Mahony Resources – June 1–14, 2003
By Daniel Hernandez
A week after Cardinal Roger M. Mahony dedicated a chapel at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels for victims of sexual abuse by priests, protesters Sunday defiantly entered the church with a wooden cross covered with photographs of abuse victims.
There was brief confusion outside as security guards seemed unsure whether they should allow the cross into the cathedral. A few parishioners tried to block the way, yelling, "You can't do that! You can't do that!"
But the guards and parishioners quickly moved aside. Trailed by news cameras, the protesters carried the 6-by-8-foot cross into the small chapel.
"I am a Catholic and this is my cathedral," abuse victim Jim Robertson said, as he and two others held the cross.
After a cathedral worker moved an altar, the cross was placed in the middle of the chapel.
"Let the people who come into this chapel look at the eyes of the victims," Robertson said loudly.
More than 30 protesters, some holding signs with photographs of themselves or family members at the age when they said they were abused, had begun demonstrating about two hours earlier outside the cathedral.
They said they were protesting a "culture of secrecy" in the 15-month-old sexual abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church. Some of the signs had photographs of the victims and the priest they said abused them, and said things like: "She was only 15 the priest was 47" and "I was 7 years old when he stole my innocence."
Much of the protesters' anger seemed aimed at the establishment of the special chapel, which abuse victim Mary Grant called "a media stunt" meant to divert attention from the scandal.
"Prayers without actions are nothing more than meaningless gestures," said Grant, who is regional director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
"Catholics have a right to know the truth. It's a public safety issue. We don't want people to be deceived that a chapel is going to fix that."
Grant and others criticized Mahony for inviting the media and not victims of abuse to the chapel's dedication May 25. They accused the Los Angeles Archdiocese of hastily dedicating the chapel after church officials learned that the group planned a larger than usual protest at the cathedral Sunday.
"That's not true," said archdiocese spokesman Tod Tamberg, who was at the cathedral. "This was something people have talked about for a great deal of time. A number of victims have approached us asking for a more spiritual component to the healing process."
Mahony presided at Sunday's 10 a.m. Mass but did not meet the protesters.
Inside the chapel, many of the protesters hugged and prayed. Some, like Mary Ferrell, holding a black-and-white picture of herself at age 7, when she said her San Pedro priest abused her, had never been inside the cathedral.
"I like it I like it," she said. "It's a step. It's very small, but it's something."
After the protesters left, Tamberg told reporters that the archdiocese will discuss whether to allow the cross and the pictures tacked to the wall to remain in the chapel.
Church officials had already put in the chapel two bulletin boards for parishioners to attach photos of victims.
The protesters quickly covered both with photos Sunday and began sticking them on the walls.
"That cross in there is tremendously meaningful to those victims, but it might be a distraction for others," Tamberg said. "We have to find something that everyone will feel comfortable with."
10 Abuse Suits Filed, Ending Lawyer Accord
By Jean Guccione and William Lobdell
Two lawyers for alleged victims of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests broke ranks Tuesday and filed 10 lawsuits against the dioceses of Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego, saying they are tired of waiting for church officials to produce personnel files on the accused.
The cases ends a 5-month-old agreement among lawyers to try to mediate a massive settlement before any more civil lawsuits were filed. The action also represents a strategic split among the half-dozen key lawyers for as many as 400 alleged victims in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
John Manly, the lawyer who filed the suits, accused church officials of stonewalling.
"They are not giving me anything except things I could have gotten out of public records," such as assignments for a few accused priests, he said.
Without filing the suits, Manly said, he would not be in a position to ask the dioceses to provide him with all of the information he is seeking.
The new cases, however, do not rule out a mediated settlement. Manly said he is pleased with Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Peter Lichtman's efforts to bring the parties together for mediation. But he said he also wants to be ready to litigate those claims if talks break down.
Attorney Venus Soltan, an associate of Manly, said they would never have agreed to delay the filing of lawsuits to enter mediation if she had known that lawyers for the Los Angeles Archdiocese would not voluntarily turn over personnel files belonging to its priests.
But J. Michael Hennigan, an attorney for the archdiocese, said a judge must decide which confidential files will be surrendered to lawyers for the alleged victims.
"We've actually provided all the documents that we are allowed to under the law," he said.
Hennigan and several lawyers for other plaintiffs blamed Soltan and Manly for the current delays.
Soltan and Manly asked Chief Justice of California Ronald M. George to assign all cases against the Los Angeles and Orange dioceses to one judge — a process in the works since January.
Tuesday's filings are "just another thing that gets us off track," said attorney Katherine K. Freberg, who represents 97 people suing the Los Angeles Archdiocese and the Diocese of Orange. "It's always been my opinion that victims gain strength working together."
Raymond P. Boucher, the lawyer for more than 220 alleged victims, said the new filings may delay justice.
He added that all the cases will be filed in court, but not until a procedure is established for processing them.
In March, all the priest sexual abuse cases in Los Angeles and Orange counties were ordered to be funneled into a single Los Angeles courtroom. Last week, the same judge, Elihu Berle, ordered similar cases in the dioceses of San Diego and San Bernardino to be added to the mix.
Once a judge is appointed, one of the first issues that must be resolved is whether plaintiffs' lawyers may review personnel records of accused priests. Lawyers for the Los Angeles Archdiocese have argued that any communications between bishops and priests — sought by criminal prosecutors and plaintiffs' lawyers — are privileged and that their surrender would violate the 1st Amendment.
A retired judge, Thomas Nuss, is considering whether the archdiocese must provide the same records to county prosecutors.
The suits filed Tuesday allege misconduct by seven priests, including retiree George Neville Rucker, who is awaiting trial in Los Angeles on criminal charges that he molested seven girls from 1947 to 1976.
