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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

"I really need to be able to stand on the pulpit and look at the people of this archdiocese and say, 'I can assure you as humanly as possible, there is no priest out there who has abused a minor,' " he said. "I said I can't do that, but I'm going to do it and we're going to make this change. So we bit the bullet."

Critics charge that Mahony is reinventing history.

"I've never heard of any significant policies, procedures or statements made by Roger Mahony until most recently when he tried to

Mahony acknowledged that he had concluded only recently that priests who exploit children no longer deserve the title "father."

His greatest regret, Mahony said, is waiting until earlier this year to remove from ministry every priest who had engaged in a single act of sexual abuse of a minor, even if it occurred decades ago.

"If we're going to have the church safe for children and young people, [the policy] has to be absolutely tight and foolproof as possible," he said. "There is no room for exceptions."

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.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

What the Scandal Means to Mahony

THE PAIN

'The overwhelming devastation of individuals and families--I've become much more aware of that in the last few years. The expression "sexual abuse of minors" simply does not describe the appalling, monstrous things that have happened to these young people. I'm just horrified at this whole thing. And so, one case for me is too many.'

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THE HURDLES

'The outreach to the victims only becomes complicated when you've got victims suing the archdiocese. That makes it very difficult for the pastor and the victim to meet, because then everything is subject to depositions. Even if you pray with them, that is a complication.'

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THE HEALING

'The healing ... is not going to happen until the last cancer cell is out of the body. If priests are indicted and some end up in prison or whatever, that's going to be very sad for them, for the church. But if that is required to move beyond, that's what we're going to have to go through ....'

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HIS MINISTRY

'I never wanted to be a bishop. I love being a priest, and I have found with victims the opportunity to be Father Mahony....[They] don't teach this in the seminary, how to deal with sex abusers. So, the opportunity to begin again to work with people pastorally is my greatest joy.'

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THE FUTURE

'The personal burden of this has been great. It's running in the background of my mind all the time....You get the

cross that comes your way, and this obviously for

me is a very heavy cross. But in the midst of all of that, I have to keep

looking beyond it, and what I see is my determination that our church is safe for children and young people and everybody, and victims are cared for.'

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

A Range of Opinions About Mahony's Response

'The historic culture of the archdiocese in cooperating with local law enforcement has been inadequate.... Morally, the archdiocese should have been the first to step forward on behalf of victims....'

Steve Cooley, Los Angeles County District Attorney

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'The Los Angeles Archdiocese was way ahead in the late 1980s, when Mahony started making major changes.'

Don Steler, Los Angeles criminal attorney who represents priests

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'He claims he cares about victims. I think the greatest disappointment is his nonresponsiveness.'

Mary Grant, head of the Los Angeles chapter of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests

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'Clearly, the guy calling the signals was Mahony. He and his attorneys set up this policy of cover-up and denial.'

Paul Griffith, of Long Beach, whose son was allegedly abused by Father Theodore Llanos

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'He's supposed to be the shepherd of the Catholic Church in L.A., and

he has a pedophile on staff. It's incredible.'

Andrew Cicchillo, alleged victim of Father Carl Sutphin, who lived in the same rectory as Mahony for six years

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'He has been very much a leader and a pioneer' in dealing with sexual misconduct issues.

Mark Chopko, general counsel for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

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Key Settlements

The Los Angeles Archdiocese has negotiated $9.2 million in major out-of-court settlements in recent years with victims who said they were sexually abused by four priests.

JUNE 2002

Father Clinton Hagenbach -- $1.5 million

AUGUST 2001

Monsignor Michael Harris -- $5.2 million*

APRIL 2002

Father John Lenihan -- $1.2 million

MAY 2000

Father Michael S. Baker -- $1.3 million*

*Cost shared with Diocese of Orange

Note: Amounts do not reflect cost to archdiocese after insurance coverage.

Source: L.A. Archdiocese, court records and Times research

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

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Mahony's Inner Circle

Cardinal Roger M. Mahony has relied on these trusted aides to help the Los Angeles Archdiocese manage cases of sexual abuse by priests since 1985. Each served as vicar for clergy, the administrator who oversees 1,100 priests.

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Monsignor Richard A. Loomis, 56, ordained in 1976. Vicar for clergy from 1996 to 2000. He is now secretariat director for administrative services. Declined to be interviewed.

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