Mahony Resources – March 1–15, 2002
By William Lobdell and Richard Winton
Citing 1st Amendment protections, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony is resisting the disclosure of scores of his communications sought by prosecutors and attorneys working on sexual abuse cases.
The strategy is a switch for Mahony, who has cultivated the reputation of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles as openly confronting the church's sexual abuse scandal.
Last May, threatened with a grand jury investigation, Mahony vowed to give law enforcement officials documents tied to molestations by his priests. "We want every single thing out, open and dealt with, period," he said.
Last week, however, Mahony's lawyers began asserting the prelate's privilege in Los Angeles civil court, as they had the week before in criminal proceedings in Ventura and Los Angeles counties. They are arguing that priest-bishop confidentiality is a foundation of the Catholic religion, and that interfering in that violates the free exercise of religion.
"It's about the right of a bishop to speak openly and candidly with his priests about the most intimate and personal of subjects without fear of being exposed to civil authorities," said J. Michael Hennigan, an attorney for the archdiocese.
Mahony's stand echoes positions taken by several Catholic bishops nationwide. Their claims so far have generally fared poorly in court, but church officials say they are defending an important principle.
"The archbishop and the priests do not have a typical employer-employee relationship," said Tod Tamberg, the spokesman for the archdiocese. "Their relationship is much closer to that of father and adult son. There is a need for confidential, intimate communication."
The stance won't hinder any criminal or civil investigations, Tamberg added.
"The church is in the process of providing all of the objective information regarding sexual abuse claims. The request for privacy does not deal with the particular facts of abuse or the responses of the church to abuse claims."
John Manly, a Costa Mesa attorney who represents 40 alleged victims of sexual abuse by priests, said the archdiocese is "turning the 1st Amendment on its head."
"The hierarchy is asking us to take their words at face value without any objective confirmation," Manly said. "Unfortunately, they've proven themselves over time to have zero credibility on this issue."
Faced with a flurry of criminal investigations and civil lawsuits from the 14-month-old scandal, dioceses nationwide have been weighing promises of openness and accountability against church tradition that has treated the relationship between bishops and priests as a sacred and private one.
Church leaders and attorneys said this is a central bond in the life of the church.
"That's a very theologically laden relationship," said Martin Nussbaum, a Colorado-based attorney who filed a recent brief for the Archdiocese of Boston seeking the dismissal of hundreds of sexual abuse lawsuits based on the argument that civil authorities don't have the constitutional right to intervene in church affairs. "You can cooperate with law enforcement, but still respect constitutional principles."
The Boston judge ruled against the church, saying that the doctrine of autonomy that the church was asserting would give leaders "unqualified immunity from secular legal redress, regardless of how negligent, reckless or intentional" their behavior.
Based on the freedom of religion clause of the 1st Amendment, courts have traditionally given faith institutions broad latitude to govern themselves, rejecting lawsuits that ranged from wrongful termination of pastors to church splits. Last year, in a sexual misconduct case that didn't involve the Catholic Church, Maine's high court upheld a law that protects religious institutions from lawsuits.
But Catholic bishops have recently lost legal battles in several states -- including Florida, New Hampshire and Massachusetts -- involving sexual abuse by priests that touched on similar constitutional issues.
"What's happening is that the bishops, who say they want transparency, are exposing themselves as liars," said Richard Sipe, a former Benedictine monk and expert on sexual abuse within the church. "It's certainly not a 1st Amendment right to cover up child abuse. The church's argument doesn't have any theological or psychological merit at all."
The court-ordered release of documents from Cardinal Bernard Law and others in Boston ignited the scandal in January 2002. And the subsequent release of additional documents in Boston led to Law's resignation in December.
"The disclosures of those documents were the turning point in exposing and measuring the depth of this scandal," said Roderick MacLeish Jr., a Boston attorney who fought to disclose information that now tallies 30,000 pages. His firm, Greenberg Traurig, represents about 250 clients who say they have been abused by priests, including some in Los Angeles. "There's nothing like sunshine to bring reform and clarity," he said.
Mahony's attempt to use 1st Amendment protections comes as the archdiocese is faced with 17 subpoenas related to former, retired or current priests.
The archdiocese also is in mediation talks, hoping to settle potentially hundreds of civil suits involving sexual abuse by priests. The flurry of litigation was spurred by a state law, effective Jan. 1, that removed for one year the statute of limitations in sexual abuse cases where an institution knowingly employed a molester.
