Mahony's Testimony in Sex Scandal Clashes with Earlier Statements and
By Jeffrey Anderson
December 15, 2004
[BishopAccountability.org has linked quotes from the Mahony deposition
to the relevant page in the deposition itself. At the end of this article,
see links to the full Mahony deposition and
Confidential documents and sworn statements by Cardinal Roger Mahony
were released last week, ending two years of legal maneuvers to shield
"his eminence" from examination in the Catholic clergy sex abuse
scandal. The cardinal's testimony, memos and letters offer a rare glimpse
into Mahony's formative years as a priest and young bishop in Fresno and
Stockton from 1962 to 1985, and reflect on his moral standing as shepherd
of 5 million Catholics in Los Angeles and ranking prelate in the United
Mahony emerges as a man of contradictions and memory problems. A man who
claims never to have known a priest to have sex before 1968, who struggles
to remember steps he took — or did not take — to address a pedophilia
crisis of epic proportions. A man whose fitness to lead must now be examined
in light of whether he is telling the truth or not.
Compelled by the court after months of resistance, Mahony was deposed
recently at his lawyer's office in downtown Los Angeles. Five lawyers
representing hundreds of sex-abuse victims questioned Mahony for six hours
about how he responded to accusations that priests in his charge had molested
children. His stubborn refusal to answer all questions with candor was
a virtual dare to his adversaries to dig deeper for the truth.
Victims who witnessed the deposition struggled to contain their emotions
as Mahony's attorneys coached the cardinal and cajoled victims' lawyers,
who in their blunt questioning conveyed a sense of moral outrage on behalf
of people whose lives were ruined by a priest who might have been stopped
had the cardinal done more. At stake was not only the tenuous negotiations
of hundreds of lawsuits alleging sexual abuse, or the pending prosecution
of a few rogue priests, or even the possibility of broader conspiracy
charges against Mahony and his colleagues, but the credibility of the
last remaining symbol of influence, power and authority in the U.S. Catholic
The result is 265 pages of testimony that shows Mahony distancing himself
from his own career. "As
I get older, more distant things I can't remember," he says.
Like a crooked screw, his story just doesn't fit, no matter how hard he
For instance, despite new, damaging evidence, Mahony insists he did not
lie when he testified
in a civil trial in 1998 that he dealt with just one priest accused of
molestation while he was the bishop of Stockton from 1980 to 1985. He
says he simply forgot about memos in his own hand in 1981 and 1984 that
show him lowering the boom on two previously undisclosed priests accused
of molestation. Meanwhile, in 1984, he transferred a pedophile priest
to a new parish where he molested again. Church personnel documents are
cryptic but suggest a broader problem than the one Mahony denies remembering.
Such evidence undermines Mahony's credibility as a witness and an administrator.
After his sworn testimony, lawyers accused him of perjury, and sent a
transcript to prosecutors in Northern California for investigation. Fallout
could reach Los Angeles, where his decisions to leave priests in ministry
after he knew they had molested children are being investigated. A criminal
trial of one, Michael Wempe, begins in January, and prosecutors know of
key witnesses who could revive charges against another, Michael Baker.
"No amount of public relations can turn this into a poor memory,"
says A.W. Richard Sipe, a psychotherapist, author and former priest. "For
a man of his background and administrative capability to make such a claim
is disgusting. We're scratching at the surface of his character here.
And you are seeing the philosophy of the Catholic hierarchy, which is,
‘I only lie when I have to.' "
Mahony's credibility will be an issue in 544 lawsuits headed for settlement
in Los Angeles. Lawyers for abuse victims have shown they will relinquish
the fight for accountability if the price is right. They recently settled
87 lawsuits with the Diocese of Orange for $100 million, after the diocese
promised not to conceal documents that likely will emerge only after lawsuits
are dismissed. While attorneys contend a large enough settlement could
cost Mahony his job, Sipe believes the truth could be more effective.
"If the real story gets told, lay people will realize that Los Angeles
is more corrupt than Boston," he says.
