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SUNDAY REPORT

Archdiocese for Years Kept Claims of Abuse From Police

Church also let accused priests flee, say documents, interviews. But Mahony has been relatively aggressive in dismissing clergy.

August 18, 2002|GLENN F. BUNTING, RALPH FRAMMOLINO and RICHARD WINTON | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

"We just assumed that, if it was a question of a crime, the stance of the church was not to back away or cover up, but to cooperate," said Bishop John F. Kinney, of St. Cloud, Minn., chairman of an ad hoc committee on sexual abuse from 1993 to 2000. Mahony also served on the panel.

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Some Priests Flee Abroad

Since Mahony became archbishop, at least five priests who faced accusations of sexually abusing minors have fled to foreign countries.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday August 20, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 2 inches; 100 words Type of Material: Correction
Los Angeles Archdiocese--An asterisk in a chart published in Sunday's Section A should have indicated that the Los Angeles Archdiocese and the Diocese of Orange shared the cost of a $1.2-million settlement involving alleged sexual misconduct by Father John Lenihan, not Father Michael S. Baker. The Los Angeles Archdiocese and Baker shared the cost of a $1.3-million settlement involving accusations against him.

One of the fugitives, Father Tilak Jayawardene, allegedly molested a 17-year-old boy on four occasions, beginning in October 1990, at the rectory of Incarnation Church in Glendale. The teenager, who planned to enroll in a Catholic seminary, reported the alleged abuse about a month later to a teacher. He also met with then-Msgr. Thomas J. Curry, the vicar for clergy from 1986 to 1990 who supervised all priests in the archdiocese and reported directly to Mahony.

On Dec. 4, 1990, Curry informed Jayawardene of the allegation, told him he was no longer welcome in the archdiocese and urged him to go home to Sri Lanka, law enforcement and archdiocese sources said.

"I do understand that you will be returning as soon as possible to Sri Lanka, and I wish you well for the future," Curry wrote Jayawardene the next day on archdiocese stationery.

An attorney for the archdiocese, J. Michael Hennigan, said authorities were not notified because the teenager "emphasized very strongly that he did not want either the police or his mother told."

Said Glendale Police Sgt. Kim Lardie: "That the church would have him leave before contacting the Police Department ... greatly upsets us."

On Dec. 13--several days after Jayawardene departed--the teenager walked into the Glendale police station and reported the alleged crime, Lardie said. Prosecutors are still trying to extradite Jayawardene, 58, who was charged in 1991 with six counts of committing oral copulation on a minor.

Mahony said he had no involvement in urging Jayawardene to leave. "I wasn't, to my recollection, consulted or knew anything about it," he said.

Curry, whom Mahony has since promoted to bishop of Santa Barbara, referred questions to his attorney, Brian Hennigan, a former federal prosecutor who specializes in white-collar criminal defense work at the law firm of Irell & Manella and is not related to J. Michael Hennigan. Although he declined to discuss specific cases, Brian Hennigan insisted that Curry had never acted on sensitive matters involving priests without Mahony's input.

"Decisions were not made in the dark, and there weren't things that Cardinal Mahony found out about after the fact," Brian Hennigan said. "There was an ongoing dialogue when problems arose."

Curry also played a key role in the handling of other priests who disappeared while facing accusations of sexual abuse, documents show.

In 1988, he met with Father Nicolas Aguilar Rivera regarding allegations that the priest had molested altar boys in two parishes. During the meeting, Aguilar told Curry that he planned to leave the country soon, according to archdiocese sources. By the time a school principal reported the case to police two days later, Aguilar had fled to Mexico City. Aguilar, 60, was subsequently charged with 19 felony counts of committing lewd acts on a child and is still being sought by U.S. authorities.

Curry also sent letters urging Father Santiago Tamayo to stay in the Philippines after he fled rather than face allegations of having had sex with an underage girl. In a lawsuit, the girl accused Tamayo of inducing her to have sex with six other priests in a period of four years, until 1982, when she became pregnant.

"It is not advisable that you return at all to the United States," Curry wrote Tamayo on Dec. 28, 1987. Lawsuits "can only open old wounds and further hurt anyone concerned, including the archdiocese."

Curry wrote again on Aug. 26, 1988: "I was surprised to learn ... that you are in the Los Angeles area. I am requesting that you return to the Philippines promptly."

The letter, which was copied to Mahony, also explained that the archdiocese would continue to provide a monthly stipend to Tamayo. The priest returned to Los Angeles in 1991 to issue a public apology to his victim. He died in 1996.

Curry, in a brief interview in Santa Barbara before he retained an attorney, said: "I don't know that I was asking him to hide out. I'm telling him that it wasn't a good thing for him to be here, given all the damage that he had caused."

Mahony said he "never became informed about the Tamayo case fully. In fact, I still don't know much about it. All I know is, we don't want anyone coming to this archdiocese who's got a problem. We want 'em out of here."

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