L.A. Cardinal Slated to Testify in Sex Abuse Trial

Associated Press, carried in Contra Costa Times [Los Angeles CA]
Downloaded April 4, 2004

LOS ANGELES - Cardinal Roger M. Mahony is scheduled to give testimony this month in a clergy molestation lawsuit that could mark the first in a series of depositions by the leader of the nation's largest archdiocese in sex abuse cases against priests.

Mahony will give testimony April 22 in a civil case involving former priest Oliver Francis O'Grady, whom Mahony supervised two decades ago while serving as bishop of Stockton.

O'Grady was convicted of child molestation in a separate case 10 years ago and spent six years in state prison.

The lawsuit was filed by a man who said he was molested by O'Grady in the 1970s while he was attending St. Anne Catholic School in Lodi. The man has sued the Diocese of Stockton for negligence, claiming former bishops, including Mahony, transferred O'Grady to other churches despite their knowledge that the priest was a child molester.

Mahony denies that allegation.

More than 500 people who claim they were sexually assaulted as children by Catholic priests have filed negligence suits against the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. In the suits, the alleged victims contend church leaders did not do enough to protect children.

Mahony has not been subpoenaed in any of the Los Angeles sex abuse cases because lawyers suing the church in Southern California are under a court order that halted such actions while settlement talks continue.

"There is no reason to depose the cardinal in 520 different cases, just because every plaintiff wants a shot at the cardinal." said diocese co-counsel Donald F. Woods Jr. "We believe that is harassment."

Still, Woods said Mahony will "testify if he has to."

Victims' lawyers expect the cardinal's legal team to eventually resist their efforts to question Mahony under oath in other cases, just as they have tried to keep secret priest personnel files sought in the investigations of both civil and criminal claims.

"Mahony had a hand in deciding the career paths of each and every one of those priests," said attorney Raymond P. Boucher, whom the court appointed as liaison counsel for the plaintiffs in the Southern California cases. "He really has to confront, under penalty of perjury, the steps that he took and why he did it."

Mahony was previously called to testify about his connection to O'Grady.

In 1998, Mahony became the first U.S. cardinal to be deposed in a clergy sex abuse case and the only one ever to take the witness stand at trial, said lawyer Jeffrey R. Anderson, who represented two brothers who brought the case.

The brothers sued the Stockton Diocese for failing to protect them from O'Grady. They claimed they were sexually abused by the priest a decade after he admitted to church leaders that he had fondled an 11-year-old girl.

Mahony testified he wasn't aware of allegations against O'Grady when he transferred the priest from Sacred Heart Parish in Turlock to Church of the Presentation in Stockton.

Two years later, Mahony moved O'Grady to St. Andrew's in San Andreas, where O'Grady allegedly molested the brothers between 1987 and 1991.

The jury in that case found for the plaintiffs and recommended $30 million in damages. The amount was later reduced to $7 million


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