Mahony Resources – June 15–30, 2003
By Larry B. Stammer
The head of the Roman Catholic Church's U.S. sexual abuse oversight panel will resign his post, his spokesman said Saturday -- an ouster brought on by controversy that began last week when he publicly compared some Catholic bishops to "La Cosa Nostra."
The resignation of former Oklahoma Gov. Frank A. Keating as head of the church's National Review Board comes after his words were denounced as "off the wall" by Los Angeles Cardinal Roger M. Mahony and after a majority of members of the oversight panel privately called on him to quit.
During the year in which he has headed the board, Keating -- who is a former federal prosecutor -- has been the public face of the church's effort to reassure Catholics that the bishops are serious about confronting the scandal of priests sexually abusing children.
His strong stands made him a favorite of victims' advocates, but his penchant for vivid language rankled many of the bishops he served and some members of his board.
Even before the announcement of his departure, church officials had said his leaving office would threaten to revive questions among many Catholics about whether the bishops were willing to accept independent, outside oversight of their work. That was precisely the issue the bishops had sought to lay to rest when they appointed Keating and the other 12 members of the review board a year ago.
Keating's spokesman, Dan Mahoney, said the departure would come in the next few days, before the bishops convene in St. Louis for their semiannual national conference, at which they are scheduled to review how their year-old policies against sexual abuse are working.
Mahoney said Keating continued to stand behind his remarks. "He uses strong language to make a point. He tells the truth, and apparently some people don't want to hear the truth," Mahoney said.
He conceded that the timing was "awkward" but sought to portray Keating's resignation as a previously scheduled departure after a year on the job.
A prominent advocate for victims of sexual abuse didn't believe that explanation, however.
"Oh, my heavens," said David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests. "I'm absolutely stunned that a few blunt comments from a concerned, conservative Catholic layperson could be so harshly received by America's bishops.
"I think it casts enormous doubts on the credibility of the board and the bishops. From our perspective, the board's work has barely begun."
The 13 members of the review board are all prominent lay Catholics -- successful business executives, judges, lawyers and a former White House chief of staff.
The bishops charged them with several tasks, including determining how many priests have been implicated in sexual abuse in the last several decades and auditing how the nation's 195 dioceses are implementing the church's new safeguards.
The controversy over Keating began Thursday when, in an interview published in The Times, he said that although most bishops were cooperating with the review board, others -- whom he did not name -- were resisting. He then compared some of the bishops to the mafia.
"To act like La Cosa Nostra and hide and suppress, I think, is very unhealthy. Eventually it will all come out," he said.
At another point in the interview, he criticized Mahony by name, saying that the cardinal listened more to his lawyers than to his heart and that he was wrong to resist attempts by local prosecutors to obtain some confidential church personnel records.
Those statements brought an angry rejoinder from Mahony, who called them the "last straw" in a sometimes troubled relationship between bishops and their lay overseer.
A flurry of phone calls and e-mails followed among bishops and panel members as both sought to cope with the dispute.
Several members of the board confirmed Saturday, before Keating's announcement, that, in the days since his comments became public, they had urged him to give up his post.
Jane Chiles, former director of the Kentucky State Catholic Conference and a panel member, said there had been "a good deal of discussion among board members," and "Gov. Keating will be making his own decision with regard to his continued service on the review board."
"I don't want any rush to judgment as to what his decision is," she said, but she called his statements "unhelpful."
Other board members, speaking anonymously, were more blunt.
One said that several board members had informed Keating by telephone Friday that a majority on the panel believed he should resign.
That decision was reached quickly, another board member said. "Not surprisingly, in light of everything going on, it was not that difficult," the person said.
Another panel member, former E.W. Scripps Co. board Chairman William R. Burleigh, took note of the support that Bishop Wilton D. Gregory, the chairman of the bishops' conference, has given the board in the past year.
"Bishop Gregory has been a courageous man," he said. Gregory was the person who appointed Keating, and the resignation could be damaging to him.
Not all board members said they had joined the anti-Keating group. Ray H. Siegfried II, a business executive from Tulsa, Okla., said Saturday that he had been out of the country until Wednesday and was unaware of the details of the latest controversy. But he said he supported Keating.
"Frank is a wonderful, long-term Catholic and has nothing but the future of our children, your children and the church in mind," Siegfried said. "I would not support any member that called for his resignation or any way lessened his spokesmanship, or authority or power as chairman of our board.
"In this very critical time in our church, we need everybody to speak their mind and the truth of what they think is on their mind," he said.
Siegfried said, however, that board members had voiced concern to Keating in September about his frankness. At the time, Keating had made public statements critical of Cardinal Bernard Law, who later resigned as archbishop of Boston.
Times staff writer Julie Tamaki contributed to this report.
By Steve Lopez
Strip club attorney Roger Jon Diamond was on the radio last week, railing against a Los Angeles ordinance to protect us from lap dancing and related hanky-panky that spills onto neighborhood streets.
If we're worried about vice in the community, Diamond suggested on KPCC's Larry Mantle show, why aren't we clamping down on churches?
I thought it was a bit of a stretch, but the idea resonated for me as the week wore on. While I was interviewing strippers, whose candor was commendable, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony made headlines again for resisting full disclosure on sex abuse inquiries.
Let's start with the lap dancing.
The proposed ordinance, which calls for a 6-foot distance between dancers and clients, struck me as frivolous. This is Los Angeles, center of the porn industry, home of the Playboy Mansion, and international purveyor of celluloid sex and desire.
