Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Cardinal Mahony Explains His Handling of Sex Abuse by Priest

Cardinal Mahony Explains His Handling of Sex Abuse by Priest
A deposition reveals why Mahony didn't warn parishoners about Reverend Michael Baker in 1986.
2:32 PM PDT, June 15, 2010

L.A. Cardinal Roger Mahony, Michael Baker (Getty Images/Los Angeles Times)

LOS ANGELES -- A legal deposition released on Tuesday explains for the first time why Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony didn't warn anyone after a priest admitted to molesting two young children 24 years ago.

According to court papers, Cardinal Mahony says he didn't warn parishoners in1986 about Reverend Michael Baker because the now-defrocked priest said the two boys were illegal immigrants who had returned to Mexico.

Mahony says he didn't take stronger action because he didn't know the victims' identities and because Baker told him the abuse happened outside the parish.

The cardinal also said he was misled by Baker and defended his own inaction as consistent with church policy at the time.

Baker told Mahony in 1986 at a priests' retreat that he had molested two young boys from 1978 to 1985, according to church documents. Mahony did not notify police and sent Baker to a residential facility that treated priests for sexual abuse problems.

In the years that followed, Baker was assigned to nine parishes but was barred from having one-on-one contact with minors. He violated those restrictions three times, according to church personnel file summaries previously released by the archdiocese.

Baker was not removed from the priesthood until 2000, after two men filed a lawsuit alleging he sexually molested them between 1984 and 1999.

"The challenge is trying to look at 1986 through the lenses of 2010," Mahony told attorney John Manly, explaining that more proactive measures are taken now after reports of abuse.

The transcript of Mahony's deposition in the lawsuit filed by the victim, known only as Luis C, details questioning of the cardinal about incidents in which a young boy was seen descending from the rectory staircase leading to Baker's bedroom and the confessed pedophile performed baptisms in direct violation of archdiocese orders that he have no contact with children.

Archdiocese spokesman Tod Tamberg, who was present for the questioning of the cardinal, told the Los Angeles Times there was "nothing of substance" revealed by his testimony.

The church fought release of the documents on principle, Tamberg told the Times, as the deposition was taken in a case that has since been settled out of court for $2.2 million.

Mahony issued a statement after the deposition transcript was released, saying that the information wasn't new but that he wanted to apologize again to Baker's victims and the community.

"I believed too readily in Baker's contrition, and in our ability to treat and monitor him effectively," the cardinal said. "The past has informed the present, however, and I have made sure that our sexual abuse prevention policies and procedures will keep our children and young people safe from predators like Michael Baker."

The deposition reveals for the first time the cardinal's own account -- taken under oath -- of how he handled the allegations against Baker and why.

Baker was charged in 2002 with 34 counts of molestation involving six alleged victims, but those charges were dismissed a year later after the U.S. Supreme Court voided a California law that allowed the prosecution of cases involving acts that occurred before 1988.

Baker is serving ten years in prison for abusing children.

23 alleged victims have made civil claims involving Baker, according to the L.A. Archdiocese

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