandal, Mahony has taken a stance as an outspoken reformer on a mission to oust all sex offenders from the priesthood.
But an examination of sexual abuse cases during his tenure in Los Angeles since 1985 shows that the archdiocese also worked to keep a growing problem from the eyes of the public and the hands of the law. The Times examination found.
Five parish priests fled the country and one disappeared after learning of complaints that they had sexually abused underage victims. Two of the clergymen left after a top aide to Mahony informed them of allegations and a third was told to join the priesthood in the Philippines. Of the six, two are fugitives.
Police complained in two cases that church officials had hampered criminal investigations by refusing to cooperate. In one inquiry, Long Beach police say, they were turned away from archdiocese headquarters when they asked for help. "The door was shut in our face," said Long Beach Det. Randi Castillo, a 26-year veteran who led an investigation in the mid-1990s of a popular pastor who allegedly had molested at least 10 altar boys. "This was absolutely something I had never encountered in all my years in law enforcement."
Two convicted sex offenders were allowed to continue serving as priests for years before Mahony dismissed them in February in response to the growing furor over clergy sex abuse. Both priests resided at parishes within walking distance of Catholic elementary schools, where administrators and parents were not informed of their criminal backgrounds.
The archdiocese has agreed to four out-of-court settlements totaling $9.2 million since 2000. The archdiocese's share of the cost was $3.7 million. The agreements included confidentiality clauses to keep the sexual abuses secret.
The archdiocese routinely failed to report errant priests to authorities until 1997, when a new California law compelled clergy to disclose all allegations of sexual abuse of minors. Before the legislation was passed, a top aide to Mahony discouraged at least three alleged victims from going to police. Roger and his top aids discouraged them all.
Now, Mahony and the archdiocese are bracing for possible indictments of 15 current and former priests on felony sex charges, according to law enforcement sources. In addition, the archdiocese is facing a class-action suit, filed last month, seeking millions of dollars.
In a series of interviews, Mahony said the archdiocese has worked closely with law enforcement on a wide range of issues over the years and that authorities have long known about nearly all of the sexual abuse cases involving priests in the Los Angeles Archdiocese. The allegations were often reported to police, Mahony said, by therapists, teachers and victims themselves.
"There was no sort of policy on my part that we would not cooperate with law enforcement," the cardinal said. Because reporting was not mandated until 1997, "this was not an area of responsibility for the church. We always made sure that people knew that they themselves were the ones who should make the report or should contact police. We also have cases, if I might say so, where the police didn't do much about it either."
Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley called Mahony's characterization "disingenuous."
"The historic culture of the archdiocese in cooperating with local law enforcement has been inadequate and flawed," Cooley said. "Morally, the archdiocese should have been the first to step forward on behalf of victims and actively cooperate with law enforcement regarding known instances of clerical sexual abuse."
33 Alleged Abusers
Based on a review of internal archdiocese records, police reports and lawsuits, The Times identified 32 parish priests and one deacon who, since Mahony's arrival in 1985, have been accused of molesting minors. Seven of the clerics were dismissed by the cardinal in February, six fled, three have been convicted of sex crimes and 17 are under criminal investigation by law enforcement. The Times examination also included more than 100 interviews with church officials, law enforcement authorities, alleged victims and their attorneys.
Mahony, 66, sat down three times in recent weeks for a total of nearly five hours to discuss his actions in the clergy sex crisis as leader of 5 million Catholics in the nation's largest archdiocese. Two lawyers and Mahony's spokesman were also present. Partners from Sitrick & Co., the public relations firm recently hired to assist the archdiocese, also provided information for this article.
As archbishop, Mahony oversees about 1,100 priests and 287 parishes in Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. The cardinal said he hopes to put the scandal behind the archdiocese and is eagerly awaiting next month's opening of the $200-million Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles.
"I want the truth out. I want this thing dealt with," Mahony said. "But I also want people to know we haven't been just sitting around, either, for 15 years. We've learned a lot the hard way.... What I'm trying to do is learn from all of my mistakes and try to make sure this never happens again."
Mahony said the handling of molester priests has evolved over the years as church leaders acquired a greater understanding of how to deal with the problem. He said that all priests in the archdiocese found to have molested minors during the last decade were either dismissed or suspended from their ministerial duties. His staff now takes immediate action, including informing law enforcement, when it learns of sexual abuse allegations, he said.
"Looking back at it, sure, knowing what we know today, we would have picked up the phone and called [police] on every single case that ever came along, just to double-check," Mahony said. "We didn't do that, but [we weren't] trying to hide anything."
The cardinal has refused to disclose the names of priests he removed from ministry, citing privacy concerns. Of the 17 who were dismissed over the past decade, seven were let go in February after clergy sex abuse became a national scandal.
Only one of the 17 was kicked out of the priesthood, and another has applied to be laicized, a formal termination process that requires the pope's approval. In all of the cases, Mahony took away the priests' authority to wear clerical garb and administer the sacraments, including the right to say Mass in public or hear confession, archdiocese officials said. Most of the priests are living on their own or with family members; some continue to receive monthly stipends and other benefits, the officials added.
When asked about his involvement in responding to cases of sexual misconduct, Mahony said he was often uninformed and preoccupied with other issues. In the interviews, he said he had been stunned to learn of a number of critical decisions by top aides who report directly to him.
For example, Mahony said he had no knowledge of complaints by Long Beach detectives that the archdiocese had blocked police efforts in 1994 and 1995 to investigate reports that Father Theodore Llanos had sodomized young altar boys. The cardinal said he did not learn of the concerns until The Times recently submitted questions in writing to him.
"I was appalled, to be honest with you," he said.