One suit alleges that Euletario Ramos, from 1984 to 1988, repeatedly
molested an altar boy from Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in La Habra, Manly
said. Some of the alleged incidents occurred in San Diego and Tijuana
after the priest was reassigned and the boy's mother sent her son to visit
Bishops Have Eluded Sex Abuse Indictments
By Alan Cooperman
A year ago, as more than a dozen prosecutors across the country convened grand juries to investigate sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church, some lawyers and victims' advocates predicted that it was only a matter of time until a bishop would be indicted.
Most of those prosecutors have now finished their investigations or are bringing them to a close. They have brought criminal charges of rape and molestation against relatively small numbers of priests, subpoenaed church files, heard victims' testimony and questioned some bishops. In a few places, such as Long Island, N.Y., and Manchester, N.H., prosecutors have produced scathing reports on the local diocese's history of covering up sexual abuse of children.
But no bishops have been indicted.
The closest was in Phoenix, where prosecutors said Monday they had gathered what they believed was sufficient evidence to charge Bishop Thomas J. O'Brien with obstruction of justice. In the end, however, they declined to prosecute O'Brien in return for his promise to appoint two independent administrators and a lawyer to handle allegations of child sexual abuse, and to put $600,000 of diocesan money into special accounts for victims.
The two largest and most complex grand jury probes, in Boston and Los Angeles, are continuing. According to public officials familiar with those proceedings, however, the Boston prosecutors have all but ruled out an indictment of the city's former archbishop, Cardinal Bernard M. Law, who resigned in December over the sexual abuse scandal.
In Los Angeles, prosecutors are still considering whether there is sufficient evidence to indict Cardinal Roger M. Mahony on charges of conspiracy to commit felony child endangerment or conspiracy to obstruct justice. They expect a judge to decide soon whether to give them thousands of pages of church documents that the bishop has said are privileged because they include psychological evaluations of priests.
"We will go wherever the evidence leads us," William Hodgman, the deputy Los Angeles district attorney in charge of prosecuting sex crimes, said yesterday. "We are eagerly anticipating rulings by the court which will clear the way to get at the evidence we believe is there."
Mahony has denied any wrongdoing and is cooperating fully with the investigation, said his spokesman, Tod M. Tamberg.
Victims' groups expressed disappointment this week at the decision by prosecutors in Phoenix not to proceed with an indictment, and some victims' advocates said they believe such decisions are largely political.
"Should some bishops be indicted? Probably. But I don't think they're going to get one," said Monsignor Kenneth E. Lasch, of the Church of St. Joseph in Mendham, N.J., a leading voice within the clergy for assisting victims. "There's still something about indicting a Roman Catholic bishop in this country that's distasteful and politically not the proper thing to do in many places."
Prosecutors and legal experts said, however, that there are huge legal hurdles to prosecuting a bishop who has not committed sexual abuse himself, but has not prevented abuse by others.
"The first problem is proving criminal intent," said Robert M. Bloom, a professor at Boston College Law School. Even when prosecutors can show "all kinds of inaction" by bishops in the face of sexual misconduct by priests, it is not easy to prove that "they conspired with these bad priests to allow this to continue," he said.
Since the scandal broke, many states have made it a crime not to report child abuse, but such laws cannot be imposed retroactively.
In New Hampshire, prosecutors were able to turn to a state law on child endangerment that imposed a broad obligation on churches and other organizations to safeguard children in their care. In California, the child endangerment law is not as far-reaching, but prosecutors say that if they can show a single violation of the law within the current statute of limitations, they can reach back further in time to try to prove a conspiracy by church leaders to protect sexual abusers.
Prosecutors in numerous other jurisdictions have expressed frustration with their state laws and statutes of limitations. Grand juries have indicted a small number of priests, including one in Cleveland, two in St. Louis, six in Phoenix and nine in Los Angeles. But on Long Island and in Westchester, N.Y., grand juries were stymied by time limits on prosecuting sexual abuse cases and issued stinging reports calling for changes in state laws.
In Kentucky, more than 200 lawsuits have been filed against the Archdiocese of Louisville, many alleging not just abuse by priests but also a pattern of concealment by their superiors. Yet Commonwealth's Attorney David Stengel decided there was no point in calling a grand jury to investigate the diocese's leaders, said his spokesman, Jeff Derouen.
"The problem in Kentucky is that not reporting [sexual abuse] is a misdemeanor, and misdemeanors have a one-year statute of limitations," Derouen said.
One of the most extraordinary acts of frustration by a prosecutor took place in Fall River, Mass. There, a grand jury was able to indict one priest last year, but Bristol County District Attorney Paul F. Walsh Jr. publicly named 20 others he suspected of committing abuse. Defense lawyers accused him of abusing his office, and Walsh acknowledged in an interview that "we normally do not name suspects we cannot prosecute."
But, he noted, prosecutors are human, too.
"When you have someone telling you about how they were repeatedly
raped, and the church knew about it and went on its merry way, when you
see it up close and personal, it's awful," Walsh said. "You
can't take the human side out of it. It was nasty stuff, and somebody
should be brought to task for it."
By William Lobdell
An Orange County victim of sexual abuse who came to believe in the power of the justice system after his civil suit against the Roman Catholic Church resulted in a $5.2-million settlement and a series of reforms in 2001 was sworn in Wednesday as an attorney.
Before family and colleagues, Ryan DiMaria, 29, took the oath in the courtroom of Orange County Superior Court Judge James P. Gray, who mediated the settlement between DiMaria and the dioceses of Orange and Los Angeles.
"After all he's gone through, I think it's amazing," said J. Yvonne Hyatt, the judge's clerk, as she watched the ceremony.
