Archbishop Feisty in Taped Deposition
By J. Michael Parker
San Antonio Express [San Antonio TX]
September 4, 2003
Archbishop Patrick Flores brushed aside complaints that he hasn't read a lawsuit making allegations of sex abuse against a priest, saying he might read it after he retires, and then got visibly angry during a deposition videotaped in August.
A transcript of the deposition was released Wednesday by Douglas Sutter, attorney for Jerrilynn Marie White. The former parish secretary is suing the Archdiocese of San Antonio in federal court and the archdiocese and Flores in state court over allegations that he publicized her confidential charges against Father Michael Kenny, forcing her to quit her job.
Kenny, then a priest in San Antonio, told Flores about his sexual relationships in 2000, and the archbishop suspended him from priestly ministry. Kenny has since moved to London; he no longer serves as a priest.
Flores has denied White's allegations, saying he didn't talk about her claims against Kenny until after she did.
During the Aug. 11 deposition, Sutter asked Flores why he didn't inquire about the other women with whom Kenny was involved so the women could be offered assistance.
Flores said that hadn't occurred to him. He added that he delegates responsibility to staff members and can't be on duty "100 percent of the time."
Nevertheless, Flores repeated that sexual abuse allegations will be taken seriously and investigated promptly.
Asked how he can say he takes the policy seriously when he didn't read what White wrote, the archbishop told Sutter, "Well, we just simply pray and hope."
Sutter asked when Flores would read the petition.
"Maybe when I retire in a year from now," the 74-year-old prelate said.
Flores was testy at several points during the five-hour deposition. He told his own attorney, Ron Mendoza, he found Sutter's questions "out of whack." Then he told Sutter: "I'm not here to educate you" on points of church procedures.
Flores also flung a handful of papers down on his desk and said he was tired of Sutter's questioning.
Mendoza, who represents the archdiocese in the two cases, instructed Flores not to answer many of Sutter's questions when they seemed repetitive or related to allegations against other priests.
When Sutter noted that a judge has authority to compel him to answer questions, the archbishop said, "I have the authority to refuse."
Flores appeared unaware about details of payments by the archdiocese to the mother of Kenny's first child, but Sutter kept prodding him for answers until Flores snapped, "You understand English, damn it?"
The lawyer also quizzed Flores about claims by Father James Conway, pastor of St. Louis Parish in Castroville, that Flores had told him about White's confidential allegations.
"I don't know what (Conway) testified. I'd like to hear him say that to me," Flores said.
Sutter said Wednesday that Flores' testimony bears out his contention that Flores should be removed from office before his mandatory retirement next year at 75.
"We don't believe anything will change as long as Flores is the (archbishop) in San Antonio," Sutter said.
Deacon Pat Rodgers, the communications director for the archdiocese, said in a prepared statement Wednesday that it's improper for either side to attempt to use the media to influence the potential jury pool.
"The archbishop had undergone hours of questioning that was designed to specifically irritate and frustrate him," Rodgers said.
Jury selection is set to begin Sept. 29.
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