We're worried about a little lap dancing among consenting adults?
At a City Council hearing, one dancer said she has an 85-year-old client who likes to lie down with her and cuddle in a private VIP room at her San Fernando Valley club. When I told this to a friend who's a doctor, he said: "Shouldn't cuddling be a Medicare benefit?"
I went to the club but couldn't find the cuddler. Instead I found Bambi, who said there's no sex in her neck of the woods, and that the lap dancing ban would practically wipe out her income.
But at another club in the Valley, the majority of entertainers I talked to saw it differently.
Lap dancing can get out of control, they said, because some of the randier boys like bending the rules. And some dancers don't mind "doing a little extra," as one entertainer put it. All they've got to do is slip a bouncer some protection money to look the other way.
Dancers said prostitution goes on inside the club, which has private lairs, and outside as well. That makes it harder to compete for dancers who play it straight.
"It's a brothel in here," complained one performer, who said she's rooting for the lap dance ban.
She might not win friends for her honesty, but moments after leaving the stage of the burlesque house, she's giving us all a lesson in morality.
What this stripper is preaching, quite clearly, is that breaking the law and sweeping the evidence under the rug is not just immoral in God's eyes, but it taints all exotic dancers and undermines their institution in the long run.
It's a sermon I regret the good cardinal wasn't around to hear.
You may recall that at the height of the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church, Mahony offered himself up as the vicar and spiritual leader of the cleanup.
"We want every single thing to be out, open and dealt with, period," he said at the time.
And yet, as L.A. County prosecutors pressed their plea for personnel files on suspected molesters, Mahony told them: Sorry, that's top secret.
On the national scene, Mahony and other U.S. bishops congratulated themselves last year for finally acknowledging they needed to throw open the doors and root out the bad priests. They set up a National Review Board and invited members to have a look around.
You could have argued that the fix was in when they picked an unabashedly devout Catholic, former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating, to peek behind the curtain. But Keating was nobody's stooge.
Keating told The Times' Larry Stammer that dealing with the bishops is like dealing with La Cosa Nostra. According to the ex-Gov., Mahony tried to head off a drive to determine how many molestations have been reported to church officials nationwide.
Keating called the resistance of bishops stunning and startling, and said he encountered "an underside" of the church "that I never knew existed."
Mahony, as you might have heard, isn't one to turn the other cheek.
The survey was flawed, he cried with indignation, calling Keating "off the wall," and questioning his fitness to serve on the review board. Then some weak-kneed board members caved, called Keating's tantrum inappropriate and ill-timed, and gunned for his ouster. Saturday night, Keating's spokesman said the former governor would quit.
For years, the church has needed someone to stand up and scream about a cover-up that continues to this day. He finally surfaces, and the bishops put together a hit squad.
Keating was right. Don Corleone would have been impressed. But Keating was wrong about another observation. He said the problem with Mahony is that he listens to his lawyers instead of his heart.
He doesn't listen to anyone.
I was dead wrong last year when I said, during one of the cardinal's spin jobs, that he should have gone into public relations.
The church would have been on its way to recovery if Mahony had gotten everything out in the open from the start. By holding back, he's dragged out the scandal, demoralized clergy and torpedoed his standing as a spokesman for social justice.
Now victims of abuse by priests are urging parishioners to ignore the basket this Sunday, and instead donate their money to charities.
That shouldn't surprise anyone. As the enlightened stripper reminded us, anything less than the truth can cost you in the end, and I don't think they were just talking about commerce.
On Judgment Day, we'll all stand naked before the Maker.
WASHINGTON (June 16, 2003) -- In a letter to Belleville Bishop Wilton D. Gregory, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating resigned from the National Review Board which he chairs. Governor Keating, who now heads the American Council of Life Insurers, indicated that his resignation is effective immediately.
The texts of the letter from Governor Keating to Bishop Gregory and Bishop Gregory's response follow:
Dear Bishop Gregory:
As I have shared with you over the last two months, I intended to relinquish my chairmanship of the National Catholic Review Board on the first year anniversary of the creation of the Board. That time is this week.
During the last year, we accomplished much. Under your leadership and with the bishops' own mandate, we have begun the causes and context, scope and audit processes. The audit is the most significant. Never again will any bishop be able to hide or avoid the scandal of sex abuse in his diocese. As a former FBI agent and U.S. Attorney, I am convinced that pouring law enforcement and audit resources annually into each diocese will reclaim Catholic lay confidence. All of us can be assured of zero tolerance, transparency and criminal referral because outsiders will make sure that that is the case. We also created the Office of Child and Youth Protection, headed by a law enforcement professional. Our message was clear. Sex abuse is not just a moral lapse. It is a crime that should be fully prosecuted.
As I have recently said, and have repeated on several occasions, our Church is a Faith institution. A home to Christ's people. It is not a criminal enterprise. It does not condone and cover up criminal activity. It does not follow a code of silence. My remarks, which some bishops found offensive, were deadly accurate. I make no apology. To resist grand jury subpoenas, to suppress the names of offending clerics, to deny, to obfuscate, to explain away; that is the model of a criminal organization, not my church.
The humiliation, the horrors of the sex scandal must be a poisonous aberration, a black page in our history that cannot ever recur. It has been disastrous to the Church in America.
