The Michael Baker Timeline: a Few Details

By District Weekly
Rachel Powers
December 6, 2007

On Monday, when Will Swaim and I first wrote about admitted child molester Michael Baker and his plea deal, we knew relatively little about his personal history: simply that he had done terrible things, that some of those things had taken place in Long Beach, and that church officials had allowed him to retain everything that he had ever needed to abuse children (chiefly clerical authority, access to minors, and a succession of positions throughout the southland.)

There are still a lot of gaps, but we've learned a few things:

In December of 1986, 21 years ago, Baker met with Cardinal Mahoney and confessed to his attraction to children, and to his abusive relationships with two different boys over a 7 year period. (Baker later described Mahoney as having been "very solicitous and understanding" during the meeting.) After a 5-month stay at a residential treatment facility for priests with such difficulties, and with orders to avoid minors, Baker went back to work. Over the next 14 years he served in at least 7 different parishes.

In 2000, after the church was forced to make a confidential $1.3 million payout to the family of two boys who had been victimized by Baker at the ages of 5 and 7, Mahoney gave up. Baker was "laicized"–defrocked–and sent on his way.

Criminal charges were brought against Baker and dozens of other priests in 2002, then dismissed in 2003 due to the Supreme Court's reinstatement of the statute of limitations. We'll know more about those charges and how Baker came to the attention of prosecutors soon.

There are reports that in 2003 Mahoney finally notified the police of Baker's crimes. But at the same time the Archdiocese, directed by Mahoney, began to vigorously fight subpoenas of clerical personnel files.

Baker wasn't arrested again until January of 2006.

Just a few of the lingering questions: Did Mahoney actually report the abuse, and if so, why did he wait for three years? What brought on the crisis of conscience? And doesn't the law (never mind personal morality) require that church officials alert the authorities to violent, habitual offenders? Does the record support the church's claim that it was hoodwinked by Baker's alleged insistence that he was on good behavior?

More to come.


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