Yet the police complaints were familiar to Mahony's advisors and parishioners in communities where Llanos served. They were reported in the Long Beach Press-Telegram and prompted a Dec. 7, 1994, three-page letter to the newspaper by Father Gregory Coiro, Mahony's spokesman at the time. Coiro wrote that the archdiocese had launched its own investigation, offered counseling to victims and advised them to report accusations to police.
The archdiocese for years elected not to report allegations of sexual abuse against priests because victims frequently were reluctant to go to police, Mahony said. Lawyers for the archdiocese also took the position that church officials were not required by law to disclose accusations by adults who came forward to report sexual abuse that had occurred when they were minors. These people, the lawyers said, had been informed that they could report allegations to police on their own.
That practice changed earlier this year as the clergy sex scandal boiled over. Mahony ordered his top aides to turn over to police the names of priests suspected earlier of engaging in sex crimes years.
"If we don't, today, 'consult' with the [LAPD] about those three names, I can guarantee you that I will get hauled into a grand jury proceeding, and I will be forced to give all the names, etc...." Mahony wrote March 27 in one of a series of confidential e-mails leaked to the media. "If we don't take immediate, aggressive action here--the consequences for the [archdiocese] are going to be incredible: charges of cover-up, concealing criminals, etc., etc."
Dioceses throughout the country have received no specific guidelines from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on what kinds of information should be reported to authorities.
"We just assumed that, if it was a question of a crime, the stance of the church was not to back away or cover up, but to cooperate," said Bishop John F. Kinney, of St. Cloud, Minn., chairman of an ad hoc committee on sexual abuse from 1993 to 2000. Mahony also served on the panel.
Accused Priests Flee
Since Mahony became archbishop, at least five priests who faced accusations of sexually abusing minors have fled to foreign countries.
One of the fugitives, Father Tilak Jayawardene, allegedly molested a 17-year-old boy on four occasions, beginning in October 1990, at the rectory of Incarnation Church in Glendale. The teenager, who planned to enroll in a Catholic seminary, reported the alleged abuse about a month later to a teacher. He also met with then- Msgr. Thomas J. Curry, the vicar for clergy from 1986 to 1990 who supervised all priests in the archdiocese and reported directly to Mahony.
On Dec. 4, 1990, Curry informed Jayawardene of the allegation, told him he was no longer welcome in the archdiocese and urged him to go home to Sri Lanka, law enforcement and archdiocese sources said.
"I do understand that you will be returning as soon as possible to Sri Lanka, and I wish you well for the future," Curry wrote Jayawardene the next day on archdiocese stationery.
An attorney for the archdiocese, J. Michael Hennigan, said authorities were not notified because the teenager "emphasized very strongly that he did not want either the police or his mother told."
Said Glendale Police Sgt. Kim Lardie: "That the church would have him leave before contacting the Police Department ... greatly upsets us."
On Dec. 13--several days after Jayawardene departed--the teenager walked into the Glendale police station and reported the alleged crime, Lardie said. Prosecutors are still trying to extradite Jayawardene, who was charged in 1991 with six counts of committing oral copulation on a minor.
Mahony said he had no involvement in urging Jayawardene to leave. "I wasn't, to my recollection, consulted or knew anything about it," he said.
Curry, whom Mahony has since promoted to bishop of Santa Barbara, referred questions to his attorney, Brian Hennigan, a former federal prosecutor who specializes in white-collar criminal defense work at the law firm of Irell & Manella and is not related to J. Michael Hennigan. Although he declined to discuss specific cases, Brian Hennigan insisted that Curry had never acted on sensitive matters involving priests without Mahony's input.
"Decisions were not made in the dark, and there weren't things that Cardinal Mahony found out about after the fact," Brian Hennigan said. "There was an ongoing dialogue when problems arose."
Curry also played a key role in the handling of other priests who disappeared while facing accusations of sexual abuse, documents show.
In 1988, he met with Father Nicolas Aguilar Rivera regarding allegations that the priest had molested altar boys in two parishes. During the meeting, Aguilar told Curry that he planned to leave the country soon, according to archdiocese sources. By the time the archdiocese reported the case to police two days later, Aguilar had fled to Mexico City. Aguilar, 60, was subsequently charged with 19 felony counts of committing lewd acts on a child and is still being sought by U.S. authorities.
Curry also sent letters urging Father Santiago Tamayo to stay in the Philippines after he fled rather than face allegations of having had sex with an underage girl. In a lawsuit, the girl accused Tamayo of inducing her to have sex with six other priests in a period of four years, until 1982, when she became pregnant.
"It is not advisable that you return at all to the United States," Curry wrote Tamayo on Dec. 28, 1987. Lawsuits "can only open old wounds and further hurt anyone concerned, including the archdiocese."
Curry wrote again on Aug. 26, 1988: "I was surprised to learn ... that you are in the Los Angeles area. I am requesting that you return to the Philippines promptly."
The letter, which was copied to Mahony, also explained that the archdiocese would continue to provide a monthly stipend to Tamayo. The priest returned to Los Angeles in 1991 to issue a public apology to his victim. He died in 1996.
Curry, in a brief interview in Santa Barbara before he retained an attorney, said: "I don't know that I was asking him to hide out. I'm telling him that it wasn't a good thing for him to be here, given all the damage that he had caused."
Mahony said he "never became informed about the Tamayo case fully. In fact, I still don't know much about it. All I know is, we don't want anyone coming to this archdiocese who's got a problem. We want 'em out of here."
The cardinal said he has no authority over a parish priest visiting from another country or religious order, such as Jayawardene and Aguilar, once the cleric is removed from service in the archdiocese. "All he has to do is get in a taxi and head right for LAX, and he's out of here," Mahony said. "That's part of the difficulty with those guys, and makes it very difficult for us to manage them."