Most of America's bishops are fully supportive of the Board's efforts. They have led and led well and have stood up for virtue. Your own leadership has been extraordinary and courageous. You are a model of the Good Shepherd.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve our Faith. Frequently, it was an agony, but with humility and a devotion to the simple truths of the New Testament, good will always prevail.
Dear Governor Keating,
I have received your letter in which you offer your resignation as chairman and as a member of the National Review Board. I accept your resignation with an awareness of the enormous contribution you have made to the Church in the United States and to the Board as its first Chairman.
A little over a year ago the Bishops passed the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in which we recognize the necessity of having significant lay participation in assessing whether we are living up to what we pledge in the Charter. I will always be grateful to you for your immediate and generous willingness to contribute to this unprecedented endeavor.
Both as a devout Catholic and as a governor who met the challenge of leading his state through the tragedy of a devastating act of domestic terrorism, you struck me as having the qualities needed to take on the task that I gave to you. Your work this past year only served to confirm my early intuition.
Because the task you took on was unprecedented and had to be carried out in an intense environment which gives rise to strong emotions under the close observation of the media, there were bound to be moments of difficulty. At such times I found you open and responsive to my assessments of the situation.
The Board's contribution to resolving the sexual abuse crisis depends on its willingness to offer an honest appraisal of the steps being taken by the Bishops to protect children and young people. I know it was in this spirit that you sought to lead the Board during its first year, and I am sure it will continue in this fashion.
With heartfelt gratitude for your contribution and with prayers and best wishes for you and your family, I am
Sincerely yours in the Lord,
By Richard Fausset and Nicholas Riccardi
American Roman Catholics on Sunday offered starkly differing reactions to former Oklahoma Gov. Frank A. Keating's announcement that he would step down as head of the U.S. sexual abuse oversight panel after publicly blasting some bishops for what he said was their failure to cooperate.
A Keating aide announced late Saturday that Keating would resign from the church's National Review Board.
While critics of the outspoken former federal prosecutor cheered, some victims' advocates said they fear it was a signal that the church is not interested in getting to the bottom of the abuse scandal.
Richard Sipe, a former Benedictine monk who is an expert on sexual abuse in the church, criticized church officials such as Los Angeles Cardinal Roger M. Mahony for pressuring the former federal prosecutor to step down from the board after Keating compared uncooperative bishops to "La Cosa Nostra."
Sipe likened the situation to the "Saturday Night Massacre" during the Watergate investigation, when President Nixon fired the special prosecutor who was directing the probe of the scandal.
"Keating was speaking truth to power — that part of the church cannot accept the truth," Sipe said. "I think it's going to boomerang just as Nixon's defense boomeranged on him."
But others, like 78-year-old San Diego churchgoer Ann Hall, said Keating's scathing quips showed he was out of touch with the church mainstream that still respects its ordained hierarchy.
"I say thanks be to the Almighty," Hall said Sunday. "We've all been very disturbed by the abuse scandal but to me, [Keating] is rather insensitive to his environment, somehow."
A number of church experts said Keating's departure could give the perception that bishops were unduly meddling in the work of the National Review Board, a 13-member group of prominent Catholic laypeople convened by U.S. bishops last June to catalog instances of abuse and local dioceses' efforts to deal with the problem.
Some experts also agreed that Keating fumbled the delicate task of mollifying victims and critics within the hermetic and conservative framework of the Roman Catholic Church.
Father Thomas Reese, editor of the Jesuit-run magazine America, praised Keating for quickly establishing his independence from church leadership. But Keating's comments, he said, "are not part of the culture of American bishops. They're always very polite and gentlemanly toward one another."
Reese said Keating's confrontational statements may have also alienated other board members — a majority of whom reportedly called on Keating to quit. "I'm sad to see him go," Reese said. "It's too bad he couldn't control his mouth."
Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, a Maryland-based national Catholic ministry for gays, lesbians and others, also criticized Keating's "Cosa Nostra" remark.
"He probably could have gotten his point across in a more tactful way and a more sensitive way, not only to the bishops but to Italian Americans as well," DeBernardo said.
DeBernardo cautioned the bishops, however, to expect criticism from whoever succeeds Keating.
"I would hope the next person that is chosen is someone who can speak responsibly, truthfully and forcefully to the bishops to get them to listen," he said. "Otherwise, the little credibility that the bishops retain on the sexual abuse crisis will go right down the drain."
Keating, a devout Catholic, earned a reputation for blunt, off-the-cuff comments in his two terms as Oklahoma governor. He and some bishops began butting heads soon after his appointment to the review board by the Most Rev. Wilton D. Gregory, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Those tensions escalated after an interview with The Times last week in which Keating compared some unnamed bishops with Mafia members, saying they were complicating the board's work.
He also criticized Mahony for resisting prosecutors' attempts to obtain some of the church's personnel records — criticism that was welcomed by Los Angeles Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley.
Cardinal Mahony lashed back, calling Keating's statements "off the wall" and questioning whether the bishops should continue supporting him.
On Saturday, Keating's aide, Dan Mahoney, said Keating will announce his resignation this week. On Sunday, Mahoney said Keating might not make the move effective until September, after the board's surveys on the extent of sexual abuse in the priesthood are further along. Mahoney said Keating was still deliberating the details Sunday with Gregory.
A spokesman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops could not be reached for comment Sunday.
Though Keating has lost the support of some of the review board, member Ray H. Siegfried said Sunday that he would urge Keating to reconsider his decision to step down.