In criminal and civil cases, lawyers for the archdiocese cited other privileges that would keep the documents confidential, including those involving attorney-client, doctor-patient and penitential relationships.
Don Steier, attorney for several accused priests, said he is supportive of the archdiocese's move to cite the 1st Amendment. He said many of the documents sought violate his clients' right of privacy.
Manuel Vega, part of a sexual abuse class-action lawsuit against the archdiocese, said he was disappointed: "I believe Mahony has failed on his moral obligation to come forward and provide these documents," he said.
"For them to say, 'Trust us,' that's the wrong thing to say."
By Arthur Jones
In what the Los Angeles Times called “the latest and potentially most important dispute in the yearlong investigation of the Catholic church [Los Angeles archdiocese] by prosecutors,” in the past five weeks four archdiocesan priest-officials have testified before a grand jury.
Each priest has served as archdiocesan vicar of the clergy during Cardinal Roger Mahony’s 17 years as Los Angeles archbishop.
In Ventura County, one of three counties covered by the archdiocese, the grand jury investigating clerical sexual abuse is the instrument through which the Los Angeles County district attorney is seeking access to all archdiocesan files relating to abuse.
According to the Feb. 21 Times, the archdiocese is asserting its constitutional right to withhold files containing privileged information between a bishop and a priest. Some files were handed over Feb. 22.
Archdiocesan attorney J. Michael Hennigan said it is the archdiocese’s “desire to help law enforcement” but there is a limit on the state’s access to private files. “They don’t get to rummage freely through diocesan files. We don’t understand why they need to.”
Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley was quoted as saying he will continue to insist on the release of all files: “No one and no institution -- not even men of God or the archdiocese of Los Angeles -- is above the law.”
Cooley said his office would continue “to utilize the tools we have at our disposal -- criminal investigations, subpoenas and the grand jury -- in an effort to shed light on this sad and disheartening scandal.”
While Ventura County prosecutors are investigating “at least three former priests,” Hennigan said he will oppose releasing documents affecting 17 priests suspected of abuse, arguing they are subject to attorney-client privilege and patient-therapist privilege. “We’ve always said we’d turn over documents that aren’t privileged,” but that the archdiocese will object to releasing some files in the Michael Baker case.
In 1986, Baker, an archdiocesan priest, told Mahony he had molested children (NCR, Jan. 31). Mahony sent Baker for treatment, did not report the incidents to the police, and permitted him to remain an active priest until he finally removed him following new allegations. Baker was allowed to retire in 2000.
The Times said the vicars of clergy to appear before the Ventura County grand jury were Santa Barbara Bishop Thomas J. Curry and Msgrs. Richard A. Loomis, Timothy J. Dyer and Craig A. Cox.
Arthur Jones is NCR editor at large. His e-mail address is email@example.com
By Barbara Whitaker
Los Angeles - More than 400 people have accused Roman Catholic priests in California of sexual abuse since the state began a one-year moratorium on the statute of limitations for filing lawsuits in such cases, lawyers for the plaintiffs say.
But the flood of litigation expected after the moratorium began on Jan. 1 has largely been held back by a 90-day agreement by plaintiffs' lawyers and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the Diocese of Orange, the state's two largest church jurisdictions, to delay litigation during talks. While only about 40 civil lawsuits have been filed on behalf of some 60 victims, lawyers said a pattern of abuse had been revealed by the hundreds who had come forward.
"The new statute of limitation law has given them hope," said Katherine K. Freberg, an Orange County lawyer who represents about 80 plaintiffs. "Some of them had contacted attorneys years before and were told they couldn't do anything."
Last spring, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles estimated that there were six to eight offending priests in the archdiocese.
Raymond P. Boucher, a Beverly Hills lawyer who is representing 200 victims in Southern California, said lawyers in Los Angeles and Orange County recently provided the archdiocese with more than 280 people whose claims involve 118 priests dating back about five decades.
J. Michael Hennigan, who represents the archdiocese, said Cardinal Mahony's estimate had referred to priests who were known to be in ministries and subsequently relieved of their duties. Mr. Hennigan said that many of the cases now being filed dated to the 1960's and 1970's and involved priests who are dead. In addition, Mr. Hennigan said, because the archdiocese has been given little more than a list of priests who have been accused, it has been hard to determine the merit of the cases.
"There are no doubt people who were seriously psychologically damaged by what happened to them and there are those who no doubt were not," he said.