DiMaria said he will specialize in helping other molestation victims, something he has done as a law clerk for the last four months. He works in the Costa Mesa offices of John Manly, one of the lawyers who represented him in his sexual abuse suit.
As a plaintiff, DiMaria insisted his settlement with the Orange and Los Angeles dioceses include reforms, such as a zero-tolerance policy, victims' hot lines and abuse awareness programs in parochial schools — now standard practices.
"I'm really grateful for what my attorneys did for me in my case," said DiMaria, who also was represented by Katherine K. Freberg of Irvine. "My fate was in their hands. It made me want to work on these kinds of cases and do the same for other people."
It's experience that is appreciated by victims of clergy sexual abuse.
"He's not just a lawyer trying to get money," said one client who alleges in a lawsuit filed this week that he had been molested by a former Orange County priest. "He's a lawyer trying to make things right. He has a cause. He's been through it. He understands."
Manly said he hired DiMaria a year ago as a clerk because of his expertise in real estate. DiMaria had sold mobile home parks before switching to law. Six months into the job, Manly said, DiMaria walked into his office, closed the door and asked to work with more than 50 of the firm's clients who allege they were molested by priests.
"I don't ask anybody to work on these cases because they're so hard emotionally," Manly said. "They have to volunteer."
In 1997, DiMaria filed suit against the two dioceses and Michael A. Harris, then a monsignor who had been a popular principal at two Orange County Catholic high schools, Mater Dei and Santa Margarita.
DiMaria alleged that he was molested twice in 1991 by Harris, a priest whose charismatic style earned him the nickname "Father Hollywood." The other alleged victims of Harris testified to bolster DiMaria's claims, although they weren't parties in the lawsuit.
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles was named in the lawsuit because DiMaria contended that archdiocesan officials knew of earlier molestation allegations against Harris dating to the 1970s but did nothing. The archdiocese has denied prior knowledge.
Harris, who was removed from the priesthood by the Vatican, has denied the allegations and accused church officials of settling the case for "their own business reasons."
DiMaria, who graduated from Chapman University School of Law in Orange in 2001, failed the state bar exam the first time after trying to prepare for it and his civil trial simultaneously. He didn't pass the next two times, saying it had become more difficult the longer he was out of law school. On his fourth try, he succeeded.
DiMaria married nine months ago and will become a father in August. Becoming
a lawyer is another step in reclaiming his life, DiMaria said. At its
nadir, he contemplated suicide. "Some days I was just trying to stay
alive," DiMaria said.
Investigations Focus on More Priests
By Richard Winton
Prosecutors are investigating allegations that may yield charges against as many as a dozen additional Roman Catholic priests accused of sexually abusing minors, a top official said Wednesday.
"When we've finished charging all the priests, we will take the steps necessary regarding hierarchy," William Hodgman, the deputy Los Angeles County district attorney in charge of the inquiry. "We will go wherever the evidence takes us."
To date, nine clerics have been charged with molesting minors. Investigators have held grand jury sessions and subpoenaed boxes of personnel files from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. A Ventura County grand jury questioned four of Cardinal Roger M. Mahony's top aides, and prosecutors have charged two priests.
Lawyers representing people who allege they have been abused by priests have amassed more than 400 claims against 120 defendants. Settlement negotiations with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles have been going on since early this year.
According to officials familiar with the probes, prosecutors are considering whether there is sufficient evidence to charge officials in the church hierarchy with conspiracy to commit felony child endangerment or to obstruct justice. That decision could depend on a retired judge's ruling, expected soon, on whether prosecutors are entitled to more than 2,000 pages of church communications that lawyers for Mahony insist must remain secret under the Constitution.
Hodgman said he is not considering a deal like that struck in Arizona, where prosecutors agreed not to charge Bishop Thomas J. O'Brien in exchange for his appointment of three outsiders to handle allegations that priests had abused minors.
"As a prosecutor, I am looking for accountability," Hodgman said.
Criminal prosecution may depend on a U.S. Supreme Court decision expected later this summer on a 1994 California law that allows prosecutors to overcome legal limits in decades-old child molestation cases.
The nine priests had left active ministry before they were charged. Most had been forced to retire. Overwhelmingly, the allegations involve incidents more than a decade old. One former priest, Michael Stephen Baker, told Mahony in 1986 that he had abused two or three boys. Baker was reassigned to a series of parishes until he was again accused of abuse by two alleged victims and forced out of the church in 2000. Another retired priest, George Miller, pleaded not guilty to molestation charges Wednesday. The flurry of civil litigation was spurred by a state law enacted Jan. 1 that removed for one year a statute of limitations in sexual abuse cases in which an institution knowingly employed a molester.
For the past five months, a half-dozen attorneys handling the priest
litigation have agreed not to sue pending efforts to reach a universal
settlement. Two attorneys, expressing impatience at the pace of the talks,
broke ranks last week and filed 10 lawsuits against the dioceses of Los
Angeles, Orange and San Diego.
By Larry B. Stammer
Los Angeles Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, who has publicly called on the Roman Catholic Church to be open in its response to the sexual abuse scandal, tried this spring to derail an effort by church officials to figure out exactly how many priests may have been implicated in abuse, according to members of the church's watchdog panel.
Mahony's effort was one example of resistance by some bishops nationwide that the head of the panel, former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating, called "stunning, startling."
In an interview, Keating, who was named last year by the U.S. bishops to head their National Review Board, used unusually vivid language to criticize the resistance he has seen across the country. Some members of the church hierarchy — he did not name them — had behaved "like La Cosa Nostra," he said.
"I have seen an underside that I never knew existed. I have not had my faith questioned, but I certainly have concluded that a number of serious officials in my faith have very clay feet. That is disappointing and educational, but it's a fact," Keating said.
