" He Didn't Know Any of These Guys"
Clergy Abuse Trials Moving Ahead; Will Cardinal Mahony Have to Testify?

California Catholic Daily [California]
July 13, 2007

Jury selection for the first of 13 clergy abuse trials against the Los Angeles archdiocese is set to begin on July 17. The trial will consider allegations that the archdiocese was negligent in protecting victims of the deceased Father Clinton Victor Hagenbach, who served in the archdiocese from 1961-1987.

If no pretrial settlement is reached and the trial moves forward as scheduled, Cardinal Roger Mahony may have to testify publicly about what he knew about the alleged abuse. (The archdiocese is working to settle the over 500 sexual abuse claims against it, said the July 9 Los Angeles Times.) Already, the archdiocese has paid out more than $114 million to settle 86 claims or more than $1.3 million per victim.

Jury trials, however, could cost the archdiocese far more. In May, a jury ordered the diocese of Rockville Center, New York, to pay one victim $5.9 million and another $5.5 million. "It's still my goal to reach an agreement before the first trials begin," archdiocesan lawyer J. Michael Hennigan told the Times, "but many, many pieces have to come together before that happens."

Hennigan did not say what those pieces are, but among them may be the demand by victims' attorneys that the archdiocese publicly release the personnel files of accused priests. The archdiocese, too, has been wrangling with its insurers over settlement payments -- the insurers asking whether the cardinal willfully kept information from them and saying they needn't pay anything if church officials acted criminally.

Fourteen men are suing the archdiocese in the Hagenbach case. One of them, Billy Sanchez, told the Times in 2005 that in 2001, while trying to discover the source of his personal problems (he had been in therapy), he had suddenly remembered being abused by Hagenbach. Sanchez met with Cardinal Mahony on April 19, 2002 about the abuse and two months later received a check for $1.5 million from the archdiocese.

Sanchez's brother, Steve, who also claims abuse by Hagenbach, said Mahony would not meet with him. That was because, Hennigan told the Oct. 16, 2005 Times, by the time Steve came forward, "what seemed like isolated events were about to become an avalanche."

The archdiocese claims that Billy's allegation was the first it had received about Hagenbach. Its 2004 "Addendum" to the "Report to the People of God" notes for November 2001 that the Vicar of Clergy's staff therapist met "with adult male who alleges abuse by Fr. Hagenbach in the late 1960s and 1970s." On April 1, 2002, the archdiocese received a second complaint, alleging abuse by Hagenbach "in 1984-85 at St. Joseph Parish (Hawthorne)." The third complaint came two months later from "an adult male... who is the brother of the first person to report," alleging Hagenbach abused him from 1973-80.

Archdiocesan spokesman Tod Tamberg told the July 9 Times that Mahony came to Los Angeles less than two years before Hagenbach's death in 1987. "There were 2,000 priests back then," said Tamberg. "He didn't know any of these guys. And the first complaint about Hagenbach came in 2002."


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