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  Mahony's Testimony Is Sought:
Lawyers Ask a Judge to Force Cardinal to Comply in the Case against a Former Stockton Priest

By Jean Guccione
LA Times [Los Angeles CA]
July 1, 2004

As victim advocates called for a financial boycott of the Roman Catholic Church in Los Angeles, plaintiffs' lawyers renewed their efforts Wednesday to depose Cardinal Roger M. Mahony about a former Stockton priest he once supervised.

Attorneys John Manly and Venus Soltan are asking a judge to force Mahony to comply with a subpoena for his sworn testimony in several civil lawsuits.

"We're just simply trying to get Cardinal Mahony to show up and give testimony," Manly said. "They can't just decide not to appear."

Mahony had been scheduled to be deposed April 22, but the session was postponed until a new judge could be assigned to oversee the litigation.

Mahony's lawyer, J. Michael Hennigan, said the cardinal expects to testify but again will insist on certain "ground rules."

In April, another Mahony lawyer threatened to call off the deposition until eight conditions were met, including a promise that Mahony would not be asked any of the same questions he answered in prior depositions in the late 1990s. His lawyers cited death threats in wanting to move the meeting to their offices or church property.

It would be the first time Mahony, the former bishop of Stockton, answers questions under oath since more than 800 lawsuits were filed against the Roman Catholic Church in California last year. Six years ago, he became the first and only cardinal in the United States ever to testify in a clergy sex-abuse case, when he took the witness stand in another civil action involving the same ex-priest, Oliver Francis O'Grady.

That trial resulted in a $30-million jury verdict against the diocese, including $24 million in punitive damages. The damages were reduced by a judge, and after further negotiations, the case was settled for $7 million.

There are six more cases pending against the Stockton diocese involving O'Grady, who served six years in state prison for child molestation before he was returned to his native Ireland. The suits were brought under a state law that lifted the statute of limitations for one year, ending Dec. 31, 2003, so victims of childhood sexual abuse could sue employers who failed to protect them from molesters.

The diocese of Davenport, Iowa, is challenging the constitutionality of that law in a federal court in San Diego.

Victim support groups asked Catholics at a news conference Wednesday to stop giving money to their church parishes and the archdiocese to help finance these legal attacks on the law. They say the church's courtroom tactics endanger all children, not just Catholics.