Before the statute of limitations was lifted, childhood victims of sexual assault had until their 26th birthday or three years after recognizing problems related to the abuse to file a civil lawsuit. The new law also allows victims to sue institutions as well as the abuser.
Negotiations between the church and lawyers in Los Angeles stumbled recently as the archdiocese argued that the First Amendment allowed it to keep some information private despite Cardinal Mahony's earlier pledge of candor and openness. While the archdiocese says it is willing to provide information on the facts of the abuse, church officials are contending that some documents involve confidential discussions between a priest and a bishop.
"I think at this moment we're relatively comfortable that the information we can give them will be candid and complete and at the same time not force us to divulge some information we feel strongly needs to be protected," Mr. Hennigan said.
Such arguments have been unsuccessful in cases in Florida, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.
"What this is indicative of is an incremental movement occurring nationwide away from the position taken in Dallas where they assured the public and the faithful in the United States they were going to be transparent," said John C. Manly, an Orange County lawyer representing dozens of plaintiffs. "Even if you assume that they really believe this privilege is true and necessary, which I don't, the First Amendment does not protect or shield criminal conduct in this context."
Lawyers for plaintiffs have said that while they are keeping an open mind about mediation, any settlements would have to provide an open airing of the facts with no room for confidentiality agreements, which have been common in the past.
The archdiocese has taken the same position in neighboring Ventura County, Calif., where the church has turned documents over to a judge but not to a grand jury, saying the documents contain just such privileged information. Four top aides to Cardinal Mahony have testified in those proceedings.
In Los Angeles County, where six former or retired priests have been charged with child molestation, District Attorney Steve Cooley has promised to push the church to surrender all files.
A lawyer representing several plaintiffs said mediation efforts had broken down over disclosure issues in Sacramento, where at least 15 civil cases have been filed since the legislation was passed.
"Right now we're in litigation and our attempts at mediation are called off," the lawyer, Joseph C. George, said. "I got the distinct impression they want to manage this crisis by essentially throwing money at the problem without the true picture emerging."
While the plaintiffs are seeking damages in the lawsuits, they say it is important to let the public know how they were abused, how the church allowed it to happen and to make sure it never happens again.
"If I go through litigation and get nothing, I can still go to bed at night and say I helped some other guys out," said Steven Sanchez, 42, who has started a support group for victims and has a sexual molestation suit pending against the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. "The bottom line is, I just want to be 13 again and run the course of my life again."
Mary Grant, the southwest regional director for the victims group Survivors Network for Those Abused by Priests , said that while numerous victims were stepping forward as a result of the change in the law, many would not file lawsuits.
"Most survivors do not file lawsuits," Ms. Grant said. "but one of the things that I'm hearing from survivors is that it's giving them the support and the validation to take this step, if not to file a lawsuit, to break the silence about what they experienced."
For Sandy Graves, 49, the change in the statute is providing a second chance to take action against the church for the abuse she says began when she was 4 and became sexual molestation by the time she was 9.
Although the priest accused of the abuse, the late Adalbert J. Kowalczyk, was transferred after parents learned of the molestations and questioned their children, no other action was taken at the time.
"They just thought the best thing to do was forget about it," Ms. Graves said.
It was not until she was 38 and therapy led her to the Survivors Network for Those Abused by Priests, that she considered legal action. By then, the priest was dead and the statute of limitations blocked her efforts to sue the church.
"Now I'm going to get that chance again," she said, "and maybe help some people here along the way."
By William Lobdell and Richard Winton
Fearing that scores of priests suspected of sexual abuse may escape prosecution, state legislators are considering extending the deadline to file criminal charges until courts decide whether Cardinal Roger M. Mahony and the Southern California priests under investigation have a right to keep church documents private.
Los Angeles prosecutors, who lobbied for the bill, said that without it, criminal charges could expire against about a dozen Roman Catholic priests and former clerics within the next three months when the one-year statute of limitations expires on those cases.
They said 50 more cases involving allegations of sexual abuse of minors could fall to the statute of limitations if the document delays continue throughout the year. The Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles is withholding hundreds of documents that it says are protected under the Constitution.
"The archdiocese has every legal right to defend priests accused of sexual abuse," Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley said in a written statement. "The legal — and certainly the moral — obligation of the district attorney's office is to protect victims of clerical abuse and prosecute predators when sufficient evidence exists. [Freezing] the statute of limitations provided by this urgency bill will protect the rights of victims in the fair administration of justice."
