Sunday, June 20, 2010

Cardinal's deposition sheds new light on how church handled abuse

Cardinal's deposition sheds new light on how church handled abuse

From CNN National Correspondent Susan Candiotti and Producer Ross Levitt:

In a newly released videotaped deposition, Los Angeles Roman Catholic Cardinal Roger Mahony defends how he handled—and admittedly mishandled—allegations that one of his priests was molesting children.

The deposition was taken last January by lawyer John Manly, suing on behalf of a client who says he was abused by a priest named Michael Baker in the Los Angeles Archdiocese more than a decade ago.

The lawsuit was settled a few months ago for over two million dollars and Baker is serving a 10-year sentence for molesting three boys.

Manly says that he and the Los Angeles Times convinced a judge to release the videotape of the deposition this week after the Archdiocese attempted to keep it under seal.

The allegations discussed in the deposition aren’t new, but the tape gives additional insight into what Mahony was thinking when he decided to forego reporting Baker to police or mentioning Baker’s history to his parish after the priest told the cardinal he molested two boys in 1986.

The priest told Mahony that the boys were illegal aliens and that they had gone back to Mexico. Mahony said he didn’t investigate because he didn’t know the boys’ last names.

“This is among the most absurd excuses we've ever heard a bishop make—that he refused to call police because an admitted predator claimed the victims had left the country,” said Barbara Blaine, the national president of SNAP, the Survivors’ Network of those Abused by Priests.

In a statement, Blaine said that “the legal status of children who are molested is irrelevant and it's shameful that Mahony would claim otherwise.”

“If, in fact, Fr. Baker's victims had left the U.S.,” the statement continued, “Mahony's duty to call police was even greater, since the chances that the kids themselves would contact law enforcement was virtually nil.”

Los Angeles Archdiocese spokesman Tod Tamberg told CNN that any notion that Mahony may not have pursued the allegations because the children were illegal aliens is “baloney.”

In the deposition, Mahony says he later learned Baker lied about knowing who the boys were and where they lived.

"Basically, I believed him,” the cardinal says in the deposition. “I believed him all along that he was making progress, that he was going to a therapist. There were no new offenses. And we found out later that he lived a huge lie all those years. "

“Did you not think it was prudent to go to the parish and make an announcement that Father Baker had hurt these kids and if anybody’s been hurt by Father Baker, please come forward so we can get you some help?” Manly asks Mahony in the deposition.

“Well, the challenge is trying to look at 1986 through the lenses of 2010,” Mahony responds.

Before 1997, the Church was not legally mandated to report child abuse allegations and Mahony said there was no Church policy to do so at the time. There is now.

In the deposition, Mahony acknowledges that it was later learned that Baker molested about 20 boys over time. Baker lived in nine parishes after receiving church-ordered treatment for molesting the two boys in 1986, though he was forbidden from further contact with children during his other assignments.

The Los Angeles Archdiocese finally reported Baker to the police in 2002 after another abuse allegation in 2000. Baker, who asked to be defrocked, was convicted in 2007.

When the videotape was released, Mahoney issued a statement apologizing for how he dealt with Baker’s case, as he has in the past.

“Though the details of what transpired from 1986 to 2000 are not new," the statement said, " …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.”

As CNN Special Investigations Correspondent Drew Griffin first reported last year, sources say that a federal grand jury in Los Angeles is investigating whether the Archdiocese and Cardinal Mahony violated the law in his response to molestation of children by priests.

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