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Mahony answers questions under oath about clergy sex abuse cases

The former leader of the Los Angeles Archdiocese was reported to be 'calm and seemingly collected' throughout the 3 1/2 hour session stemming from a lawsuit involving a fugitive priest.

February 24, 2013|By Harriet Ryan, Los Angeles Times
  • Cardinal Roger Mahony, shown in 2010, has been deposed many times, but Saturday’s session was the first time he had been asked about recently released internal church records that show he shielded abusers from law enforcement.
Cardinal Roger Mahony, shown in 2010, has been deposed many times, but Saturday’s… (Don Bartletti, Los Angeles…)

A "relatively unflappable" Cardinal Roger Mahony answered questions under oath for more than 3 1/2 hours Saturday about his handling of clergy sex abuse cases, according to the lawyer who questioned the former archbishop.

"He remained calm and seemingly collected at all times," said attorney Anthony De Marco, who represents a man suing the Los Angeles Archdiocese over abuse he alleges he suffered at the hands of a priest who visited his parish in 1987.

Mahony has been deposed many times in the past, but Saturday's session was the first time he had been asked about recently released internal church records that show he shielded abusers from law enforcement.

De Marco declined to detail the questions he asked or the answers the cardinal provided, citing a judge's protective order.

The deposition occurred just before Mahony was to board a plane for Italy to vote in the conclave that will elect the next pope. In a Twitter post Friday, Mahony wrote that it was "just a few short hours before my departure for Rome."

Church officials did not return requests for comment.

The case, set for trial in April, concerns a Mexican priest, Nicholas Aguilar Rivera. Authorities believe he molested at least 26 children during a nine-month stay in Los Angeles.

Recently released church files show Aguilar Rivera fled to Mexico after a top Mahony aide, Thomas Curry, warned him that parents were likely to go the police and that he was in "a good deal of danger." Aguilar Rivera remains a fugitive in Mexico.

The archdiocese had agreed that Mahony could be questioned for four hours about the Aguilar Rivera case and 25 other priests accused in the same period. De Marco said he did not get to ask everything he wanted and would seek additional time after the cardinal returned from the Vatican.

Past depositions of Mahony have eventually become public, and De Marco said he would follow court procedures to seek the release of a transcript of Saturday's deposition.

Meanwhile, a Catholic organization Saturday delivered a petition with thousands of signatures asking that Mahony recuse himself from the conclave in Rome.

The group, Catholics United, collected nearly 10,000 signatures making "a simple request" that the former archbishop of Los Angeles not participate in the process because of the priest abuse scandals that happened under his watch, said Chris Pumpelly, communications director for Catholics United.

The petition was delivered Saturday to St. Charles Borromeo in North Hollywood, where the cardinal resides. It was accepted by a church staff member.

After delivering the petition, organizers attended Mass at the parish to pray for healing and for the future of the church.

harriet.ryan@latimes.com

Times staff writer Rick Rojas contributed to this report.

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