The legislation is the latest move in the legal fight over internal church documents believed by prosecutors to show evidence of decades-old molestations supporting victims' claims. It points to a showdown that pits the cardinal, his attorneys and priests suspected of child abuse against prosecutors, plaintiffs' attorneys and victims.
Witnesses, documents or other evidence is needed to corroborate claims for prosecution of long-ago molestation cases otherwise barred by California's statute of limitations, prosecutors said.
Officials at the archdiocese said they hadn't known about the legislation, which was introduced Feb. 20, until Wednesday.
"We are just beginning to read the bill, so it would be premature to venture any further comment at this point," said spokesman Tod Tamberg.
Archdiocesan officials said they have been providing investigators with information. But some documents — including communications between the cardinal and the suspected priests — cannot be given to civil authorities without infringing on the church's free exercise of religion, they say.
Church officials argue that they have a constitutional right to protect disclosures between priests and bishops, regardless of what is said or written.
A similar court battle occurred in Boston just before the Catholic Church's national sex scandal broke in January 2002.
Judges there repeatedly ordered the Archdiocese of Boston to turn over the documents, which now number more than 30,000 pages. Those disclosures led to the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law as archbishop, in addition to criminal prosecutions and civil suits.
The release of letters and memos between priests and bishops appeared to corroborate the accusers' claims of molestation. The documents also pointed to top church officials protecting pedophile priests.
Plaintiff attorneys who worked on the case said the Los Angeles Archdiocese should have learned from the Boston experience.
Mahony's argument "provides a way for the archdiocese to justify the return to secrecy and confidentiality that's resulted in all this corruption," said Roderick MacLeish Jr., a Boston attorney whose firm represents 250 clients. "It's not going to happen. I hope this is seen for what it is: an attempt to slow the process down and hurt the victims."
The California Legislature has already eliminated for 2003 the statute of limitations for civil claims in molestation cases, a move the church has said it will challenge. Dioceses throughout California are bracing for hundreds of lawsuits. Church and plaintiff attorneys have been trying to see if they could mediate the suits.
Lee Bashforth, 33, told authorities last April that he had been molested for nearly a decade by a now-retired Los Angeles priest. The statute of limitations would bar filing criminal charges after the first week of April.
"It's pretty clear that the archdiocese is trying to run out the clock on the criminal side," said Bashforth, a Lake Forest resident. "This is standard Mahony operating procedure. They don't really care if they have serial child predators roaming the streets."
Prosecutors and plaintiffs' attorneys said they have received only basic information on the suspected priests, and very little that can help them prosecute cases. Prosecutors said the so-called hot documents that may help victims' cases are those that the archdiocese wants to keep confidential.
Authorities are investigating 70 priests and have made six arrests in Los Angeles County.
"We are kind of in a holding pattern," said Sgt. Dan Scott of the sheriff's Family Crimes Bureau. "The statute of limitations will start running out in cases, and that's why the D.A. is pushing for legislation."
Don Steier, an attorney for the priests, called the bill a red herring.
"If the investigators have victims who have voluntarily come forward, they don't need employers' files," he said. "Of course, that is unless the purpose of looking into the files is to find victims who haven't come forward voluntarily."
Prosecutors and investigators in sex crimes units said that they have been pushing since December for legislative action but that it has taken until now to get legislators to carry the bills.
Assemblywoman Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) said she decided to write the bill after the L.A. County district attorney's office told her that many cases could expire in April.
"The one-year provision in the law is not allowing investigators to adequately gather information in these cases. Legislators never foresaw the complexity of these cases and the battles over documents," she said
The Assembly and Senate bills, which need two-thirds majorities to pass, were scheduled for votes within two weeks.
The Senate bill's author is Joe Dunn (D-Santa Ana), a close friend of Larry Drivon, an attorney for scores of victims of alleged sexual abuse.
The archdiocese turned over hundreds of privileged documents to the court, where a judge will decide their fate. The church says notes of conversations between the cardinal and accused priests should be withheld from prosecutors under a prelate privilege. The archdiocese has also cited therapist privilege over records of treatment for sexual problems.
Investigators and prosecutors believe that admissions of criminal acts with minors are included in the documents and medical records the church is trying to keep secret.
Although a Los Angeles Superior Court hearing on the issue is set for April 1, prosecutors warn that appeals could take months.
Last May, threatened with a grand jury investigation, Mahony vowed to turn over documents linked to alleged molestations by his priests. "We want every single thing out, open and dealt with, period," he said.