"To act like La Cosa Nostra and hide and suppress, I think, is very unhealthy," he said. "Eventually it will all come out."
Keating added that "I think there are a number of bishops — and I put Cardinal Mahony in that category — who listen too much to his lawyer and not enough to his heart."
"I appreciate he's watching out for the best interests of his diocese," the board chairman said. "But we have a mandate for transparency, full disclosure and openness. That's what we're carrying out."
Responding to those comments, Mahony spokesman Tod Tamberg called Keating "a sincere and well-meaning person."
"I would attribute his remarks, perhaps, to extra zeal. He's not an authority on California law or the pastoral concerns of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. We'll just leave it at that," Tamberg said.
He added that the matter that appeared to have sparked Keating's criticism had been resolved earlier this week. That dispute involved the review board's attempt to survey all 195 American dioceses on the number of priests accused of sexual abuse.
The survey is a central part of the panel's effort to determine the extent of the sexual abuse crisis.
Media organizations have estimated that 432 of 46,000 U.S. priests resigned, retired or were otherwise removed from ministry in 2002 under suspicion of sexual abuse. No official count, however, has been made of the total number of accused priests.
Last year, when the bishops adopted their new guidelines for prevention of sexual abuse, known as the Charter for the Protection of Children and Youth, they created the review board and directed it to conduct the survey of all dioceses.
As of Wednesday, 134 dioceses had responded, at least in part, said Leon A. Panetta, White House chief of staff under President Clinton and a member of the National Review Board. Among the exceptions to such cooperation have been the dioceses of California, board members said.
In April, Mahony wrote to all U.S. cardinals and major archbishops calling for the review board to terminate its contract with the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, which the panel had hired to conduct the study.
According to a recipient of the letters, Mahony said he was concerned that information provided for the survey would be subject to discovery motions by prosecutors and civil attorneys representing sexual abuse victims.
The Los Angeles archbishop also said researchers at the college might leak the information, creating a "media frenzy," and then deny having done so.
In May, California's bishops followed Mahony's lead and passed a resolution — previously unpublicized — declaring that they would not participate in the survey.
The survey failed to take into account California's privacy laws and the decision by the state Legislature to allow sexual abuse victims more time to sue the church, the California bishops said.
Tamberg said Wednesday that those concerns had been resolved in a conference call among attorneys Tuesday that would lead to changes in the survey. The California bishops now "will participate fully in this survey in good faith," he added.
"The final goal here is having an understanding of how all this came about to help us make sure that it is not ever replicated again," he said, referring to the numerous incidents of sexual abuse.
But a member of the review board, New York attorney Robert Bennett, said Wednesday that the California bishops' concerns about the survey had been "without merit."
Any changes made would have to be minor, he said, adding that the review board had made clear to Mahony and others that there would be no major alterations in the survey questionnaire.
Bennett said he was pleased that the California bishops "are now willing to comply."
"The resistance experienced to date from California in particular ... is totally inconsistent with the charter and does not help us achieve our goal of protecting children," he said. "We do understand that the dioceses have raised, through their lawyers, various privacy and confidentiality issues. These issues must take second seat to the protection of young children."
Confidentiality has also been at the center of the disputes between the Los Angeles Archdiocese and prosecutors over personnel documents.
Mahony's attorneys have argued that some of the personnel files should not be given to prosecutors because turning them over would violate religious freedom and the confidentiality between bishop and priest.
Keating, a former federal prosecutor and defense attorney, said he had never heard of such a privilege. He said dioceses should answer legitimate inquiries from district attorneys.
The L.A. Archdiocese has turned over all the documents in question to
a Los Angeles Superior Court judge, who will rule later this year on the
validity of the church's claim that some of the documents are shielded
by a privilege.
By Cardinal Roger M. Mahony
Governor Keating's remarks, as quoted today (June 12) in the Los Angeles Times, were both irresponsible and uninformed. Just yesterday (June 11), the John Jay group acknowledged the flaws in their proposed protocols and finally agreed to conform to California and Canon law. With these amendments, the California bishops will at least be free to participate in the study without violating the law.
News reports that I, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and the other Bishops of California have resisted a national statistical data gathering effort by the Church's National Review Board are unfounded and not correct. In fact, I have championed a fuller, deeper and more accurate statistical study.
While well meaning, the study being conducted by the John Jay College is deficient in its assumptions, its design, and its methodology. Sadly, the study now underway will simply not give the Church and the general public the data that we truly need and want.
On Jan. 20, 2003 I wrote to Kathleen McChesney, the Executive Director of the Office on Children and Youth and staff to the National Review Board, urging a broad collaboration with the Bishops and the Dioceses across the country in developing a sound and comprehensive statistical matrix that would result in accurate and meaningful data. I pointed out the need to consult broadly with those Arch/Dioceses with larger numbers of cases so that the proper categories could be developed. I urged a broad pre-testing of the questionnaires with a variety of Arch/Dioceses to make certain that the instruments would be accurate and that the resulting data would be valid.
Unfortunately, none of my recommendations were followed.
On Tuesday, March 4, 2003, four members of the National Review Board visited with me and our team working on safeguarding the Church for all children and youth. The group was headed by Mr. Robert Bennett. At that meeting I learned that only $250,000 had been allocated for this national statistical study. I pointed out that with 190 Arch/Dioceses across the country, that amount was totally inadequate to develop a truly accurate study. Rather, I stated that at least $4 million to $6 million would be required. I further pointed out that a prestigious national research organization should be retained, such as the Rand Corporation, the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, or the Stanford University Research Institute.
In addition, I stressed that with the lifting of the statutes of limitation for civil actions in California for the year 2003, we would not be certain until the end of the year exactly how many priests would be charged with sexual abuse, nor how many victims would come forward. And once those people were identified, it would be necessary to verify all of the allegations. All of this will take time, and any study will be woefully inaccurate if that data is not included.
