" The Horrific Damage He Has Caused"
Defrocked Priest Gets 10 Years in Prison for Sexually Molesting Two Boys

California Catholic Daily
December 5, 2007

Defrocked priest Michael Stephen Baker pleaded guilty on Monday, Dec. 3, to molesting two boys over a two-year period beginning in 1996. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Curtis B. Rappe sentenced Baker, 59, to 10 years and four months in prison and ordered him to pay $20,000 to one of the victims.

In 2002, Cardinal Roger Mahony said Baker's case was the one "that troubles me the most." In December 1986, Baker met with Mahony "to discuss [Baker's] relationship with two boys from 1978 to 1985," says the Los Angeles archdiocese's 2005 Addendum to the Report to the People of God. Baker told the Los Angeles Times in 2002 that he had admitted molesting "two or three" boys, but that Mahony did not ask for specifics and appeared willing to let Baker remain a priest. Baker recalled that when an archdiocesan lawyer suggested reporting Baker to the police, Mahony said, "No, no, no."

Mahony placed Baker on one-year's sick leave on Jan. 1, 1987, and Baker underwent psychological evaluation. Baker returned to ministry in 1987, with restrictions. While in residence at St. Elizabeth's in Van Nuys, Baker was accused of a non-sexual "breach of restriction" contact with a youth, according to the Addendum. In June 1991, Baker was made administrator pro-tem at St. Linus' church in Norwalk, and during the next year, he served as administrator pro-tem at four other parishes. In 1993, Baker moved to St. Columbkille's in Los Angeles. At that parish, he was accused of a breach of restrictions by having non-sexual conduct with a minor. Over the next two years, Baker again underwent therapy.

Baker allegedly molested 20 young people during his 26 years as a priest. Previous criminal charges against him were dismissed in 2002 when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a California law that removed the statute of limitations in criminal cases involving sexual molestation.

Police continued to pursue Baker, however, but were met by archdiocesan resistance when they tried to subpoena Baker's personnel files. Not until 2006, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Church had to turn over its records, were authorities able to access Baker's files.

One of the files, reported the Dec. 4 Los Angeles Times, recounted an archdiocesan investigation of Baker's relationship with a boy at St. Columbkille's. The archdiocese dismissed the allegations against Baker. Though the file said the boy, his sister and mother had denied the allegations, sheriff's detectives said the archdiocese never questioned the three. Though the recorded name of the boy was not his real name, police eventually found him. He was one of the victims in the most recent case.

Baker, said a Dec. 3 statement from Mahony, "deceived parishioners, therapists, church leaders and most of all, his victims… I hope that today's action, combined with his previous removal from the priesthood, bring into sharp focus for him the horrific damage he has caused, and that it also brings some sense of justice and solace to his victims and to the church community that he so grievously harmed."


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