The cardinal said he has written numerous letters to Rome and bishops in foreign countries, raising concerns about the status of priests who fled. Mahony said the archdiocese now cooperates with authorities to confiscate the passport of any visiting priest suspected of sexual abuse.
Yet two parish priests convicted of sex crimes in the 1980s were allowed to continue serving in the ministry until Mahony dismissed them earlier this year. Parishioners and parents were not told about the criminal histories of Father John Wishard and Father Gerald B. Fessard, according to interviews and archdiocese officials.
"Back then, it was the feeling of the archdiocese that the convictions were simply one more factor in the whole process," said one archdiocese source.
Fessard, 56, was convicted in 1987 of separate counts of committing lewd acts in a public place and battery on a minor. He received three years' probation. Archdiocese records show that, after his conviction, Fessard resided from 1991 to 1994 at St. Luke Church in Temple City, adjacent to a Catholic elementary school.
Wishard pleaded no contest in 1980 to a felony charge of oral copulation on a minor and was sentenced to five years' probation. He was ordered to get psychiatric treatment and prohibited from being in the presence of minors without a supervising adult. A judge terminated Wishard's probation in 1982, the felony was reduced to a misdemeanor in 1991 and it was later dismissed. He was assigned to parishes with elementary schools nearby in 1987-89 at St. Genevieve in Panorama City and in 1993-97 at St. Mary of the Assumption in Santa Maria, according to archdiocese records.
Principal Carmen Vadillo said she was shocked to learn that Wishard had been arrested for sexual abuse. "I'm sick to my stomach," said Vadillo, who was a teacher at St. Mary when Wishard was a senior priest. "I could go my whole life without hearing this."
Wishard and Fessard were among the seven priests removed by Mahony in February. The cardinal said he regretted that he had not dismissed all of the priests in 1992.
Mahony emerged in recent meetings with Pope John Paul II in Rome and U.S. bishops in Dallas as a forceful advocate of changes in the church's policies on sexual abuse. The cardinal frequently appeared on television and at news conferences to promote strict policies requiring the immediate removal of all sex offenders from ministry.
Mahony said much of the language contained in a "zero tolerance" policy approved by U.S. bishops in June is based on programs that he implemented over the years in Los Angeles. Moreover, he vowed in Dallas that any bishop who covered up such misconduct by reassigning priests should find it "impossible to remain in office."
Mahony deserves credit for taking "pioneering steps" in 1992 when he began removing priests from ministry who were credibly accused of molesting minors, said Mark Chopko, general counsel for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. "He has been very much upfront and public about dealing openly and effectively with sexual misconduct issues," Chopko said.
In 1992, he recalled, Mahony was the only bishop willing to initiate a dialogue with victims of sexual abuse who were protesting at an annual bishops conference in Washington.
After listening to the victims, Mahony told fellow bishops that the session had been "one of the most moving experiences I have ever known." He said that the Catholic Church must "show herself as a loving, caring and healing church and not as a legal obstacle protecting errant priests at all costs."
But some alleged victims contend that Mahony has offered them little more than lip service over the years.
"How he looks at himself in the morning is beyond me," said Lee Bashforth, who, with his brother, is suing over allegations that they were sexually abused by a Los Angeles Archdiocese priest. "There's not an ounce of genuine remorse for myself, my brother and scores of other victims."
Mahony has succeeded in cultivating a public image as a reformer, but his "level of deceit parallels that of Cardinal [Bernard] Law," said Jeffrey R. Anderson, a Minnesota attorney who has represented more than 400 victims of clergy sexual abuse nationwide and filed the class-action suit against the Los Angeles Archdiocese.
Mahony said comparisons with Law are unfair. He said the practice in Boston of reassigning priests who had previously received treatment and offended again had not occurred on his watch in Los Angeles.
The cardinal said that the sex abuse scandal has taken a heavy toll on him personally.
"I don't sleep at night because of it. I don't go two, three minutes a day when this [isn't] in my mind," he said. "It's dreadful."
For nearly all of his 27 years as a bishop, first in Stockton and then in Los Angeles, Mahony has been forced to deal with cases of sexual abuse by priests.
As bishop of Stockton, he inherited the case of Father Oliver O'Grady, a parish priest who had admitted years earlier to molesting an 11-year-old girl. In 1984, O'Grady told a therapist that he had sexual urges toward a young boy. Mahony sent O'Grady for evaluation to a local psychiatrist, John C. Morris, who said the priest had a "severe defect in maturation" and suggested that "perhaps Oliver is not truly called to the priesthood."
Mahony promoted O'Grady to serve as pastor of a rural parish, where he molested three victims, including a baby girl who suffered vaginal scarring. O'Grady was later convicted of 21 counts of felony sexual abuse and served seven years in prison before returning to his native Ireland. A jury in 1998 awarded two O'Grady victims a record $30-million judgment, which later was reduced to $7 million. Jurors said in interviews that they had found Mahony untruthful in his testimony and held him responsible for allowing O'Grady's pattern of abuse to continue.
"He didn't act soon enough or strong enough," said juror Laura Utterback of Stockton. "He didn't remove the problem. He just kept hiding it."
Until now, Mahony has not commented publicly on the case. "I felt the jury was wrong," he said. "I was flabbergasted that we were held accountable, because I thought we took extraordinary steps to make sure there was no problem." The precautions included sending O'Grady to therapy and ordering a second psychiatric evaluation, the one performed by Morris.
Shortly after Mahony moved to Los Angeles in 1985, he said, he discovered that his predecessor, Cardinal Timothy Manning, had no written guidelines on how to handle reported molestation cases. Mahony said he directed his staff to begin drafting policies.