I wrote to Bishop Wilton Gregory at once and urged that he and the Administrative Board of the Bishops' Conference seek grants so that the National Review Board would have the funds necessary for a first-rate statistical study. I believe that steps are underway to help find the funds needed for the type of survey that will be truly comprehensive and accurate.
When the questionnaires arrived from John Jay College, I was surprised - and saddened - that they were designed in such a way that truly comprehensive data would not be collected, and that the privacy rights of all parties could be in jeopardy and possibly violated. These are just a few of my concerns:
-John Jay College was required to obtain a Certificate of Confidentiality from the National Institute of Health to protect all parties in the study. However, to date, that Certificate of Confidentiality has not been granted - which means that any data now in the possession of John Jay College is subject to public disclosure, threatening the privacy rights of all parties.
-The statistical questionnaire requests data up to and ending with Dec. 31, 2002. Yet, because of the lifting of the statute of limitations in California, the majority of the new allegations of sexual abuse have come after Jan. 1, 2003. Completing that questionnaire as of Dec. 31, 2002 would be relatively easy for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, but it would also be totally inaccurate.
-Sufficient information and facts have not yet emerged in many pending cases to determine with certainty how many possible priest offenders are involved, nor how many victims there might be. The process of clarifying the veracity of all allegations is in the hands of both the criminal and civil judicial system, and until all of these matters are fully resolved, it is impossible to give accurate data.
-California's Privacy Laws are among the strongest in the country, protecting the privacy rights of all parties - defendants and plaintiffs included. And yet, the John Jay questionnaire requests information that could readily lead to identifying both the priest accused and the alleged victims. Because of the construct of the instruments, it would be relatively easy to trace priests and link them to specific victims. California Law does not permit the Church or any employer to give to third parties confidential information of the nature requested by these study instruments. In fact, there are criminal and civil penalties for so acting.
-The Canon Law Society of America has written to Bishop Wilton Gregory and has raised many serious questions about the rights of parties according to the Church's Canon Law. None of those concerns has been addressed.
-Confusing and overly-broad questions make it difficult to complete the questionnaires, and I fear that Arch/Dioceses across the country are simply interpreting the questions as they see fit. This will surely result in woefully inadequate results. An example: "How many clerics with allegations have been completely exonerated?" How is one to define "completely exonerated"? Does it mean that no criminal indictment has been handed down? Does it mean that law enforcement has ended its investigation? Does it mean that no corroborating evidence can be found?
Both the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and I are fully committed to all of the various research projects that have begun, as well as those that will eventually be inaugurated. Producing accurate data on the extent of the sexual abuse of minors is essential so that all of our efforts to make the Church as safe as humanly possible for all children and youth can be implemented fully.
But serious, comprehensive, and reliable studies require close collaboration
between the National Review Board and the Bishops of the country, as well
as the resources necessary to engage the most talented and expert research
institutes in our country. I pledge myself to both of these goals.
A Clay-Footed Cardinal
Former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating, the man chosen by the U.S. Roman Catholic bishops to head their National Review Board, is a devout Catholic, a man who was certain to be sympathetic even as he investigated the church's responses to allegations of sexual abuse by Catholic priests. All the more surprising, then, for Keating to excoriate bishops, including Los Angeles Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, for resisting disclosure.
Speaking candidly with Times staff writer Larry B. Stammer, Keating complained that some members of the hierarchy "act like La Cosa Nostra and hide and suppress" vital information. Of Mahony specifically, Keating added, "I think there are a number of bishops — and I put Cardinal Mahony in this category — who listen too much to his lawyer and not enough to his heart."
To determine the extent of the sexual abuse crisis, the review board commissioned a survey of the extent of pedophilia and other abuses in all 195 American dioceses. As of Wednesday, only 134 dioceses had responded. Some of the others, including the dioceses of California, alleged flaws in the design of the study. Mahony, like some other church officials, had said he feared the survey information might become public.
Mahony's earlier vows of cooperation and transparency seemed forgotten. As late as May 2002, he declared, "We want every single thing to be out, open and dealt with, period."
Mahony's response to Keating, through a spokesperson, dripped with condescension. The former governor and federal prosecutor was "sincere and well meaning" but "not an authority on California law or the concerns of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles," the spokesperson said. Mahony himself said Thursday that Keating was "off the wall" and that he, Mahony, didn't believe that Keating could "continue to have the support of the bishops." L.A. County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley, in contrast, came strongly to Keating's defense.
A Gallup poll found that Americans' trust and confidence in churches, more specifically in the people who ran organized religion, declined from 68% in 1975 to 45% in 2002. Mahony, by slamming doors on his own church's investigators just as he did on L.A. County prosecutors seeking the records of suspected abusers, can only add to that erosion.
Mahony has sought and achieved influence on public issues including immigrant
rights and social justice for the poor. His stonewalling on his own priests'
accused misdeeds diminishes his ability to stir society's conscience on
By George Neumayr
The drip-drip of scandal continues in Roger Mahony's archdiocese. Will the dam soon break over the Cardinal Law of California? Mahony's survive-through-spinning strategy clearly isn't working. Take a look at Thursday's Los Angeles Times. Above the fold on the front page, the Times headline reads, "Mahony Resisted Abuse Inquiry, Panelist Says." Inside the front section, the Times reports that "prosecutors consider whether to charge church officials with conspiracy."
Mahony is not just stonewalling prosecutors; he is even stonewalling the American bishops' abuse panel. The head of it, former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating, tells the Times that certain bishops have behaved "like La Cosa Nostra." Keating didn't name these bishops, but one can reasonably assume that Mahony makes his list. After all, in the same interview Keating told the Times that Mahony's resistance to his inquiries has been "stunning, startling."
