LA Cardinal Mahony shielded sexual predators within the Catholic Church
New documents show damage control trumped private pain of victims
The personnel files of 13 other clerics show a similar pattern of denial and cover-up, said attorney Anthony De Marco, who represents one 35-year-old plaintiff.
The growing tide of abuse and the church's habitual secrecy in response to it saw one memo to Mahony suggest sending a cleric to a therapist who also is an attorney, in the hope that any incriminating evidence would be protected from authorities by lawyer-client privilege.
In another instance, archdiocese officials paid a secret salary to a priest who had been exiled to the Philippines after he and six other clerics were accused of having sex with a teen and impregnating her.
The newly published files offer a startling glimpse at the 30,000 pages still to be made public as part of a record-setting $660 million abuse settlement.
The archdiocese agreed to give the files to the more than 500 victims of priest abuse in 2007, but a lawyer for about 30 of the accused priests fought to keep records sealed. A judge recently ordered the church to release them without blacking out the names of church personnel.
The files demonstrate how church leaders moved 'problem' priests from parish to parish for decades, covering up each report of abuse and failing to contact law enforcement.
Mahony, who retired in 2011 after twenty six years at the helm of a 4.3-million person archdiocese, has come in for particular criticism for his handling of the case of the Reverend Michael Baker, sentenced to prison in 2007 for molestation, two decades after he confessed his abuse to Mahony.
Mahony sent Baker for psychological treatment in 1986 after the priest told him that he had molested two brothers over seven years. Baker returned to ministry the next year with a doctor's recommendation that he be defrocked immediately if he spent any time with minors. But despite several documented instances of being alone with boys, Baker wasn't removed from ministry until 2000.
Church officials also reportedly discussed announcing Baker's abuse in churches where he had worked, but Mahony rejected the idea.
'We could open up another firestorm — and it takes us years to recover from those,' Mahony wrote in an October 6, 2000, memo. 'Is there no alternative to public announcements at all the Masses in 15 parishes??? Wow — that really scares the daylights out of me!!'
The aide, Monsignor Peter Garcia Richard Loomis, noted his dismay over how higher ups were handling the matter when he retired in 2001 as vicar for clergy, the top church official who handled priestly discipline. In a memo to his successor, Loomis said Baker's attorney disclosed the priest had at least 10 other victims.
'We've stepped back 20 years and are being driven by the need to cover-up and to keep the presbyteriate & public happily ignorant rather than the need to protect children,' Loomis wrote.
'The only other option is to sit and wait until another victim comes forward. Then someone else will end up owning the archdiocese of Los Angeles. The liability issues involved aside, I think that course of complete (in)action would be immoral and unethical.'
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