The first guidelines, adopted in June 1989, called for the archdiocese to have a priest who faced credible allegations undergo psychiatric evaluation and to rely on therapists to help determine future assignments.
Mahony said this approach changed in 1992 after the arrest of Father Richard Allen Henry, a parish priest who was later sentenced to eight years in prison for sexually abusing four boys from the same family.
Records show that the archdiocese posted Henry's $30,000 bail, paid for his therapy and declined to announce the reason for his departure from Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Paramount. At the sentencing hearing, a top Mahony aide asked the judge to free Henry on probation.
Still, Mahony said, the Henry case persuaded him that the archdiocese could no longer rely on psychiatric treatment to rehabilitate priests who sexually exploited children. "It was very clear from '92 on, there was only one course of action and that was, these guys had to go," he said.
In 1992, according to Mahony, the archdiocese implemented two sweeping reforms: a zero-tolerance policy that removed from ministry any priest found by the archdiocese to have abused a minor, and the creation of an advisory panel to review cases of sexual misconduct and make private recommendations to the cardinal.
Copies of the sexual abuse policy show that no changes in language were made in 1992. Revisions were made in 1994, 1996 and 1997, but they made no mention of removing clerics from the priesthood if they were found guilty of molesting minors. Instead, these policies specifically permitted Mahony, on the basis of "advice from experts in the field," to return to ministry priests who had sexually abused minors.
Nonetheless, Mahony followed through on his initial commitment in 1992 to begin removing priests who were credibly accused of molesting minors, attorneys for the archdiocese said. Some of these cases involved older priests who were forced to retire. They include an 81-year-old monsignor who suffered a heart attack and is disabled, a 74-year-old parish priest who was institutionalized in 1997 and a 62-year-old cleric who never returned after being sent out of state for treatment.
It was not until February of this year that language requiring the removal of any priest found to have molested a minor was added to archdiocese policy. Mahony was forced to adopt a written zero-tolerance policy as part of a $5.2-million settlement that the archdiocese and the Diocese of Orange negotiated last year with one abuse victim, Ryan DiMaria. This agreement led Mahony to remove the seven priests in February who had been accused of sexual abuse before 1992.
Mahony said that he began thinking last summer about the need to take action against the seven.
"I really need to be able to stand on the pulpit and look at the people of this archdiocese and say, 'I can assure you as humanly as possible, there is no priest out there who has abused a minor,' " he said. "I said I can't do that, but I'm going to do it and we're going to make this change. So we bit the bullet."
Critics charge that Mahony is reinventing history.
"I've never heard of any significant policies, procedures or statements made by Roger Mahony until most recently when he tried to ... create some sort of illusion that he is or was some great innovator in the area, which he is not," said Father Thomas Doyle, a former canon lawyer who co-wrote a confidential 1985 church report on sexual abuse that warned U.S. bishops of a looming crisis.
Mahony acknowledged that he had concluded only recently that priests who exploit children no longer deserve the title "father."
His greatest regret, Mahony said, is waiting until earlier this year to remove from ministry every priest who had engaged in a single act of sexual abuse of a minor, even if it occurred decades ago.
"If we're going to have the church safe for children and young people, [the policy] has to be absolutely tight and foolproof as possible," he said. "There is no room for exceptions."
Times researchers Nona Yates and Cecilia Barrera also contributed to this report.
Archdiocese officials say they are proud of how they handled the case of Father Carl Sutphin, one of seven clerics Cardinal Roger M. Mahony removed in February, forcing him to take early retirement.
Records show that Sutphin was immediately relieved of active ministry in 1991, when the archdiocese received an allegation of sexual abuse. Andrew Cicchillo, now a Phoenix Web site manager, reported Sutphin had molested him and his twin brother more than 20 years before, while the priest was associate pastor at St. Rose of Lima Church in Maywood.
Cicchillo wrote Mahony that he was breaking his silence because he had found that the priest had been reassigned to St. John's Hospital in Oxnard "with access to children 24 hours a day, in the pediatric ward. This also must present many opportunities for him to molest."
The letter prompted a call from Monsignor Timothy J. Dyer--then the archdiocese's vicar for clergy, in charge of all parish priests--who vowed that Sutphin "would not wear a collar, would be retired and would not have any duties," Cicchillo said.
Although acknowledging that he had "made some unwise decisions" in overseeing priests in the archdiocese during his five years as vicar of clergy, Dyer declined to discuss specific cases. "We're all struggling to understand what has happened and why. We know we have a problem that needs to be fixed," he said.
Sutphin was sent to St. Luke's Institute in Maryland for a five-day evaluation, then returned two months later for individual therapy that continued until June 1992, church records show.
Back in Los Angeles, he was placed on restrictive ministry: prohibited from having contact with children and assigned as chaplain to a retirement home for priests. In 1995, he was transferred to St. Vibiana's Cathedral, where he lived in the same rectory as Mahony. Sutphin moved into the new Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral with the cardinal and other priests in March 2001.
Archdiocese officials said Sutphin, 69, continued receiving regular therapy, led a 12-step program for Spanish-speaking sex abusers and ministered to downtown homeless and jail inmates.
"The priests were aware of his past, found him to be a good companion, a faithful worker in several gritty assignments for a man of his age, and we never had a hint of any inappropriate conduct," said Monsignor Kevin Kostelnik, pastor of the soon-to-open cathedral.
Mahony said he never broached the subject of sexual abuse with Sutphin at St. Vibiana's or the new cathedral.
The archdiocese has no record that anyone confronted Sutphin about a second sexual abuse allegation, in 1994.
