Cardinal Allegedly Delayed Report of Abuse Claim

By Gillian Flaccus
The Associated Press
September 19, 2009

LOS ANGELES A former high-ranking official with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles testified that Cardinal Roger Mahony ordered a subordinate to delay reporting clergy abuse claims to the police until the priest in question could be defrocked, according to court papers filed Friday.

He also decided not to tell parishioners about the allegations, according to the papers.

The claims were contained in a motion filed by plaintiff attorneys in Los Angeles County Superior Court and were based on the recent deposition of former vicar for clergy Monsignor Richard Loomis. A transcript of the deposition was attached.

The testimony centers around now-defrocked priest Rev. Michael Baker and a lawsuit filed in 2000 by two Arizona men who alleged sexual molestation by Baker in the mid- to late-1990s.

The archdiocese eventually settled the case for $1.2 million. Baker, who was defrocked later in 2000, was convicted in 2007 of molestation based on the claims of the two men and one other victim and is serving a 10-year prison sentence.

Baker was called earlier this year to testify before a federal grand jury investigating possible criminal wrongdoing by the archdiocese in its handling of clergy abuse cases.

Calls after business hours to two archdiocese attorneys and archdiocese spokesman Tod Tamberg were not immediately returned. However, in the deposition transcript, archdiocese attorney Don Woods said that because the two alleged victims were adults when they filed their claim, Mahony was not obligated to report it to the police and did no wrong.

In his testimony, Loomis said he told Mahony in a memo that he was going to report the new allegations against Baker to police. Loomis said Mahony initially supported the idea, but later told him through a secretary not to do so until the Vatican approved Baker's defrocking.

Plaintiff attorney John Manly said the archdiocese did not report abuse claims to the police until 2002, although Baker was defrocked in December 2000.

Loomis later testified that he wanted to report the new allegations to parishioners who worshipped in parishes where Baker had worked, but was told by Mahony not to do so an apparent breach of normal church policy. Loomis said the order upset him deeply and he would have resigned if his term wasn't about to end.

"I wanted to follow our regular policy and inform the parishes where Father Baker had been assigned. And I was instructed that we were not going to do that because the lawsuit was still under the process of settlement," Loomis said, according to the transcript.

"I was very upset that we were not going to follow through with our ordinary way of doing it."

Loomis said when he was appointed vicar, his predecessor told him that Baker was treated differently than other priests accused of sexual molestation because he had "self-disclosed."

Baker first told Mahony in 1986 at a priests' retreat that he had molested two young boys from 1978 to 1985, according to church documents. Mahony did not notify police but sent Baker to a residential facility that treated priests for sexual abuse problems.

In the years that followed, Baker was assigned to nine parishes but barred from having one-on-one contact with minors. He violated those restrictions three times, according to church personnel file summaries released by the archdiocese.

Mahony removed Baker from the ministry in 2000 after the Arizona lawsuit.

Baker was charged two years later with 34 counts of molestation involving six victims, but those charges were dismissed in 2003 after the U.S. Supreme Court voided a California law that allowed the prosecution of cases involving acts that occurred before 1988.

However, the allegations by the Arizona men and one other victim allowed prosecutors to file new charges against Baker that fell within the statute of limitations.

In January 2006, the former priest was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport as he returned from a vacation in Thailand and prosecuted.


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