Prosecutors said the cardinal's mixed signals have hindered their inquiries.
"Obviously this resistance is frustrating investigations," said Deputy Dist. Atty. Bill Hodgman.
By Jeffrey Anderson
http://www.laweekly.com/ink/03/17/news-anderson.php - New Window for the original article.
As the most insidious church scandal in U.S. history unfolds, pedophilic priests can expect to receive hard justice. But what about the man in the red hat?
Cardinal Roger Mahony has emerged as a self-styled reformer, yet more than 300 alleged victims claim he has concealed sex abusers. Authorities are investigating 50 clerics, including a disgraced bishop-in-exile and former Mahony protégé. A Ventura County grand jury has hauled in four of Mahony’s top advisers for questioning.
First it was Boston. Now Los Angeles is seen as the next city to erupt in church upheaval. But bringing a criminal case against Mahony might be as hard as turning water into wine. Prosecutors must either pry open church files or crack the code of silence in the Catholic hierarchy. And, police are still rounding up errant priests; some have fled the country.
Mahony’s lawyer, J. Michael Hennigan calls the notion of criminal charges against church officials for harboring child molesters “preposterous.” Yet he periodically asks prosecutors if Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley is coming after the cardinal. Cooley has assigned the case to Deputy District Attorney William Hodgman, a veteran of high-profile investigations, including the Keating Five scandal, the O.J. Simpson case and Rampart.
“There is an inevitability to this investigation,” Hodgman said recently. “It’s like Watergate unfolding. We’ll work from the ground up. We will get documents and we will put priests in jail.”
But Mahony faces threats outside the D.A.’s Office as well. Civil proceedings before a Los Angeles Superior Court judge could dislodge similar smoking gun documents that led to Boston-based Cardinal Bernard Law’s resignation. Such disclosures could devastate Mahony’s moral standing as the most powerful prelate in the United States.
Mahony’s lawyers are negotiating hundreds of civil sex abuse claims in a feverish attempt to avoid court orders to release documents. Civil attorneys and prosecutors are convinced the church’s primary focus is to protect Mahony from being called before a grand jury, as Law was recently.
“Everything is about saving Mahony,” said a plaintiffs’ attorney.
Cooley, coming up empty in the Rampart scandal and the Belmont High School fiasco, is cautious not to promise charges against Mahony. “We must not convert a huge, moral and institutional failing into something that is not a viable criminal theory,” he said.
Prosecutors are examining Mahony and his troubled friends and colleagues, many of whom graduated from his alma mater, St. John’s Seminary College in Camarillo.
Mahony’s history in addressing sexual abuse appears to date back 20 years. In the early 1980s, when he was bishop of the Diocese of Stockton, Mahony employed a priest named Oliver O’Grady, a confessed molester. When two brothers sued the diocese, Mahony testified he never knew about O’Grady. Jury members thought Mahony lied. In 1998, they awarded the brothers $30 million (which was later reduced to $7.5 million).
That was the last time Mahony testified in court about clergy sexual abuse. No cleric close to him has either. Two men in particular stand out.
In 2000, two brothers from Tucson, Arizona, charged that the Rev. Michael Baker molested them in Arizona, Mexico, Palm Springs and Los Angeles, from 1984 to 1999. Tucson lawyer Lynne Cadigan demanded that Baker respond to the charges, which he did, by calling her and offering $1 million, Cadigan said. Baker had confessed to Mahony to sexually abusing minors back in 1986. “Just don’t tell Roger [Mahony],” Baker said, according to Cadigan. “I’m supposed to be staying out of trouble but I’m still doing things I shouldn’t do. Roger will be mad if he finds out.”
Cadigan advised Baker to get a lawyer. Before long, she was on a plane to Los Angeles, where she met with Baker’s lawyer. Soon after, Baker and the archdiocese paid the brothers $1.3 million. The archdiocese paid almost half. Cadigan didn’t have to lift a finger.
“There is nothing good about the Baker case,” Hennigan, the archdiocese’s lawyer said. Baker (St. John’s Class of 1974) resigned in 2000. He was arrested last year and has been charged with lewd acts on a child under 14. Currently out on bail, he is expected to appear in court on April 14. He’s admitted to molesting children, and appears to have done so after confessing to the cardinal. Baker also claims to have a close relationship with Mahony, which could make him a devastating state’s witness, prosecutors believe. Mahony has publicly repudiated Baker.
