Cardinal Sins
Mahony's Stonewalling in Priest Abuses Continues

Press-Telegram [California]
Downloaded September 11, 2004

Cardinal Roger Mahony of the Los Angeles Catholic Archdiocese has protected child molesters in the priesthood and knowingly helped them evade justice, has refused to cooperate in the D.A.'s investigation of the crimes, and has disregarded a grand jury subpoena.

So it comes as little surprise that Mahony has vowed to fight a judge's order to disclose evidence in the church's coverup of child abuse within its ranks.

A state judge on Wednesday ordered Mahony to turn over personnel records involving two priests accused of child molestation. The files are among many that District Attorney Steve Cooley has been seeking since 2002. Mahony has steadfastly refused to give the files to the grand jury, claiming the same type of privacy privilege that applies to priests and religious confessions.

Mahony promised to appeal the judge's ruling, an action that could delay any transfer of the records to the grand jury for several years.

Judge Thomas Nuss's ruling confirmed what many legal experts have previously thought: Mahony's privilege claim has no basis in the law.

Some files can be confidential, Nuss ruled, such as records of private talks between priests and bishops. However, privilege does not apply to the church's internal investigations of crimes committed by priests, he ruled. (Catholic scholars have also noted that Mahony's defense doesn't even hold up under church rules: Since confessions can't be committed to print, personnel paperwork cannot fall under the same privilege.)

Mahony's refusal to cooperate with the judge's order fits a pattern of protection and coverup that stretches back decades.

The issue has particular resonance in the Long Beach area because Mahony knowingly turned a predator loose in this community, then helped him evade justice. Michael Baker, a former priest, confessed to Mahony in 1986 that he had been molesting young boys under his care. Mahony didn't go to the police he didn't even fire Baker. Instead, Mahony reassigned the confessed child molester to several parishes, including St. Lucy in Long Beach. Mahony recently trivialized Baker's crimes by calling them merely "boundary violations."

Baker was never tried in criminal court because Mahony's protection ensured that the statute of limitations would run out. Baker now faces only civil trials, which cannot result in jail time.

The Baker case wasn't unique, or even uncommon. Thanks to the courage of victims and the hard work of advocacy groups, the names of 221 priests and other church officials accused of molesting 656 boys and girls during the past 73 years have been make public. There is little doubt that more cases lurk in the files Mahony is trying so desperately to protect. The cases may also implicate Mahony himself in criminal coverups.

Mahony's ongoing refusal to cooperate in the criminal investigations has been morally indefensible from the start. Now it is legally indefensible. When will Mahony stop stonewalling and finally reveal the truth?


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