"I think there are a number of bishops -- and I put Cardinal Mahony in that category -- who listen too much to his lawyer and not enough to his heart," said Keating. "To act like La Cosa Nostra and hide and suppress, I think, is very unhealthy....Eventually it will all come out."
Tod Tamberg, Mahony's artless spokesman, dismissed Keating's criticism as "extra zeal." Keating, said Tamberg, is "not an authority on California law or the pastoral concerns of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles."
One of those pristine pastoral concerns was to short-circuit Keating's survey seeking a definitive number of American priests accused of abuse. Even as he twirled before the cameras as a "reformer," Mahony was quietly telling his brother bishops not to cooperate with the survey, lest it provide more fodder for the media and the courts.
"In April, Mahony wrote to all U.S. cardinals and major archbishops calling for the review board to terminate its contract with the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, which the panel had hired to conduct the study," reports the Times. "In May, California's bishops followed Mahony's lead and passed a resolution -- previously unpublicized -- declaring that they would not participate in the survey."
His gambit foiled, Mahony says that he will now cooperate with the survey.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles prosecutors are waiting for a judge's ruling on Mahony's refusal to turn over to them 2,000 pages of "church communications that lawyers for Mahony insist must remain secret under the Constitution," reports the Times.
"When we've finished charging all the priests, we will take the steps necessary regarding hierarchy," Los Angeles prosecutor William Hodgman said to the Times. "We will go wherever the evidence takes us."
The Times reports that "prosecutors are considering whether there is sufficient evidence to charge officials in the church hierarchy with conspiracy to commit felony child endangerment or to obstruct justice," and Hodgman "is not considering a deal like that struck in Arizona, where prosecutors agreed not to charge Bishop Thomas O'Brien in exchange for his appointment of three outsiders to handle allegations that priests had abused minors."
How many prosecutions and pay-outs -- the Los Angeles archdiocese is in settlement negotiations with lawyers over "400 claims against 120 defendants," reports the Times -- will have to dribble out before Mahony resigns? When will "pastoral concerns" extend to the bewildered flock before failed pastors?
When the bishops' own watchdog is likening Mahony's conduct to "La
Cosa Nostra," it is not unreasonable for the faithful to ask that
this sham reformer be put out to pasture.
Catholic Rift Over Panel Widens
By Larry B. Stammer
A serious split at the senior level of the U.S. Roman Catholic Church widened Thursday as Cardinal Roger M. Mahony questioned whether bishops should remove the chief overseer they appointed last year to monitor their efforts to prevent sexual abuse by priests.
Earlier this week in an interview, the overseer, former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating, sharply criticized Mahony and other bishops, comparing unnamed bishops who have opposed his efforts to "La Cosa Nostra."
Thursday, Mahony, who is one of the most influential members of the Catholic hierarchy, fired back, calling Keating's statements "off the wall."
"All I can say is, from the bishops I've listened to — and several called me this morning — this is the last straw," Mahony said in an interview. "To make statements such as these — I don't know how he can continue to have the support of the bishops. I don't know how you back up from this."
The U.S. bishops created the National Review Board, which Keating heads, last June at the height of the sex abuse scandal. The idea was to repair their credibility, which many bishops thought had been badly undermined by the scandal.
The panel of prestigious lay Catholics would reassure the faithful, the bishops hoped, that the hierarchy was carrying out new policies against sexually abusive priests in good faith.
Given the panel's background, a move against Keating now could risk further damage to the church's already troubled public image. Almost from the beginning, however, the relationship between Keating and some bishops has been tense. Mahony's remarks have brought that tension to the surface.
Mahony said he intends to raise the issue of Keating's job performance next week in St. Louis when the U.S. bishops hold their semiannual meeting.
And at least one member of the review board said Thursday that Keating's remarks were threatening the panel's continued ability to do its job.
A spokesman for Keating said Thursday that he stood by his comments, which were made in an interview with The Times.
How many of the more than 350 U.S. bishops share Mahony's opposition to Keating remains unclear. Several, however, are on record as being critical of the review board. They include Archbishop Alex J. Brunett of Seattle, Bishop Donald W. Wuerl of Pittsburgh and New York's Cardinal Edward Egan, who in January refused to celebrate Mass for the National Review Board when it met in his city.
Mahony said Thursday that the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Most Rev. Wilton D. Gregory of Belleville, Ill., had not consulted other bishops before appointing Keating.
"It would have been better" had Gregory asked for recommendations and set up a screening committee before making the appointment, Mahony said.
A spokesman in the U.S. bishops office in Washington said Keating serves at the pleasure of Gregory and was not appointed to a specific term.
Gregory was not available for comment Thursday.
Within the review board's own ranks, Keating's sometimes outspoken statements have caused concern.
Jane Chiles, a member of the board and the former director of the Kentucky State Catholic Conference, said that several members of the panel held a conference call Thursday to discuss Keating's recent remarks and that she and some fellow board members have "significant concerns" about them.
"It is extremely unhelpful for the heat to be turned up with this use of rhetoric at a time when we are really launching a number of very significant initiatives to assure accountability on the part of the bishops," Chiles said.
She added that some bishops also have made inflammatory comments during the past year.
Members of the review board remain committed to the work they are doing and will do whatever it takes to maintain their credibility with the bishops, as well as with the rest of the church, she said.
"I think we have to recognize that Gov. Keating is someone who has been in public office for some time. I think he has become accustomed to using sound bites — to some extent rather effectively — but in this case the work we are doing and the issues are way too complicated for sound bites."
"There's substantial concern that this kind of comment makes our work almost impossible," Chiles said.
