Cardinal Mahony Deplores Abuse, Defends Church Litigation

Associated Press, carried in Contra Costa Times [Los Angeles CA]
September 24, 2004

LOS ANGELES - Cardinal Roger Mahony said the sexual abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church is not the cross he would have chosen but that he accepts that helping heal both victims and the church must now be one of his priorities.

"I know the priests, when I talk to them sometimes, a lot of priests say I wish it would all go away.... And I said, 'That's where we're missing it. This is our ministry now. Our ministry is to heal victims and heal the church,'" he told the Los Angeles Times in an interview Thursday.

The church faces hundreds of civil lawsuits from people who claim they were molested by clergy. In many cases, lawyers for the alleged victims maintain the church hierarchy failed to shield children from known abusers, and Mahony has fought their efforts to force the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to turn over internal church documents concerning the priests.

In his interview, he criticized a report issued last year by the independent review board appointed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which described his archdiocese's litigation tactics in the abuse cases as doing "little to enhance the reputation of the church in the United States for transparency and cooperation."

His attorney, J. Michael Hennigan, called the report "political retribution" for the cardinal's previous criticism of the board.

Review board member Robert Bennett on Thursday responded that Hennigan's charge was "an absolute bald-faced lie." He said the board should have been harder on the archdiocese .

Hennigan said that of the 520 cases brought against the archdiocese, between 150 and 200 of the abuse cases were clear-cut and heart-wrenching, but he said others were more difficult to confirm, and he called some frivolous.

"One would think that having a great deal of insurance would be an asset here," Hennigan said. "Of course, what it does is open a second front (of litigation) because the insurance carriers are not at all excited about having this kind of liability against them," he said.

On Thursday, a federal judge in San Diego rejected the archdiocese's efforts to join a constitutional challenge to the state law allowing suits against the church for decades-old child molestations.

That case involves the Diocese of Davenport, Iowa, which has been sued under the 2003 law on allegations one of its priests molested a boy in San Diego more than 30 years ago. The Iowa diocese has argued that the law is an unconstitutional violation of due process and free exercise of religion.

The Los Angeles archdiocese wanted to join the Iowa challenge, but U.S. District Judge Larry Alan Burns ruled it didn't prove it would be directly affected by the case.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.