"Just because somebody is irritated about what Frank said is not a reason in my view to have him depart, because this is not a controversy," Siegfried said in a phone interview from his home in Tulsa, Okla.
Sexual abuse "is an actuality. It is what has happened, and Frank didn't do it," he said. "Frank and the rest of the board were not guilty of the sins of the child abusers, so why should we suffer any punishment for doing what we've been asked [by the bishops] to do?"
In a prepared statement Sunday, Cardinal Mahony said the Catholic community "must remain focused on continuing to implement the U.S. bishops' Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People."
"Nothing should distract us from our most urgent goal: the protection of all of our people, especially our children, from the sin and crime of sexual abuse," he added. He did not mention the controversy surrounding Keating.
In downtown Los Angeles on Sunday, a number of parishioners attending Sunday Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels said they were unaware of the developments. But a handful of black-clad victims' advocates were also on hand, protesting the church's handling of the scandal in a silent vigil on the sidewalk outside.
Mary Grant, regional director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused By Priests, said Keating's departure isn't as much of a blow to their efforts as it is a sign of how flawed the review system is, because they believed early on that Keating wasn't strong enough in condemning what they called the bishops' "stonewalling."
"How can you trust a review board appointed by the bishops that started the problem to begin with?" Grant asked.
Times staff writers Larry B. Stammer and Daniel Hernandez contributed to this report.
By Ron Russell
California's two most powerful Roman Catholic leaders are longtime close friends who attended the same Ventura County seminary in the 1960s and who at different times have assumed a lead role as presumed reformers in the wake of the worst crisis to afflict the church in more than a century.
But as the clergy sex-abuse scandal has burgeoned in their jurisdictions, San Francisco Archbishop William J. Levada and Los Angeles Cardinal Roger M. Mahony have also shared something else: prosecutors breathing down their necks.
[Photo Caption - Stonewalling: Despite preaching openness, Archbishop Levada continues to rebuff victims and law enforcement.]
Levada was hit with a request from San Francisco District Attorney Terence Hallinan in April 2002 to turn over documents related to potential cases of priestly sex abuse in the archdiocese going back as far as 75 years. The archbishop's underlings grumbled and even the Chronicle castigated Hallinan in an editorial for engaging in a fishing expedition.
As has since become apparent, however, Levada quietly began to clean house following Hallinan's edict, jettisoning at least seven of his accused priests, including several prominent ones. Some were bumped into retirement while others were abruptly placed on leaves of absence.
But more than a year after the Hallinan order -- and despite the archbishop's pronouncements that he is fully cooperating with law enforcement authorities -- Levada and the archdiocese have yet to surrender all of the documents to which the district attorney's office insists it is entitled. Now, after several months of fruitless coaxing, the DA's Office is preparing to serve the archdiocese with subpoenas to force Levada to give it what it wants, Assistant District Attorney Elliot Beckelman tells SF Weekly.
"Their first inclination seems to be to protect their own," says Beckelman, the prosecutor assigned by Hallinan to investigate clergy abuse cases. "From what we can see they've created a garrison around the archdiocese rather than trying to reach out to victims." Specifically, he says, the DA is seeking personnel files and medical records for 12 priests, including at least one in active ministry. Such records are potentially sensitive, since they may reveal what a bishop knew about any past misconduct involving a priest and what was done about it.
The archdiocese turned over an unspecified number of documents contained in "several boxes" to the DA's Office last year. Prosecutors have declined to be specific about their contents. Since those records were surrendered, Hallinan's office has filed criminal charges against two priests and a lay Catholic minister. One of them, Monsignor John Heaney, the former San Francisco Police Department chaplain, is among those Levada jettisoned. Heaney, who is accused of molesting two brothers more than 40 years ago, has proclaimed his innocence.
In Mahony's case, the stakes are potentially staggering.
More than 100 of his current or former priests are or have been under investigation. So far nine have been indicted, and law enforcement sources tell SF Weekly that criminal charges are expected to be brought against at least 12 others in coming months.
Moreover, Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley, a devout Roman Catholic, has dropped not-so-veiled hints that his prosecutorial interest rests as much with the cardinal as with garden-variety priests. Although more than 400 priests nationwide have been removed from active ministry and dozens have been charged with crimes, no American church leader has been prosecuted in connection with the sex scandal since it erupted in 2001.
More than once, Cooley has pointedly refused to rule out Mahony as the target of an investigation, saying that "nobody is above the law" and he will pursue wrongdoing "wherever it leads." Such remarks have fueled speculation that prosecutors may be looking at the pattern of priestly sex abuse in the sprawling archdiocese and Mahony's involvement in harboring accused priests, with the intent of exploring whether the cardinal may have conspired to obstruct justice or aided and abetted child endangerment.
Whether prosecutors anywhere in California are able to convict a wholesale number of priests may depend on the outcome of a case before the U.S. Supreme Court challenging the validity of a 1994 California law that permits charges to be brought for certain crimes long after statutes of limitation have expired under previous law. The case stems from the 1998 arrest of a former Contra Costa County man, Marion Reynolds Stogner, who was accused of molesting one of his daughters more than 40 years ago. A ruling in the case is considered imminent.
Prior to last year's U.S. bishops' conference in Dallas, Mahony belatedly dumped 17 clerics, including several who were close friends and whom he continued to transfer to various assignments despite his having known of their alleged sexual abuse for years. One of them, Father Michael Wempe, was serving as a chaplain at L.A.'s prestigious Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where Mahony assigned him after psychosexual treatment. Mahony was the star guest at a luncheon in Wempe's honor barely two years before letting him go.