But others came to Keating's defense. Los Angeles Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley applauded Keating's criticism of the bishops. "He apparently has been as frustrated as we have been in our efforts to secure information in possession of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles," Cooley said.
In St. Louis, David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said that, if anything, Keating has been too restrained in describing the extent of sexual abuse and the past cover-ups by bishops.
Mary Grant, western states director of the group, urged Catholics to redirect the money they would have given the Los Angeles church this week, giving it directly to charities as a protest against Mahony's behavior.
Father Thomas Reese, editor of the Jesuit magazine America and an authority on American bishops, said, "I personally think that Keating needs to control his vocabulary." But he also said the dispute proves they "did not appoint a bunch of lap dogs."
Reese concluded, "He ought to apologize for using the Mafia word and get back to work."
Mahony has taken a public stance as an outspoken reformer who has sought to oust all sex offenders from the priesthood. As head of the Los Angeles Archdiocese, he has been more aggressive than many U.S. bishops in dismissing clergy members.
During the last decade, he quietly removed 17 priests from ministry who had either admitted or had been credibly accused of molesting minors.
But he has also been criticized by victims' advocates and law enforcement officials for seeking to limit prosecutors' access to church personnel records. And like many other bishops, he has sought over the years to keep sexual abuse cases out of the public eye, in some cases moving those accused of molestation from one job to another and, during the 1990s, discouraging some alleged victims from reporting their cases to police.
One item at the heart of the dispute between Mahony and Keating is Mahony's refusal until this week to participate in a national survey commissioned by the review board to determine the number of priests accused or found guilty of sexual abuse in the United States, going as far back as 1950.
The study was required by the charter approved by bishops last year. So far, 134 of the nation's 195 Catholic dioceses have responded to the survey, in whole or in part, according to Leon A. Panetta, the former White House chief of staff who is a member of the review board.
But California's diocesan bishops, including Mahony, refused to participate until this week. They argued that the study's methodology was so seriously flawed that it would not produce valid or credible data. They also said that answering the survey's questions would require them to violate California's privacy laws.
Mahony insisted he had not attempted to block the study, but, instead, he had supported the most effective study possible. The $250,000 study commissioned by the review board would not begin to answer questions, Mahony said, estimating that a valid study would cost from $4 million to $6 million.
The current study, being conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, is so flawed that it must be followed by another, Mahony said.
He agreed this week to participate after his office said researchers at John Jay had agreed to make some changes in the study's protocol.
But "whatever they've done isn't going to overcome what I consider an inadequate and totally incomplete instrument," Mahony said.
"We are not going to get the comprehensive picture that we need from this study," he added.
Times staff writer Julie Tamaki contributed to this report.
Abuse Dispute Dismays Catholics
By Stephanie Chavez and Li Fellers
While the intensity of opinions varied Friday over the rift between senior leaders of the U.S. Roman Catholic Church on efforts to prevent sexual abuse by priests, one sentiment appeared to bind some Los Angeles-area Catholics together: disappointment.
Disappointment that Cardinal Roger M. Mahony and former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating, the lay leader assigned to oversee the church's watchdog panel, have resorted to name-calling, degrading the seriousness of the review panel's work. Disappointment that there appeared to be roadblocks to the full disclosure of information on the sexual abuse scandal. And disappointment that a year after the U.S. bishops created a lay review panel to examine the extent of abuse by priests, antagonisms are still emerging.
"What this tells me personally is that the issue of credibility of the hierarchy is finally being put under the microscope," said Mary Jane McGraw, the California leader of a 30,000-member national lay reform group founded after the clergy abuse scandal erupted. "There must be openness and honesty so that the average layperson can make educated determinations about their church."
Earlier this week, Keating, in an interview with The Times, said that Mahony tried to derail his panel's effort to conduct a survey to determine how many priests have been implicated in abuse. In criticizing the resistance, Keating said Mahony and some other unnamed members of the hierarchy have behaved "like La Cosa Nostra," a reference to the Mafia.
Mahony responded by calling Keating's statements "off the wall" and referred to them as "the last straw." He said he intends to raise the issue of whether Keating should be removed from his job at a U.S. bishops meeting next week.
Several priests said Friday that Keating's language was inappropriate for a leader in such a sensitive post in which communication about the panel's work is of utmost importance. Keating has long had a reputation for bluntly speaking his mind.
"The opening egregious shot came from Keating," said Msgr. Clement J. Connolly, the prominent pastor of Holy Family Church in South Pasadena, and among the first Los Angeles archdiocesan priests to openly address the problem of clergy sex abuse in sermons to his congregation.
"For him to come out with provocative, excessive language damages the work of the panel insofar as communication is the critical component of everything," Connolly said.
The resulting response from Mahony and public dispute have become a "contest between the two of them" that Connolly said is an unfortunate sideshow to examining the "far more profound" sexual abuse scandal.
"We are getting caught in taking sides in a dispute between two important people and the dispute is not the issue," he said. "There are huge questions at stake here, and the egos should not distract us from them."
Father Jarlath Cunnane of St. Thomas the Apostle Church in South Los Angeles said the rhetoric between the two seemed overblown "and it seemed to be stronger language than was appropriate or necessary."
The argument stems from Mahony's and all the California bishops' initial refusal to participate in a national survey commissioned by the review board to figure out the number of priests accused or found guilty of sexual abuse dating back to the 1950s. They argued that the study was flawed and would not produce valid data.
Mahony spokesman Tod Tamberg said earlier this week that the original concerns the bishops had about the survey, which included California privacy laws, had been resolved among attorneys this week and that they all will fully participate.
But the headlines of the dispute stirred strong emotions among Catholics who have raised their voices this past year against the ongoing scandal and closely monitor developments.