A retired Catholic-school teacher, who asked to remain unidentified, said she had told a monsignor that Sutphin had molested her young sons during the mid-1970s.
One of the sons said in an interview that Dyer told him: "Hey, this could be embarrassing for you if this got into the paper. We could handle this in a confidential way ... and your name doesn't get thrown out there."
The retired teacher, whose sons, along with the Cicchillos, are suing the archdiocese, said she would have been treated much differently, had an allegation been lodged against her.
"Not only would I have been reported to police, I would have lost
my credential to teach," she said, "and I certainly wouldn't
be living with the superintendent of schools."
At a series of summer retreats with about 1,100 archdiocese clerics in the summer of 1986, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony encouraged any priest with a history of sexual abuse to step forward. Only one man responded.
Father Michael S. Baker admitted in a private meeting with Mahony in December 1986 that he had molested young boys.
"I told Mahony I had a problem," Baker said during a series of interviews. "He was very solicitous and understanding. I was glad I brought it up."
When asked about the meeting earlier this year, Mahony said on several occasions that he had no recollection of it. But during a recent interview, the cardinal recalled that the Baker meeting had been "very brief. He said he had been involved with two guys.... He had no last names, and he didn't know where they were. In fact, I think he said one of them fled to Mexico."
During the 1970s and 1980s, Baker allegedly molested at least nine boys, documents and interviews show. One man recalled in an interview that Baker abused him every other weekend for nearly a decade in the priest's room and on overnight trips.
The cardinal declined to alert police at that time, initiate an internal investigation or contact priests and parents at the three parishes where Baker had been assigned. Instead, he sent Baker for evaluation and counseling at a New Mexico treatment center for pedophile priests, before reassigning him to restricted ministry.
"I sat down with him again and said, 'One single suspicion, one single report and you're history,' " Mahony recalled.
Baker was prohibited from having any contact with minors, required to attend regular counseling sessions and placed under close supervision, according to a contract with the archdiocese. But soon he was given temporary assignments to serve as pastor or administrator at several parishes with elementary schools nearby.
Mahony said Baker should never have been sent to those interim assignments, adding that his vicar for clergy at the time, Monsignor Timothy J. Dyer, had made the decisions to place Baker there.
"Those are temporary things that [Dyer] felt were OK to do," Mahony said. "I felt, in retrospect, [it was] a terrible thing to do."
Dyer declined to comment about the Baker case.
Mahony said such interim assignments are not normally brought to his attention. But documents in Baker's file indicate that Mahony signed off on at least two of the transfers, according to sources familiar with the Baker case
Baker violated the terms of his agreement with Mahony on three separate occasions when he was caught alone with minors, according to archdiocesan sources. In each case, no sexual abuse was found to have taken place. Instead of being dismissed, Baker was permitted to continue serving as a priest.
In May 2000, a Tucson attorney sent a letter of complaint notifying the archdiocese that Baker had continued to molest two Mexican brothers over a period of 15 years until 1999. The 14-page letter says Baker sexually abused the boys on trips to Palm Springs, Arizona and Mexico, as well as in rectories where he stayed in the Los Angeles Archdiocese.
"No one at the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, including Cardinal Mahony and Vicar Dyer, reported Baker's sexual abuse of children ... to the authorities, to the parents of the abused children ... or to any other foreseeable victims," the attorney, Lynne M. Cadigan, wrote in the letter of complaint.
After receiving the letter, attorneys for the archdiocese and Baker offered to settle quickly and quietly, Cadigan said. The two parties agreed to pay a combined $1.3 million, sources said.
As part of the deal, lawyers for the archdiocese and Baker insisted that all terms of the settlement be kept strictly confidential, Cadigan said.
Mahony confirmed that, after receiving the complaint, no one at the archdiocese reported Baker to authorities. "It was just our expectation that the two brothers had gone to police because they were so angry at him," he said.
Cadigan said it had been made clear to the victims that the archdiocese and Baker were buying their silence. "There was no way they would pay that kind of money with the expectation that my clients would go to the police or make it public," Cadigan said.
Baker resigned from the priesthood in December 2000. The following month, Monsignor Richard A. Loomis wrote a note in Baker's file, saying he had learned that the former priest had acknowledged molesting as many as 10 victims in the 1970s and 1980s, the sources said. Once again, no one alerted authorities.
In late March of this year, the cardinal authorized an archdiocese lawyer to notify police about Baker. Until then, according to a confidential e-mail sent by Sister Judith Ann Murphy, Mahony had been "reluctant" to tell authorities about what officials consider their most embarrassing and egregious case of sexual misconduct by a priest.
"I have to be honest with you," the cardinal said in an interview.
"There is absolutely nothing good about the Baker case. Just absolutely
A mother contacted the Los Angeles Archdiocese on Jan. 6, 1988, to report that a priest at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, a predominantly Latino parish in the foothills of El Sereno, had molested her two young sons, according to police records. Two days later, another parent alerted the principal at the Catholic grade school that the same priest had abused a boy.
The calls prompted then-Monsignor Thomas J. Curry, a top aide to Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, to visit Father Nicolas Aguilar Rivera on Jan. 9, a Saturday. Curry informed Aguilar that he could no longer serve in the archdiocese, pending an investigation, and offered to find him temporary living quarters.
Aguilar, a visiting priest who had spent the previous nine months at the Los Angeles Archdiocese, told Curry that he would return to his native Mexico in the next few days.
Curry reported back to Mahony, according to church sources, but did not notify police of Aguilar's intentions. On Jan. 11, a Monday, the school principal contacted the Los Angeles Police Department. That same morning, detectives took statements from seven young students who said they had been molested. But police could not locate Aguilar, who had left for Mexico within hours of his meeting with Curry.