Mahony and another close colleague similarly dodged the spotlight. In 2001, Mahony was scheduled to give a deposition in a sex abuse case against Msgr. Michael Harris, but the archdiocese joined the Diocese of Orange in a $5.2 million settlement. Opinions differ about why the archdiocese settled. Some believe it was the fear of Mahony testifying again. Others believe it was the fear of an old crony of Mahony’s testifying — Bishop G. Patrick Ziemann, who is under investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department. Ziemann had given one deposition in the Harris case and was scheduled to give a second one when the case settled in 2001.
Ziemann and Mahony met in the early 1960s, when Ziemann was attending Our Lady of the Angels Seminary in San Fernando and Mahony was at St. John’s. Mahony graduated from St. John’s in 1962. Ziemann later attended St. John’s and graduated in 1967. Mahony was the serious student. Ziemann was the worldly charmer following in his footsteps.
In 1987, Ziemann became Mahony’s auxiliary bishop. He was a rising star. In 1992, however, Ziemann left Los Angeles to become the bishop of the Diocese of Santa Rosa. There, he fell into trouble, when a Costa Rican priest sued him for blackmail, charging that Ziemann forced the priest to be his sex partner.
The diocese settled out of court for $535,000, in 1999, and Ziemann resigned in disgrace. He left the diocese $16 million in debt. Ziemann has been charged in civil court with molesting minors from 1967 to 1992. The Vatican has removed his faculties as a bishop and he currently resides at Holy Trinity Monastery in St. David, Arizona, near Tucson.
Observers of the church scandal find it impossible to believe that Mahony was unaware of the danger Ziemann (and Baker) posed to minors. What is more disturbing, they say, is the role of the St. John’s old boy club.
Technically, the Vatican approves all transfers related to bishops. But Ziemann’s placement in Santa Rosa required the assent of Archbishop William Levada of the Archdiocese of San Francisco (St. John’s Class of 1958). And, Ziemann’s later residence within the Diocese of Tucson has required the assent of Bishop Manuel Moreno (St. John’s Class of 1961). Both are close friends of Mahony’s. Sources familiar with St. John’s — a seminary known for sexual tolerance — contend that Levada, Mahony and Moreno hold the key to the depths of the priest scandal in Los Angeles.
Authorities are investigating other leads, which they believe flow along the Mahony-Moreno axis between Los Angeles and Tucson. Last Friday, however, Moreno resigned as bishop of Tucson, citing health reasons. He leaves a diocese racked with scandal.
Prosecutors in Ventura and Los Angeles counties also are targeting Mahony’s top administrators, known as vicars of clergy. Several have appeared before the grand jury in Ventura. They are:
Bishop Thomas Curry, vicar of clergy, 1986-90. Curry was aware of charges that a priest molested altar boys in two parishes but allowed him to flee to Mexico, in 1988. The priest, the Rev. Nicolas Aguilar Rivera, was charged with lewd acts on a child and is still at large.
Curry also wrote letters in 1987 and 1988 to an exiled priest urging him to stay away from Los Angeles. The priest was accused of molesting a teenage girl along with six other priests and impregnating her, and had fled to the Philippines. “My client was acting in the best interests of the priest, the church and all those concerned,” said Brian Hennigan, a former ä federal prosecutor with Irell & Manella who represents Curry.
Curry is the bishop of the Diocese of Santa Barbara, appointed by Mahony in 1994.
Msgr. Timothy Dyer, vicar of clergy, 1991-95. Dyer and Michael Baker were classmates at St. John’s. After Baker had admitted to molesting children, in 1986, Dyer accompanied him on trips in the 1990s to the Tucson diocese, where Baker allegedly molested the two boys he settled out of court with in 2000. “There was no suggestion of impropriety,” Michael Hennigan, lawyer for the Los Angeles archdiocese said. “No one knew Baker had misbehaved during that time.”
Msgr. Richard Loomis, vicar of clergy, 1996-2000. E-mails leaked to KFI radio in April 2002 reportedly came from Loomis’ computer. He resigned as secretariat director in October to pursue parish work. “Msgr. Loomis is not the focus of any investigation,” said his attorney, James Farley of Ventura. “He was only [before the grand jury] to explain the process of handling priest complaints. ”Msgr. Craig Cox, vicar of clergy, 2000-2002.