About six members of a priest-abuse victims group gathered outside the downtown Los Angeles cathedral Friday urging Catholics this weekend to divert their donations from the archdiocese to other charitable groups that help children.
"Out of respect for the church, out of respect for your flock, out of respect for the children still at risk, please stop posturing, stop pointing fingers elsewhere Help us heal," said Mary Grant, the California chairwoman of the survivors group, in a message to Mahony.
While saying that Keating's use of a Mafia reference was harsh, McGraw said she believes that it was needed to make a significant point.
"It is necessary for the cardinal to come forward and to begin to be transparent," she said, "to stop the chatter and begin to deliver the information and the facts we so desperately need."
While controversy continued to roil among the church's hierarchy, rank-and-file Catholics either didn't know about it or had vague knowledge of the dispute. But the broader issue of clergy sexual abuse was well known and troubling for them.
Father Stan Bosh, pastor of Our Lady of Victory in Compton, said that he senses a "profound disappointment" among his parishioners over the handling of the scandal, but this week's dispute, like the broader issue, "does not affect the daily life of our church."
"People in my church are poor, they are concerned about survival issues, our kids getting shot," he said. Recently, as a member of the archdiocese fundraising board for inner-city churches, he said he found himself having to assure skeptical donors that their money would go to parishes like his and not to clergy abuse settlements.
Nancy Norton, 36, a Loyola Marymount University student, said she has been disheartened by the scandal.
"People ask me all the time how I can still have faith and I tell them that my faith is between me and God, not between me and those people," she said. "I don't know what the latest thing is about, but I think all this coming out will eventually strengthen the church."
Times staff writer Richard Winton contributed to this report.
Bishops Gear Up to Confront Controversy Over Panelist
By Larry B. Stammer
As they prepare for a potentially contentious meeting next week, Roman Catholic bishops are trying to assess the public relations damage they would suffer if they were to take action against the head of their national sexual abuse review board.
In interviews Friday, bishops said that many of their number have been on the telephone to each other in the last few days, sizing up the controversy that faces them when the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops meets next week in St. Louis.
On Thursday, Los Angeles Cardinal Roger M. Mahony sharply criticized the head of the church's National Review Board, former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating. Mahony suggested that bishops should consider removing Keating from his job because of what Mahony called "off the wall" comments that Keating had made.
Mahony was particularly incensed by Keating's comparison of some Catholic bishops to "La Cosa Nostra."
Friday, some bishops said they were hoping to avoid a direct confrontation with Keating.
"I'd like to hear him say 'I'm sorry for what I said,' but I wouldn't be ready to cast him out," Bishop Joseph L. Imesch of Joliet, Ill., said Friday.
"I would hope the governor would say, 'I misspoke myself. I didn't mean what I said,' " Imesch said. "Otherwise I think the bishops are going to say, 'Wait a minute, we don't want to get beaten over the head. We want to cooperate and we don't need to have this pushed in our face all the time.' "
"People of good will have differences of opinions. You just don't have to say it in such harsh terms," he added.
So far, however, there is no sign that Keating plans to back away from the criticisms he voiced in an interview this week with The Times. Dan Mahoney, an aide to Keating, said that the former governor stands behind his remarks.
In the interview, Keating said that most bishops were cooperating with the review board. But he said that unnamed bishops were trying to impede his work. "To act like La Cosa Nostra and hide and suppress, I think, is very unhealthy. Eventually it will all come out," he said.
Mahony on Thursday called those remarks "the last straw" and said he did not see how Keating could continue to have the support of the bishops. The cardinal made clear he will raise the issue of Keating's performance at the bishops conference.
Several other bishops agreed that Keating's future will be a major topic of discussion when the bishops convene. "There's going to be a lot of discussion about it in St. Louis," said the Most Rev. Tod Brown, bishop of Orange.
California's Catholic bishops issued a joint statement Friday saying they regretted Keating's "unfortunate comments" but reaffirming their commitment to the protection of children and youth.
Other members of the church hierarchy said that although Keating's remarks are widely viewed among the bishops as intemperate, a direct confrontation would risk a serious public relations problem for the church. For the last year, Keating has been the public face of the bishops' effort to extract the church from the sexual abuse scandal that began nearly two years ago.
The review board, which Keating heads, is responsible for determining the extent of sexual abuse in the church, going back to the 1950s, and its causes. The board also is empowered to audit all 195 dioceses in the country to make certain they are complying with safeguards put in place last year by the bishops and later approved by the Vatican.
Keating was appointed to head the review board by Bishop Wilton D. Gregory of Belleville, Ill., chairman of the bishops conference.
Several bishops, including Mahony, have said they were not consulted before the appointment was made, remarks that suggest tension between Gregory and some of his fellow bishops.
While Keating heads the 13-member board, several of its members have joined in the criticism of his remarks.
When matters "degenerate to name-calling," there is "a problem," said Pamela D. Hayes, a New York attorney and member of the review board. Hayes said she is concerned that the exchanges between Keating and Mahony threaten the cooperation between the review board and the bishops. She focused her criticisms at Keating.
"Our focus here is to try and eradicate child sex abuse and make sure that children have a safe environment to practice their faith," Hayes said. "We've got people calling people mafia and La Cosa Nostra, and unfortunately that becomes the story. That's not the story That was a horrible choice of words I'm stunned."
Another board member, Justice Anne M. Burke of the Illinois Court of Appeals, said Friday that she disagreed with the suggestion that the bishops have resisted the board's work. She noted that she and two other board members, William R. Burleigh and Alice Bourke Hayes, met with about 25 bishops, canon lawyers and victim assistance officials from several dioceses last month to field questions.
The meeting "was very amicable," Burke said.
Times staff writers William Lobdell and Julie Tamaki contributed to this
Original material copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.