The investigators then sought to interview additional possible victims at schools near the two parishes where Aguilar had worked. When the archdiocese refused to provide a roster of altar boys, detectives began pulling students, one by one, out of classrooms. In all, they talked to 63 students and found 26 boys who said Aguilar had molested them, according to police reports.
The list of altar boys was withheld by Sister Judith Ann Murphy, an archdiocese attorney, at the recommendation of Curry and with Mahony's approval, church officials said. Curry and the cardinal were concerned about fueling fears of a police crackdown on illegal immigrants at the two predominantly Latino parishes, they said.
On April 15, 1988, the district attorney's office filed a 19-count felony complaint charging Aguilar with sexually abusing 10 minors. Charges were filed in Mexico in 1988, but Aguilar could not be found. In 1995, a Mexican judge dismissed the charges because the statute of limitations had expired.
Aguilar is still being sought by prosecutors in Los Angeles. "There is a lot of frustration, definitely," said Deputy Dist. Atty. Janice Maurizi. "We don't know for sure that Father Rivera is still in Mexico. For that matter, we don't know he is still alive."
Authorities accuse the archdiocese of impeding their inquiry. Their concerns led to a March 9, 1988, meeting with Mahony to discuss the issue of cooperation. "I just felt they would have more concern for the victims in this case," said Gary Lyon, a retired LAPD sex crimes detective who attended the meeting. "It seemed to me they were more concerned about protecting the image of the church and the priesthood than they were the children involved."
Mahony said he had little knowledge of the Aguilar case. Curry declined to comment, although, in a letter to a parishioner, he denied any attempt to hinder the investigation.
Mahony acknowledged that the response to the Aguilar case "wasn't sufficient." He said the archdiocese has changed its polices in responding to allegations of sexual abuse. "Right now, when we get an allegation of abuse of a minor, we're right on the phone to the police department ... not to the priest," he said. "Part of the pain of this whole thing is, I wish we had known then what we know now."
On Sept. 16, 1994, Scott Griffith, then a 21-year-old college student, reported to the Los Angeles Archdiocese that Father Theodore Llanos had molested him for four years, beginning when he was a seventh-grader.
The archdiocese dispatched Monsignor Timothy J. Dyer to assure Griffith's parents that the sexual abuse of their son had been an "isolated" incident, the first accusation in Llanos' career of 22 years.
Dyer also informed the Griffiths that he intended to announce Llanos' removal from St. Barnabas Church in Long Beach as an "administrative" move--something the Griffiths objected to as a cover-up.
Within days, Llanos was sent for evaluation and treatment to St. Luke's Institute in Maryland, where he reportedly admitted molesting 10 victims.
Dyer wrote to the Griffiths on Sept. 22: "At this point, I do not feel it is the role of the archdiocese to present Father Llanos to the district attorney. My own thinking is based on my experience that incarceration of the priest neither rehabilitates him nor enhances the treatment which would be offered your son and your family."
Dyer said the Griffiths were free to go to the police. But during a meeting, according to the victim's father, Dyer discouraged them from doing so.
"I was told the police could be very tactless in their approach to our son, and it would be very embarrassing for him," Paul Griffith said.
In mid-November, Long Beach Dets. Randi Castillo and Michael Holguin drove to archdiocesan headquarters, looking for information about allegations that Llanos had molested children.
Castillo said the receptionist there refused to let them talk to anyone, because they didn't have an appointment. The detectives said they encountered the same treatment while visiting parishes where Llanos had served in Covina, Bellflower and Long Beach.
"Talking to employees, including priests and retired priests, many of them mentioned that they were informed that they should not talk to us, that it came from downtown," Holguin said.
The detectives then spoke with Sister Judith Ann Murphy, the archdiocese attorney.
"She told me only one person had come forward, and [they were] reaching out through pastoral counseling to this victim," Castillo said. When Castillo inquired about the list of 10 altar servers whom Llanos reportedly had admitted molesting, she said, Murphy replied: "You'll have to get a court order for that."
Murphy declined to be interviewed for this story, saying through an archdiocese spokesman that she never talks to reporters.
Attorney John P. McNicholas, who represented the archdiocese in the Llanos case, said that victims were always urged to contact police and that the archdiocese stood ready to turn over the priest's files if authorities obtained a court order. A subpoena was prepared for Llanos' file, but a judge threw it out on the basis of objections from the priest's attorney, Donald Steier.
Llanos was charged with 38 counts of sexual abuse of minors in 1995. The charges were dismissed in February 1996 by a judge, who ruled that the statute of limitations had expired.
In January 1997, Llanos committed suicide.
Because several Llanos victims and their families filed a lawsuit, the archdiocese cut off payments in 1996 to counselors who were providing psychiatric treatment to them.
Cardinal Roger M. Mahony said he was unaware that counseling services had been severed until The Times recently asked him about it.
"I was appalled. Appalled!" Mahony said. "I had never heard of it in my life." The cardinal said he immediately ordered that any future legal action against the archdiocese have no bearing on payment for treatment of people who had been sexually exploited by priests.
Mahony also said that, before he was recently informed by The Times, he had no knowledge that police officers had reported meeting resistance from archdiocesan officials.
"We were far from covering up. Far from it," he said. "We were trying to find out where the victims were."
By Mary McNamara
In the nave of the nearly finished Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony proclaims the man with silvery hair "a miracle worker."
The man, who appears to be a construction foreman, has just informed the cardinal that, per his request, the window-washing scaffolding will be coming down today. The man smiles shyly at the delight this information elicits, nods and turns away.
"Finally," says the cardinal, standing in front of the burgundy marble altar he designed himself, flanked by a 10-foot-tall tapestried procession of saints and blesseds. "Now, I can get some decent pictures."