Some of the discrepancies may appear small. For example, the Catholic
Church for decades has called upon a variety of institutes to evaluate
and treat priests with sexual disorders. Mahony, in his deposition, said
he had no knowledge of them until 1985. Likewise, he seemingly was rising
through the ranks of some other Catholic Church when the Vatican was disseminating
procedures for dealing with priests accused of solicitation and pedophilia
in the 1960s. Mahony was ordained in 1962, and was a licensed social worker
in Fresno from 1964 to 1970. He served there as a chancellor and a vicar
between 1975 and 1980. Yet he barely acknowledges being aware that the
church was rife with molestation. He even denies knowledge of priests
breaking their vow of celibacy until after the Second Vatican Counsel,
in 1968. "I wouldn't have any way of knowing," he said.
"Mahony would have to be deaf, dumb and stupid not to have known
of priests breaking their vows in the 1960s," says a member of the
clergy in Los Angeles. "Having sex is one way many found out whether
the priesthood was the right calling for them." Father Thomas Doyle,
an Air Force chaplain and canon law expert says, "As chancellor and
vicar, the number one issue that takes up your time is dealing with problem
One case that Mahony had trouble recalling is illuminated in confidential
memos from 1970 that show him overseeing the transfer of Monsignor Anthony
Herdegen from one parish to another. Mahony, in his deposition, denies
any knowledge of reports that young boys visited Herdegen in his private
residence in the rectory. He says Herdegen was transferred for being too
conservative. But in December 2003, the Fresno Bee reported
that two brothers accused Herdegen of sexually abusing them in the 1960s
and 70s. Herdegen served in 10 parishes before retiring in 1985.
More explicit records from the Diocese of Stockton show Mahony knee-deep
in personnel problems. Yet he maintained in his deposition that three
accused molesters were reported to him before 1985 — a claim that contradicts
trial testimony he gave in 1998, in which he admitted only one. Personnel
records suggest there may have been more than three.
The subject at trial in 1998 was Oliver O'Grady, a pedophile Mahony transferred
in 1984, despite a 1976 letter of apology from O'Grady to an 11-year-old
molestation victim, and a psychiatrist's report stating O'Grady had a
"severe defect in maturation in the matter of sex and social relationships."
Mahony claims he never looked in O'Grady's confidential file, however,
so he could not have possibly seen the letter. And, he said that he did
not consider the psychiatrist's report to pose a serious problem.
Even if true, such indifference is shocking. Sources say O'Grady was the
subject of numerous molestation settlements before Mahony arrived. But
again, as incoming bishop, Mahony says he never inquired about the fitness
of the priests in his diocese. He says he
didn't even have a key to the confidential-file cabinet, which is
odd, because such files are kept secret from most everyone except the
bishop. O'Grady was convicted of lewd conduct involving a child in 1993
and later deported to Ireland. At the 1998 trial Mahony was asked if any
other priests were involved with any kind of sexual misconduct with children.
Mahony replied, "I cannot recall another case." Jurors, some
of whom said they did not believe Mahony, awarded $30 million to O'Grady's
victims. A judge later cut the award to $7 million.
In fact, O'Grady, who responded to a recent lawsuit with a 10-page anatomical
explanation claiming he could not have anally raped a boy 150 times based
on his own "medical research, including the Internet," was not
the only accused priest Mahony dealt with at Stockton. Newly surfaced
documents, some handwritten by Mahony, show that he took swift action
against two accused priests visiting from Mexico in the early 1980s.
In 1981, Mahony learned of families who complained that Father Antonio
Munoz had taken their sons to Tijuana and "had some type of sexual
misconduct." Mahony fired the priest. "Your assignment and your
faculties were canceled because of problems of a very serious and grave
nature," he wrote to Munoz in 1982. Mahony then met with a family
in 1984 that claimed their two boys drank beer with Father Hector Camacho
in his bedroom, where the priest later molested them. Mahony
typed a five-page memo of his firing of Camacho. "It is my intention
to take every possible step to be certain that no other young person is
harmed," Mahony wrote. Mahony also wrote two letters to the Modesto
police and letters to the bishops in all of the western states warning
them not to hire Camacho, who returned to Mexico under threat of prosecution.
of Mahony's letters to the police.]