Many are skeptical that the criminal case will stick to Mahony or his top people, however. Prosecutors have been unable to charge higher-ups in the church despite clear showings of a cover-up in Boston and Rockville Center, New York, due to expired statutes of limitation. And, a key California law that extends the statute of limitations for charging priests with crimes against children is up for review before the U.S. Supreme Court. If the law is stricken, prosecutors would lose one of their most potent weapons in building up to a larger case against Mahony.
Don Steier, who represents Baker, Ziemann and several other key defendants in the criminal probe, also said Mahony has complied with child abuse reporting laws enacted in 1997. Steier has represented the archdiocese’s priests for 20 years. “Did Mahony fail to turn over priests to the authorities?” Steier said. “Yes. But not after 1997.” (Prosecutors believe the archdiocese steers its most vulnerable priests toward Steier to keep them within the fold. Steier denies he is a key player.)
Criminal law experts doubt that the church hierarchy could be charged with serious crimes. “Church officials would have had to either molest children or intend that someone else would,” explained former prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi. “Although Mahony may have looked the other way, I find it inconceivable that he and his administrators actually intended for priests to molest children.”
By William Lobdell
A former Roman Catholic priest who allegedly impregnated a teenage parishioner and paid for her abortion 21 years ago was arrested Thursday in Newbury Park by Orange County sheriff's deputies and charged with 10 counts of felony sexual assault on a minor.
A key piece of evidence against John Lenihan, who had been a popular pastor at St. Edward Church in Dana Point, was a letter he wrote to Pope John Paul II last March asking to be released from the priesthood. In it, Lenihan, 57, admitted to two affairs with teenagers starting in 1978.
Authorities said they obtained the correspondence, notes and other documents from the Diocese of Orange.
"They have given us all of these documents we have requested, with the exception of documents that were legitimately privileged," said Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas.
That cooperation contrasts with the acrimonious relationship that has developed between prosecutors and Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, who heads the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The archdiocese has withheld hundreds of requested church documents, citing 1st Amendment protections.
Lenihan, who has worked as a manager of a packaging company in Ventura County since he left the priesthood last year, was released from jail Thursday after posting $100,000 bail.
The Los Angeles and Orange dioceses paid $1.2 million to a San Francisco woman in April to settle civil-law molestation allegations against Lenihan. On the same day that was done, the woman filed a complaint at the criminal level with the Orange County Sheriff's Department, which led to Thursday's charges.
"It is heart-wrenching that a priest may have engaged in such grave misconduct warranting criminal charges and an arrest," Bishop Tod D. Brown said in a statement. "It is our sincere hope that the system of justice will be upheld."
Released on bail Thursday evening, Lenihan decided against wearing a cap or jacket to cover his face from reporters. Then, as he walked somberly from the county jail in Santa Ana to a friend's sport utility vehicle, the friend said Lenihan would have no comment.
Prosecutors said another important element of their case was the corroborating testimony of Mary Grant, whom Lenihan admitted molesting for five years in the late 1970s, starting when she was 13.
Authorities said Lenihan's alleged pattern of sexual abuse was similar with both teens, who attended St. Norbert Church in Orange. They accuse him of engaging in sex acts with the girls at various times as he drove them home from church. He also allegedly engaged the teens in sexual discussions on the phone.
Grant, now the Los Angeles regional director for the advocacy group Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests, said Lenihan's arrest was the end of a decades-long fight to get him behind bars.
"Oh my God, I can't believe this," Grant said, crying as she learned of Thursday's arrest. "I'm just shaking right now. I'm just so grateful for the courage of the other victim who came forward."
Grant said she first told church officials about abuse by Lenihan in 1979 but was ignored. Statute-of-limitations problems have prevented prosecutors from filing charges in her case.
In 1991, Lenihan admitted the sexual relationship and the church paid Grant $25,000. The Diocese of Orange allowed the priest to continue his career, eventually appointing him pastor of the prosperous St. Edward parish in Dana Point.
Lenihan's arrest caps 18 months of revelations about the sexual misconduct of the cleric, which paralleled the church's national sexual abuse scandal.
Using the pseudonym "Father X," he admitted to Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez in 2001 to having had "numerous" sexual relationships with adult women.
A week later, Bishop Brown removed him from ministry and sent him to Canada for rehabilitation, a treatment church officials say he didn't complete.
As for the $1.2-million settlement in April, Lenihan agreed to be removed from the priesthood, which only a pope can do.