For six years, Mahony has photographed the hillside property along Temple Street, where, from the riven asphalt of a parking lot, this city's new cathedral has bloomed. Forty albums worth of pictures has he, but as of yet no final portrait. A few days ago, at sunset, he took some wonderful photos of the campanile, but a lattice of window-washing rigs had long marred the cathedral's face. Now the cardinal will at last be able to take the first "postcard" shots.
Controversy has swirled around the project ever since Mahony announced in 1995 that instead of repairing the earthquake-damaged St. Vibiana's Cathedral, he would build a new one. There is controversy still, but now there is also a cathedral.
And as the cardinal guides a reporter on a tour of the project that has consumed him, and many others, for the last five years, his vision of it as a place apart rises all around. Within its tawny walls, the outside world not so much recedes as is reduced—to an essence of silence and light and stone in which there is room for the miraculous and the mundane.
"It is just beyond belief," says Mahony mid-tour. He looks up at the luminous patchwork of alabaster windowpanes that gives form to the cross behind the altar, and the river of information and exclamation that flows so easily from him lies quiet.
"I dreamed of how it would look," he says, still gazing upward. "But I never thought it could be so beautiful."
On this day, with just 10 left until the dedication, the cathedral is still crawling with workers. They sit on the steps, talking on cell phones, sipping coffee from Burger King. One man straddles the top of one of the enormous front doors, tinkering with something or other.
The whine and stutter of power tools from inside bounce out into the early morning, blurred by echo into a sound like whales singing.
Today, the main fountain will be filled with water, and the baptismal font will be finished. Today, workers have learned that not all of the angel-etched glass panels will be ready for the back of the courtyard in time, that plain glass will have to do for the opening. Today, after an odd, wintry week, the sun, which architect Jose Rafael Moneo used in the design and building as if it were stone or mortar, wells over the horizon, stretching fledgling shadows under the newly planted liquidambar and olive trees.
Crossing the growing brightness of the plaza that aprons the cathedral, Mahony, in clerical black, is a sudden, striding silhouette.
"The main themes of the cathedral are light and journey," he says, describing the symbols on the main entrance—25-ton bronze front doors designed by sculptor Robert Graham that depict images of the Blessed Mother and God. "I don't know what the docents are going to do," Mahony says, interrupting himself. "I mean, you could spend three hours just on the doors."
The cardinal has had final say on every decision regarding the cathedral, down to the wattage of the lightbulbs in the freight elevator. His taste and influence are as much a foundation of this building as the earthquake-savvy base isolators that hold it up.
He had conversations with Graham about the doors, he says, but the artist chose the images and symbols. The only thing Mahony insisted on was an actual statue of Our Lady, which Graham originally had not been interested in doing.
"I told him the cathedral was named after Our Lady of the Angels," Mahony said, "and our city was named after Our Lady of the Angels, so at some point along the way people would expect to see Our Lady of the Angels." He quotes himself lightly, good-humoredly.
And there she is just above the door, the Blessed Mother as a young woman neither delicate nor sorrowing, who extends her bare arms not so much to comfort as to encourage. "Come with me," those arms and calm, resolute face seem to say.
The cardinal obeys.
He steps over the men who are still working and into a shrill din of grinding metal and rock.
"Oh, it's not so bad today," he says, moving outside the perimeter of the shriek. Living in the new rectory since March, he has been in the cathedral almost daily, often in hard hat, the pale dust from the floor creeping up the cuffs of his pants. Now, he simply steps over the tools, around the men and through the noise. Raising his voice just enough, he speaks fondly of the Spanish limestone floors.
"It is so low-maintenance," he says of the sand-colored stone flecked with red and white. "So forgiving."
Gleaming in the shadows at the end of the long entrance way is a 17th century Spanish Baroque retablo—a gilded altarpiece. A few steps in, on the right, there is an narrow entrance into the nave—pews can be glimpsed, and long, spidery light fixtures. One could enter now, but the point is to keep moving forward, toward the retablo.
"Moneo uses the past to tempt you along the journey," says Mahony, "in the hope that you'll want to take the long way around rather than cutting through."
The cardinal enters the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, a small room near the entrance to the nave.
"This is one of my favorite places," he says.
The chapel, which will have chairs and kneelers, is empty now save the tabernacle that will hold the Eucharist and the wine used during the sacrament of Communion. Designed by Max De Moss, the tabernacle is tall and circular, like the smooth, graceful trunk of a eucalyptus.
"Usually a tabernacle is a little box," the cardinal says. "But De Moss had to design a vertical because of the space." He gestures to the ceiling high, high overhead.
The cardinal opens the tabernacle. Two angels appear on the inside of the doors that reveal the vessel, called a ciborium, for the Eucharist. The cardinal lifts it out.
"I had no idea it would be so beautiful," he says. In his hands, the vessel glows, then suddenly grows pale as the room darkens. "Oops," says the cardinal, putting the ciborium back, closing the door. "They're still testing the lights."
There are two other side chapels along the ambulatory. One holds a statue of Our Lady from St. Vibiana's. The statue is surrounded by a copse of cameras and lights as if she were a supermodel. A hand-lettered sign taped to her base reads, "Photo shoot Friday."
Mahony gestures, a full arm extension that takes in the ceiling and then the floor. "You see how the past and future have been combined," he says. "That is one of the themes of the cathedral—the tension between the past and the future."
Then the cardinal surges forward.
Passing the retablo, he enters the nave. Standing there, in front of the baptismal font, facing the altar, he basks. It is much warmer than he'd anticipated: The wood of the pews and the earth tones of the John Nava tapestries soothe the space, with its alabaster-filtered light and floors the color of adobe.