Another of the priests Mahony ordered into treatment, Father Carl Sutphin, was associate pastor of L.A.'s Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral and among only a handful of clerics privileged to live with the cardinal in Mahony's residential compound until he was pushed out. In another notorious case, former priest Michael Baker confessed to Mahony about molesting children in 1986 but was allowed back into the fold. He is accused of molesting numerous other children for more than a decade before finally being defrocked in 2000. It was later revealed that Mahony authorized a secret $1.3 million payment to the families of some of Baker's victims in return for an agreement not to sue.
In contrast to San Francisco, where Beckelman is the lone assistant DA assigned to priestly sex-abuse cases, Cooley has assigned the L.A. investigation to a 12-member sex crimes task force, whose members have chipped away at the clergy abuse mess while continuing to handle other cases. William Hodgman, a respected career prosecutor who convicted former Lincoln Savings & Loan kingpin Charles Keating and oversaw the O.J. Simpson murder trial, heads the task force.
Cooley has twice turned to a grand jury to subpoena sensitive church documents, with Mahony resisting each time. A judge is expected to decide soon whether law enforcement authorities will be allowed to view some 3,000 documents related to 31 priests that -- although surrendered months ago -- remain under seal while the archdiocese's lawyers fight to keep them secret.
By David Stout
WASHINGTON, June 26 — The Supreme Court dealt a serious defeat today to prosecutors who pursue suspects accused of molesting children, ruling 5 to 4 that the government cannot erase statutes of limitations retroactively.
The decision struck down a California law that allowed for prosecutions of people accused of committing sex crimes years before. The state enacted the law several years ago to make it possible to prosecute people accused of committing such crimes against children years, even decades, earlier.
But the court said today that the United States Constitution bars states from reviving legal deadlines that have already expired. Those deadlines, or statutes of limitations, vary by crime and from state to state. The most serious crimes have the longest statutes of limitations, and murder has none.
"We believe that this retroactive application of a later-enacted law is unfair," Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote for the majority in the case of Marion Stogner, who was charged in 1998 with having molested his children almost a half-century before. Justices John Paul Stevens, Sandra Day O'Connor, David H. Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg agreed with him.
The case has been closely watched because of its implications in prosecuting priests accused of child-molesting years in the past. But it will have repercussions in prosecuting many other kinds of crimes, and it may affect laws across the country.
Until the mid-1990's, sex crimes were like most other criminal offenses under California law and could not be prosecuted after three years had elapsed.
But concerned that the inability of young victims of sex crimes to come forward promptly was permitting their tormentors to escape prosecution, the California Legislature extended the statute of limitations for sex crimes against children.
Under the law voided by the justices today, a prosecution could be brought at any time, as long as less than a year had passed since an adult gave evidence to the authorities of having been the victim of a serious sexual offense before the age of 18.
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy dissented, declaring that California ought to be able to punish serious sex offenses against children. Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas agreed with him.
Mr. Stogner's two adult daughters told the police that he had molested them from 1955 to 1973. They made the accusations to police officers who were investigating accusations of child abuse elsewhere in the extended family.
The California Supreme Court upheld the state law in 1999. Mr. Stogner's lawyers attacked his prosecution on Constitutional grounds, and he had not gone to trial. The high court's ruling today may have made it impossible for prosecutors to try him.
The Constitution bars Congress and the states from enacting laws that make an act criminal in retrospect, or ex post facto. A 1798 ruling by the Supreme Court interpreted that prohibition in a way still regarded as definitive.
The court declared in that 1978 ruling, Calder v. Bull, that legislators could not criminalize an act that was not a crime when it was committed; could not "aggravate" a crime, or make it more serious than it was when committed; could not make the punishment greater than it was when the crime was committed, and could not alter the legal rules of evidence to make it easier for the government to obtain a conviction.
But how does reviving an expired statute of limitations fit into that framework, if it does? That is a question the high court was wrestling with since arguments were heard in the Stogner case on March 31.
Justice Ginsburg was clearly uneasy over the retroactivity, observing during the arguments that "it would also apply to pickpocketing."
Supporters of the California law have maintained that crimes against children are in a special category, and that the state was recognizing its "compelling interest" in protecting them, as several child-protection groups wrote in a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the state.
A longer statute of limitations is entirely appropriate for crimes in which the victims often wait years to tell of the wrongs committed against them, the brief said, asserting that the law "prevents offenders from escaping prosecution based solely on the fact that their victims may be shamed, intimidated or otherwise prevented from reporting abuse until well into adulthood."
On the other hand, criminal defense lawyers have argued that if laws like California's are allowed to stand, they could cause a profound loss of faith in the criminal justice system.
"Although understanding whether one has committed offenses such as child molestation or robbery is usually (but not always) fairly clear cut, people are often quite uncertain whether they have committed other crimes," the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and California Attorneys for Criminal Justice asserted in a friend-of-the-court brief.
"Given the morass of environmental and tax laws, for instance, many business people depend on limitations periods for peace of mind regarding past conduct and in planning for the future."
By Steve Lopez
I don't know how many rosaries were said by bishops and cardinals praying for someone to get them off the hook, but the U.S. Supreme Court has risen to the call.