At his deposition Mahony was asked why he did not acknowledge these incidents
at O'Grady's trial in 1998. "It was some 13 years after I had left
Stockton," Mahony said. "We had many events in the Archdiocese
of Los Angeles and I was very preoccupied. We had the visit of the [Pope].
We had earthquakes. We had riots. We had everything. I simply did not
remember everything that happened in Stockton."
Sipe, who witnessed the deposition, was astounded. "Lawyers might
call that perjury, but a lay person would say, ‘My God, that's a lie.'
Even if he had a genuine memory lapse it raises questions about his ability
to lead." Such perceptions devastated Cardinal Bernard Law in Boston,
when a judge ruled that his deposition testimony did not appear truthful.
A review of personnel records during Mahony's tenure as bishop of Stockton
suggest he was more involved with priest pedophilia problems than he admits.
Clergy Personnel Board minutes from December 12, 1984, concern a man named
Father Titian Miani. "[Miani] seems to be causing dissension in the
parish," the minutes state. "Reports have come from very credible
witnesses. We have no process to deal with priests who act unprofessionally,
nor a way to listen to credible witnesses in such cases." Miani was
charged in 2003 with two counts of committing a lewd act on a child in
the mid-1960s. Charges were dropped in 2003 after the U.S. Supreme Court
struck down California's statute of limitations for child sex abuse.
Then there are cryptic entries such as one about a priest who "is
back after visiting missionaries. He'll try to use moral persuasion. We
are informing anyone from Welfare, etc., to use civil arm of Stockton
to deal with him if necessary." And this, related to another priest:
"OK right now, not bad-bad." Sipe, the author of the book Celibacy
in Crisis, says, "‘Bad' means alcohol problems. ‘Bad-bad' means fucking
After scandal erupted in 2002 Mahony admitted to leaving eight accused
molesters in ministry as cardinal in Los Angeles. That includes Michael
Baker, who admitted to Mahony in 1986 that he had molested several youths,
but who Mahony kept in ministry for 14 years. Baker was charged with 34
counts of molestation, which were dismissed as a result of the Supreme
Court ruling. And it includes Michael Wempe, who faces new criminal charges
after 42 counts of sex crimes were dismissed last year.
Yet Mahony states that even in the 1980s he knew he must remove priests
from ministry when he received credible allegations of molestation. "I
knew that we wanted priests serving in our parishes who were not going
to be a danger to anybody," he testified. But he also said that
O'Grady's admitted sexual urges toward a 9-year-old would not lead to
his removal. Last Thursday, Mahony told a reporter from CNN that the protocol
of the 1980s was to leave accused priests in ministry because, "We
misunderstood pedophilia to be a moral weakness or a sin, something that
could be dealt with through spiritual counseling. We now know that is
inadequate." Mahony has offered similar explanations to explain Baker,
Wempe and others who remained in ministry well into the 1990s.
Thomas Brandlin, a deacon in Los Angeles, has a theory about Mahony. In
1986, Brandlin was accused of molesting a boy in Santa Barbara. Even after
Brandlin obtained a declaration of factual innocence from the Santa Barbara
District Attorney's Office, Mahony denied his full faculties for 10 more
years, until Brandlin hired a canon lawyer and brought his case to the
Vatican. "He has no plan," Brandlin says of Mahony. "He
does and says what he needs to get out of whatever situation he is confronted
Maybe Mahony should stick to memory loss after all.
To download the complete text of Cardinal Mahony’s
here. To download part of Cardinal Mahony's testimony from a 1998
civil trial [deposition Exhibit 8], click
here. To download a letter from Cardinal Mahony to the Modesto Police
regarding Father Camacho [Exhibit 4], click
here. To download a 1984 memo from Cardinal Mahony regarding Father
Camacho [Exhibit 3], click
here. [At the end of Exhibit 3, Anderson included Exhibit 2, a letter
from the superior of the Paraclete's Via Coeli facility, announcing monthly
reports to the bishops. We provide Exhibit 2 as a separate file: click
here. The deposition and the four exhibits no longer exist on the
www.laweekly.com server. When they were still available there, we copied
them to our server for safe-keeping and present them here.]