In August, the Orange diocese paid $400,000 to settle a lawsuit that accused Lenihan of having had an affair with an emotionally troubled woman who had sought counseling from him. The woman said there was a sexual relationship that stopped only when the bishop sent the priest to Canada.
Times staff writer Claire Luna contributed to this report.
By Steve Lopez firstname.lastname@example.org
I put in a call to Los Angeles Cardinal Roger M. Mahony's office Thursday, trying to find out how he's holding up. It has to be tough physically and emotionally, finding the moral justification to turn authorities away in sex-abuse investigations.
Do you lie awake at night?
Do you pace the halls?
Do you kneel in the new cathedral and pray that no more children get molested while you're sitting on a pile of documents the district attorney is begging for?
It has to be even tougher to stand your ground, ever-defiant, when the results of full cooperation are on display just across the Orange County line.
The arrest Thursday of a priest I first wrote about in 2001 might not have happened without the help of the Diocese of Orange, which threw open its doors and let prosecutors dig around in all the dark corners.
"They've been extremely cooperative," said a representative for the Orange County district attorney's office.
As a result, Father John Lenihan -- actually he's no longer a priest, having been officially dumped by the pope himself -- has been charged with 10 counts of felony sexual assault on a minor.
"I never thought this day would come," Lenihan's alleged victim told me Thursday.
She was the recipient of a $1.2-million civil settlement last year, having claimed that Lenihan got her pregnant when she was 16 and then paid for her abortion. She filed the suit after reading my columns on the prolific Lenihan, in which he told me details of his abuse of another teenager, as well as his multiple affairs with women parishioners.
It's fair to argue that in Lenihan's case and others, the Orange diocese waited too many years to do the right thing. But it finally woke up a couple of years ago in the face of the growing national scandal, and Bishop Tod D. Brown promised full cooperation in all sex-abuse investigations.
One of the documents the diocese coughed up in the Lenihan case was a March 28, 2002, letter he sent to Pope John Paul II, asking to be officially dismissed as a priest.
"I was totally celibate until 1978," he wrote, "when I became involved with a teenager and that was followed by a sexual relationship with another teen shortly afterward."
When I asked diocese spokesperson Maria Schinderle about cooperating with authorities in this case, she said:
"We feel that it is part and parcel of ... Brown's promise of a safe environment for youth and young people in the diocese."
As I recall, Cardinal Mahony made a similar vow back in the days when he was positioning himself as the national conscience of church reform. Last May, feeling the heat of a grand jury investigation, Mahony trumpeted his commitment to truth and justice:
"We want every single thing to be out, open and dealt with, period."
And yet here we are 10 months later, with prosecutors and legislators teaming up in a frantic effort to pry documents loose from Mahony, who grows ever more stubborn.
If his eminence doesn't hand over the goods, which include his private correspondence with suspected priests, the statute of limitations will run out. That means that about a dozen priests and former clerics, suspected in 50 or more cases of alleged sexual abuse of minors, could be off the hook within three months.
It would be sort of like an early Christmas gift from the cardinal -- "Get Out of Jail Free" cards for suspected molesters.
And that could be just the beginning. A few dozen more priests and clerics could benefit down the road if Mahony continues slamming the door in the face of investigators.
Two pieces of legislation are in the works to extend the statute of limitations, and a Los Angeles County Superior Court hearing on the records is scheduled for April. But there's no telling how any of that will turn out, especially given the cardinal's network of friends in high places.
The archdiocese claims it has turned over plenty of documents, but has a constitutional right to withhold communications between the cardinal and suspected priests.
"Prelate privilege" is the term they're using. I don't recall any mention of "prelate privilege" when Mahony said he wanted "every single thing to be out, open and dealt with, period."
Divulging these communications, the archdiocese now argues, would infringe on the church's free exercise of religion.
This could be their best work yet.
Helping to prosecute molesters and protect children could infringe on the free exercise of religion?
In the name of the father, son, and holy ghost, what kind of twisted minds are these?
"It's unconscionable," says Mary Grant, who was one of Lenihan's teenage victims in the 1970s. Back then, she ran into the same kind of stonewalling tactics the archdiocese is using now, and she's had to wait a quarter of a century to see criminal action against her abuser.
"Mahony continues to hide behind religion as if it's a shield," Grant said, "as if he should not be held accountable for crimes committed in his church."
As I said, I called the cardinal, but he didn't call back. Having to answer my questions might infringe on his free exercise of religion.
The nights must be long up there at the Rog Mahal.
Pray for him, please.
Original material copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.