Hundreds of child molesters could be released from prison because of a ruling Thursday by the Supremes, but it was an even luckier day for leaders of the Roman Catholic Church.
Take the case of Los Angeles Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, who had held on for dear life to files demanded by child abuse investigators. Now he's got a little breathing room, just as prosecutors were prepared to charge another 10 priests with abuse.
The high court struck down California's 1994 extension of the statute of limitations, which allowed the prosecution of old cases. The high court apparently believes a child, no matter how young or psychologically intimidated by an abuser, ought to get on the horn and call the cops.
As Lee Bashforth of Orange County knows, it doesn't work that way.
His parents were divorced, and when he was 7, Bashforth's mother thought he should spend time with a father figure. Unfortunately, she chose the Catholic priest who was practically a part of the family. Mom obviously had no idea what kind of guidance her son was getting on weekend sleepovers with Father Michael Wempe.
"I would stay in his bed with him in the rectory with the complete knowledge of the monsignor there," says Lee Bashforth, now 33 and a financial planner.
Molestation victims are routinely coached and frightened into silence. It wasn't until almost two years ago that Bashforth and his older brother, another alleged victim, began dealing with repressed memories and telling investigators about it.
A week ago, Wempe's past finally caught up with him. He was arrested and charged with 42 counts of molestation involving Bashforth and his brother, along with three other victims, in the 1970s and 1980s.
Now, thanks to the get-out-of-jail-free card handed him by the Supreme Court, Wempe will walk. And Bashforth feels as though he's been abused again — this time by defenders of justice at the highest level.
"I got a call from my attorney, and I was absolutely floored," says Bashforth.
"The Supreme Court ruling betrays every victim of sexual abuse in this country. It basically said it doesn't understand the concept of repressed memory, whether it's repression or the sheer humiliation that keeps you locked in silence for years."
Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley said he understood the argument that California's retroactive extension of the statute of limitations could be seen as unfair. But the reason for it, he said, was that so many minors never got justice, partly because of stonewalling by the likes of church officials. That meant the perps were still out there, trolling for new victims.
"The whole intent was to give some recourse in light of what we now know was decades of intentional cover-up," said Cooley. "There was no one taking the side of the victims, and there were people who could have and should have. There's been a huge moral failing for years."
Cooley said that of the 200 L.A. County sex-abuse cases that could be dropped because of Thursday's ruling, priests account for a small percentage of the molesters. But those cases have disproportionately eaten up investigators' time because of the church's refusal to cooperate.
The church's files on Wempe, for instance, were withheld from a Los Angeles County Grand Jury, delaying the arrest of the priest. But it's no surprise Cardinal Mahony wanted to keep that particular file under lock and key.
When the scandal boiled over last year, Mahony's glasses steamed up to the point where he admitted he knew of child-abuse allegations against Wempe. Once Wempe had completed a drive-through inspection at one of the church's reliable "treatment" facilities, Mahony sent him to be chaplain at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, and Wempe lived at a parish house near a school.
When your judgment as spiritual leader of the largest diocese in the country gets that bad, the only honorable things to do are to ask forgiveness and then quickly fill out the retirement forms. But Mahony's vainglory delivers him beyond shame, and Thursday's developments in Washington, D.C., can only embolden him.
Don't look for Bashforth to abandon his quest for justice, though. He said that although he feels betrayed by the Supreme Court ruling, it doesn't affect the lawsuit he filed against Wempe and the L.A. Archdiocese.
"For what Wempe did," Bashforth said, "Roger Mahony and the Los Angeles Archdiocese have culpability and ought to be held accountable in some way."
I asked Bashforth whether he still finds comfort in a church that, for many, is bigger than the sins of the few.
"I haven't been able to go into a church and don't know that I ever will be able to," he said. "My faith is one of the many casualties of all this."
By Jean Guccione and Richard Winton
Before shuffling off to prison last fall to begin serving a life sentence for molesting his children decades earlier, retired schoolteacher Albert Rosen, 76, apologized for any harm he had done to his son and daughter.
Now the former Ventura County school board member, as well as hundreds of other convicted child molesters, will probably be released from prison after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a law Thursday that allowed prosecutors to file cases even after legal deadlines had passed.
Although the decision will have the most visible impact on the ongoing prosecution of Roman Catholic priests accused of molesting children, clerics make up only a small portion of those prosecuted in the state since the law was retroactively changed in 1994.
In the years since, as many as 800 people statewide, including teachers, priests, a bus driver and even an Orange County judge, have been charged and prosecuted for molesting children decades earlier. The old cases have been difficult to build, requiring police officers and prosecutors to ask potential witnesses to recall memories often decades old, with corroborating evidence often hard to come by.
But convictions have been won. No one knows for sure how many are imprisoned in such cases. The victims range from young children to teenagers.
In some instances, the abusers admitted their actions — although the Supreme Court ruling makes moot the cases even of confessed molesters who were not prosecuted within the period allowed by the statute of limitations in effect at the time of their crimes.
In most cases, the alleged crimes are eerily similar — an adult gains a child's trust and commits abuse. In coming weeks, prosecutors throughout the state will have to determine which pending cases should be dismissed and which of hundreds of convictions should be overturned.
The ruling comes too late for one former priest sought on allegations of abuse. Siegfried F. Widera plunged to his death from a balcony last month as U.S. authorities closed in on him in Mexico. He was being sought on 42 molestation counts involving boys in Wisconsin and Orange County in the 1970s and 1980s.
