In a chillingly frank account, a former Roman Catholic priest, promoted 20 years ago by Roger M. Mahony, recently described his decades-long career as a pedophile, including his sexual tastes and how he groomed his young victims for abuse.
In a 15-hour videotaped deposition in March, Oliver O'Grady described how his heart raced when one of the slim, playful boys he preferred toweled off after a swim. He also said he liked to lift little girls' skirts and peek at their underpants.
Asked to demonstrate how he would lure one of his estimated 25 victims into his arms, the 59-year-old Irish native softened his voice, flashed an avuncular smile and looked directly into the video camera.
"Hi, Sally," O'Grady improvised. "How are you doing? Come here. I want to give you a hug. You are a sweetheart. You know that. You are very special to me. I like you a lot."
If his hug met no resistance, O'Grady testified, he would take the child's compliance as "permission" to molest.
The deposition came in connection with lawsuits filed against the Stockton Diocese over alleged abuse by clergy. Mahony, who was bishop of Stockton from 1980 to 1985 before heading the Los Angeles Archdiocese, inherited O'Grady, who had admitted years earlier to molesting an 11-year-old girl. In 1984, police investigated a therapist's report that O'Grady had molested a boy.
After police declined to file charges, Mahony transferred O'Grady to a rural parish and later promoted him to pastor there, where he allegedly molested three more victims, including a baby girl who suffered vaginal scarring, according to plaintiffs' lawyers. Mahony has said he was unaware of any molestation reports. The additional victims were molested after he left the diocese.
"The cardinal acted on the information he had, just as the police investigator did," church attorney Don Woods said.
Costa Mesa-based plaintiffs' attorney John C. Manly conducted the deposition in Ireland. The now-defrocked priest, an Irish citizen and native of Limerick, was deported from the U.S. in 2001, after serving seven years in California state prison for sexually abusing two brothers. He lives in Thurles, Ireland.
A transcript of the deposition was filed Tuesday in Alameda County Superior Court, where the Stockton Diocese is defending four lawsuits alleging that the church failed to protect parishioners from abuse. Manly filed the transcript in opposing a church motion to dismiss one of the suits.
O'Grady, on the video, asked why church officials did not remove him from ministry after he committed the molestations.
"I think it probably would have been best if, back in 1984, they said, 'Look, we need to put a halt to this. We need to take you out,' " O'Grady told lawyers during the questioning. "But even the 1984 situation, as I understand it, was handled as best it could have been handled at the time."
Woods said Tuesday that O'Grady "was not trying to say what should have been done. He's saying I wish it could have been done differently.
"It's a lament from hindsight," he said.
An attorney for the Stockton Diocese, Paul Balestracci, declined to comment, noting the open lawsuits over O'Grady's misconduct.
O'Grady's deposition offers a far-reaching, and often disturbing, glimpse into the mind of a convicted pedophile. Still, there were times during the marathon question-and-answer session when he was less than candid.
He refused to name any of his 25 victims, invoking his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination. He at first denied molesting one little girl, then the next day admitted that he had lied and that he had abused her. He said his abuse ended in the mid-1980s, but in his criminal case he had pleaded guilty to molestations as late as 1991.
Although O'Grady voiced remorse for his abuses, he often appeared to be enjoying his videotaped performance. At one point, he winked into the camera.
O'Grady testified that he was molested as a child by two priests in the sacristy of his church. The first occurred when he was 10 and an altar boy, he said.
The priest "began the conversation by asking how I was, what I was going to do for the day, and I remember he was -- he called me over to him and he began to hug me, you know, in a kind of gentle way, first of all.
"Then he turned me around ... which means I had my back to him with him standing behind me, and then the hands would come down and hug me here and then went lower."
When he was growing up, he testified, he was involved in molestation within his family, both as perpetrator and victim. And when he was a teenager, he added, a priest touched him sexually.
"It was not a very pleasant experience on some occasions, but it was a very normal thing. Nobody talked about it," he said. "I did not consider it a very serious criminal matter."
O'Grady testified that his own sexual attraction to children began before he was ordained a priest in 1971.