"It's a huge space," the cardinal says. "But it doesn't feel like an aircraft hangar."
Now he moves quickly, from one feature to another. He seems less the 64-year-old prelate explaining the themes of sacred space and more a young man enthralled with the nifty details, the gadgetry and gorgeousness of what he has wrought.
Here are the hinged pews that can accommodate a wheelchair. Here, you must see these angels: candle sconces that identify which walls will be anointed in the dedication. The angels, also by De Moss, are wild as wood spirits; their wings seem to beat against the walls. Look at the figures in the tapestries—135 of them. See how some are canonized saints but others are children in tennis shoes, teenagers with untucked shirts.
"Because ordinary people are also among the blessed," says the cardinal, as if just noticing another miracle. "They are us, the ordinary people."
In front of the altar, which is deep red like a heart, a real heart, he pauses.
"I designed that altar, you know," he says. "Moneo wanted a circular pattern in the floor, and I said that's a great idea and we'll have a circular base and just a simple slab on top."
Gold angels, designed by M.L. Snowden, swirl along the base; the top is unadorned.
"There are too many altars in Los Angeles that are poor quality," Mahony says, "that have holes drilled in them for mikes, that have lost the sense and integrity of the altar. This one—even the altar cloth won't cover it completely. You will always be able to see it."
The altar was one of the first things brought into the cathedral; the walls literally rose around it. It was covered, protected, but one day the cardinal walked in to find it being used in an un-altarlike way.
"There were four guys eating lunch on it, and one guy with his blueprints and another hammering, hammering! Right on it. And I said, 'Stop!'" Then, he wrote a note thanking everyone for respecting the altar and not using it as a lunch table. He copied the note and plastered it all over the top. With his name about two inches high.
Behind the altar is another Nava tapestry that seems like a simple series of circles and geometric shapes.
"You must see this," says the cardinal, stepping toward it. It is the artist's rendition of the heavenly Jerusalem as described in the biblical book of Revelation. "And then he has overlaid a street map of Los Angeles," says Mahony, as if he still can't believe it himself. "Look, you can see our streets," he says, pointing at a series of lines that runs over the larger forms. "Is that amazing?"
Then he must show the bishop's chair—the cathedra, its wood from six continents. ("Antarctica doesn't have wood," the cardinal said. "So it was either ice or penguins.")
On the day of the dedication, the cardinal will stand in front of the chair to give his homily. He began writing it in January; 32 drafts later, it is done. He will use a TelePrompTer donated by Rupert Murdoch. "I mentioned we needed one when he was here with his wife a couple of months ago," the cardinal says. "And two hours later, I get a call from someone about delivery."
"I have to show you this one angel," he says, walking away from the bishop's chair. "Because it is just hilarious."
On the wall to the right of the altar is the hilarious angel. He has one hand to his head, and one extended in a sweeping gesture. His mouth is wide open and he is looking upward, frowning a tiny bit. He looks as if he were singing a particularly difficult aria. "Isn't that great," says the cardinal. "He looks so surprised, or as if he's calling out in greeting. Every time I look at him, I think of something different. Usually for these sconces, you just go to a catalog—there they are, Page 16; give me 12 of them. But we've got separate works of art. Amazing."
Along the north wall of the cathedral, a long window reveals the cloister garden, full of oak and sycamore that, once grown, will shade the walkways and fountain.
Opposite it is the entrance to the reconciliation chapel, and the three confession rooms in which penitents can either confess through a traditional screen or face to face with the priest. Bathed in muted lighting and smell of new wood, they are a far cry from the musty, dark closets many Catholics associate with the sacrament. The doors of the rooms are checkered with tiny windows to alleviate the claustrophobia many feel in the confessional.
"We've had a lot of pastors come by and take pictures of the doors," Mahony says, "wanting to do something similar in their own church. Oops," he adds, stepping back into one of the rooms. "Gotta turn off the lights. Always turn the lights off."
He walks downstairs; the basement holds St. Vibiana's Chapel and the mausoleum. There is also a bride's room; 40 couples already are set to marry in the cathedral.
In the spacious mausoleum, the stained glass windows soften and sanctify the rows of crypts. "I moved my parents the other day," the cardinal says, pointing to the two crypts that hold the bodies of his mother and father. "I chose the upper row, because it's the cheapest. The middle row is the best real estate, but it's out of my reach."
To the left of the crypt that is directly beneath the altar, several rows are reserved for the bishops of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
One bears Mahony's name and birth date, complete with life-span dash on it.
"I kind of did a double-take the first time I saw it. But I thought, 'At least there's no date on this side,' " he says, pointing to the empty space beside the dash. The income from the mausoleum, he says, will go into a perpetual-care fund for the cathedral.
Leaving the mausoleum, the cardinal points out the choir practice room. "I already told the choir director that if the mausoleum is selling well," he says, laughing, "you guys are going to practice out on the plaza. We could fit about 400 folks in there."
In the freight elevator, he notes that its bulbs have been changed at his request. "We had, like, 300 watts in here, and it was hot," he says with the same infectious enthusiasm as when he explained the design of the front doors.
Although he has seen it in every light, at every stage, in every mood, Mahony has not yet found his one private space for prayer and contemplation in the cathedral. "That will take some time," he says. "There's always been too much equipment."
But he does have a favorite way to enter the place that has filled his imagination for so long. From the north doors, the floor of the ambulatory inclines; walking along it, the nave and all its marvels come into view bit by bit—the alabaster and ceiling, the tapestries and the angels.
"This way," he says, "the cathedral reveals itself to me slowly, a little bit at a time."
Bishop Accountability © 2003