Mexican authorities said Widera, 62, committed suicide by jumping from a hotel window as they tried to arrest him on the U.S. warrant. Yet, with the new ruling, the charges against Widera would probably have been thrown out, leaving him to face only allegations that he fled to avoid prosecution.
Another high-profile case — against former Orange County Superior Court Judge Ronald C. Kline, who was accused of molesting a 14-year-old boy more than two decades ago — will probably be dropped, legal authorities said Thursday.
For Kline, the latest development is the second round of good news this month. Two weeks ago, a federal judge threw out most of the evidence in a separate child pornography case pending against him.
Kline's attorney in both cases, Paul S. Meyer, praised the Supreme Court decision, saying it "confirmed the rule of law" and "was in line with our earlier motion to dismiss."
Assistant Dist. Atty. Rosanne Froeberg, who heads the Orange County office's sex crimes unit, said prosecutors for Kline's and all the other cases are being asked to set court dates as soon as possible to deal with the decision. "Though we are disappointed by the ruling, we will, of course, be abiding by it," she said.
The next step for Froe- berg's unit will be more difficult. The prosecutors are combing through a database to find convicted defendants affected by the ruling. She expects the names on that list to be fewer than two dozen, and hopes to have it completed within a week.
More than a dozen prosecutions of alleged sex crimes in San Bernardino County could be dropped, including the well-publicized case against Father Peter Luque, said Chief Deputy Dist. Atty. John Kochis.
Luque, 68, is charged with sexually abusing a 16-year-old boy in 1966 in San Bernardino. He faces 10 additional charges of molesting a teenage boy in 1967 and 1969 in Colton.
The priest resigned in March as pastor of the 6,700-family St. Edward Catholic Church in Corona.
"We are discussing the implications now," Kochis said. "In the last two years, we have convicted several people under this statute. Absent that statute, we would not be able to continue with these active cases."
Just last week, Michael Wempe, 63, was arrested in Seal Beach for allegedly molesting five boys between 1977 and 1986.
Wempe, who was on the way to a golf course at the time of his arrest, was charged Monday with 42 counts and held in lieu of $2-million bail. A judge ordered his release on his own recognizance Thursday.
Two brothers accused him in a civil lawsuit of molesting them when they were 8 and 12, after the priest was assigned to St. Jude Church in Westlake Village in 1974. A third person also sued Wempe alleging molestation in the 1970s.
As with the cases involving priests, others accused and convicted had played trusted roles in society.
Former elementary school teacher Paul Alphonse Kreutzer has maintained his innocence, even after pleading no contest to molesting 10 girls between 1968 and 1996 at Catholic schools in the San Fernando Valley. He is now in state prison, and otherwise would be ineligible for parole for 19 years.
"We're thrilled," said his lawyer, Rose Reglos. "I think it's the right decision."
Many of his accusers, women now in their 30s and 40s, had been students of Kreutzer at parochial schools throughout Los Angeles County. The list included two sisters from Vietnam who had lived for years with Kreutzer and saw him as their father.
The case was tough, Reglos said, precisely because of the time that had passed. Memories had faded. Witnesses had died. Others had moved away.
"I was cross-examining 40-year-olds about something that happened when they were 8 or 10 years old," she said. "There's such a disadvantage there for us It's very difficult to find out what the full truth is."
Kreutzer pleaded no contest to 15 counts of molestation involving the 10 girls to spare the Vietnamese sisters from having to testify against him at trial, Reglos said.
James P. Carr, an attorney who represents several of the accusers, said his clients had felt more comfortable knowing the former teacher would probably spend the rest of his life in prison.
"As a citizen I certainly believe that's where he belongs," Carr said.
Albert Rosen, a Simi Valley resident, was convicted of nine charges of molesting his children between 1966 and 1970 and ordered to serve one year to life in prison for each count. He resigned from the school board after his conviction.
"I think it is very sad for Mr. Rosen and his family and friends that he had to go through all this for something that was so obviously unconstitutional," said Ventura attorney Wendy Lascher, who represents Rosen.
"I think that was one of the most offensive laws that the California Legislature ever passed."
But for Kathleen Noble, whose father is serving time in state prison for abusing her and her sisters decades earlier when they were children, Thursday's ruling seemed unjust.
"They should have ruled on the morality of it," she said. "Sometime today or tomorrow my father is going to be let out, and I believe that is wrong. Crimes of the past, no matter what they may be, should not be forgotten."
Times staff writers Christine Hanley, Scott Martelle, Jocelyn Y. Stewart, Lance Pugmire, Tracy Wilson and Megan Garvey contributed to this report.
By Tracy Wilson and Megan Garvey
It was 2:26 a.m., and Lawrence Lovell was one of the first out. The 55-year defrocked priest awaiting trial on charges of molesting four altar boys at the historic San Gabriel Mission left Los Angeles County Jail after less than a week behind bars.
Twelve hours later, Michael Wempe left his jail cell with a smile on his face. The 63-year-old retired priest, whose bail had been set two weeks ago at $2 million, had been charged with molesting five boys 20 years ago.
Both men have denied the charges against them. At hearings next week, their cases are likely to be dismissed, prosecutors say.
And so it went Friday, as prosecutors, defense attorneys and the state attorney general's office scrambled to come to grips with the repercussions of a U.S. Supreme Court decision invalidating a California law that had allowed decades-old child molestation cases to be prosecuted.
Lovell and Wempe are among hundreds of people — some convicted, some confessed, some still awaiting trial — who will be released from jails and prisons across California or whose cases will be dropped as a result of Thursday's decision.
The five justices in the high court majority ruled that California had violated the Constitution's ban on ex post facto — after the fact — laws when the Legislature decided to change the time limit for bringing criminal charges in child sex-abuse cases and made the new limit retroactive to cover long-ago cases.
For many prosecutors, victims' advocates and police, the court's decision was hard to take.
The affected cases all involve not just allegations of abuse, but strong corroborating evidence, which was required under the 1994 law that the high court struck down.
"These are cases where almost always the perpetrator admitted the abuse in either direct interviews with investigators or the victims played a role in gathering evidence, making phone calls or meeting with the person while they were wired," said Kevin Murphy, a sex crimes prosecutor in Alameda County.
Friday morning, Murphy dismissed the case against Stephen Kiesle, a former priest who had told investigators that he molested a number of children three decades ago.
Kiesle had served time in the late 1970s in a separate child molestation case.
In Santa Clara County, Assistant Dist. Atty. Chuck Willingham spent long hours after the ruling, calling victims to let them know the outcome. About 100 cases in his county will be affected.
"I'm sorry," he told nearly a dozen men and women with whom he had worked to build strong cases. "This is terrible, and there's really nothing we can do about it."
The response, Willingham said, has been "anger, disdain, confusion, a lacking of understanding as to how this could have possibly happened, resignation to outrage. These are not easy conversations to be a part of."
Willingham mentioned one case involving a husband and wife convicted on multiple counts of molesting children. A sentencing hearing had been scheduled for them for next week and they faced life in prison. Instead, they will be released.
"The reality is, they won the child sexual predator lottery yesterday," Willingham said. "They won the jackpot." He also noted that, with their convictions overturned, those getting out of jail will not be required to register as sex offenders.
"You're scot-free," he said. "Thank you very much."
But Kay Duffy, attorney for Father Carl Sutphin, 71, who is charged with 14 counts of molestation, disputed that evaluation.
Her client may no longer face prison as a result of the court ruling, but his life has been turned upside down by being publicly labeled a child molester, she said.
"I don't think anybody is walking away from this thinking they got away with something," Duffy said.
"These people have been tried and convicted in the press already and they still have to live with that stigma for the rest of their lives."
Sutphin's lawyers have agreed to wait until after his alleged victims are contacted before seeking dismissal of the charges against him.
Ventura County Chief Deputy Dist. Atty. Michael Frawley, who has been part of the prosecution effort against Sutphin, sighed as he talked about the slow and painstaking process now facing prosecutors.
"Here's our problem," Frawley said. "Not only is there a lot to do, but there is a great deal of disappointment walking the halls here. A lot of people put in a lot of effort to make those cases happen."
His prosecutors have not yet dismissed any cases but they have identified at least 20 that are likely to be overturned as a result of the decision.
The case against Father Fidencio Silva, 53, is one example.
Silva, a Catholic priest who from 1978 until 1986 ran the altar boy program at a church in Oxnard, was charged with 25 counts of child molestation in March, after a yearlong investigation.
Frawley, a supervisor on the case, said 12 to 14 alleged victims had been interviewed.
The process was emotional and time-consuming and, now, for naught.
California Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer sent a letter Friday to all district attorneys across the state, advising them to act quickly to comply with the court's decision. "Immediate motions for dismissal in the interest of justice would be appropriate," the letter said.
But Lockyer's office is taking the position that crimes that occurred between Jan. 1, 1988, and Jan. 1, 1994, are still prosecutable, according to Robert Anderson, chief assistant attorney general. That's because the statute of limitations for some sex crimes against children had been six years. For others, it had been three years.
Crimes that occurred after 1994 were not affected by the Supreme Court's decision.
Los Angeles Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley has estimated that at least 200 cases in the county may be affected by the ruling. But determining which cases are still viable is a slow process, officials said.
In San Mateo County, Deputy Dist. Atty. Rick Good said having to call the victims was even more upsetting than the news of the ruling.
On Thursday, Good phoned a woman who had been sexually abused in the 1970s, when she was 13 years old, by Ramiro Jack Long, a Redwood City karate teacher. Good told her that Long, convicted by a jury and expected to serve at least 16 years, would instead be released.
"She was devastated," Good said.
The victim, now in her 40s, told Good she feared that Long might now come after her. She wanted to know when he would be released, saying that she planned to move.
Many alleged victims risked a lot by coming forward to testify, said San Bernardino County District Atty. Michael Ramos.
"That's the saddest part of this whole decision, but we will do our best to understand what this fully means and then gently give the news that these people will no longer be held responsible," Ramos said.
"We're calling them and we're trying to keep their spirits up, but we're being very blunt with them. It doesn't appear that they're going to be able to achieve closure with law enforcement and justice. It's been taken away," said Elliot Beckelman, assistant district attorney in San Francisco.
Frawley said his Ventura County prosecutors will continue to reassure people who went to police with allegations of abuse that their efforts made a difference.
"We'll tell them that they definitely did the right thing in coming forward," he said.
"It exposed a huge problem out there, and it served to educate the public about what a dirty secret this is."
Times staff writers Steve Berry, Li Fellers, Jean Guccione, Hilda Muñoz and Lance Pugmire contributed to this report.
Original material copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.