The former Catholic archbishop of Los Angeles and other high-ranking clergy conspired to protect colleagues who sexually assaulted children from criminal prosecution.
The Los Angeles Timesreports that retired Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, who served as Archbishop of Los Angeles from 1985 until 2011, worked quietly to hide evidence of child sexual abuse committed by priests and other clergy from law enforcement more than 10 years before the abuse exploded into a public scandal.
The Los Angeles Times obtained and published secret church documents that show how the Archdiocese of Los Angeles did not defrock priests who abused children, but rather sent them to out-of-state treatment centers, largely to avoid a California legal requirement that therapists report such abuse to authorities.
Some details from the documents obtained by the Times:
- Father Michael Baker confessed to Mahony that he molested boys in 1986, but was welcomed back into the church after receiving therapy. Baker then continued to sexually assault children, some as young as five years old. Authorities believe he abused at least 23 boys over the course of 26 years. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2007.
- Father Michael Wempe confessed to abusing 13 boys over 36 years. Mahony noted that Wempe lied to his psychologist and "finessed" his way through therapy. The archdiocese was also aware that Wempe had a 12-year-old "sex partner," but he was allowed to remain a priest. Wempe was sentenced to 3 years imprisonment in 2006.
- Monsignor Peter Garcia sexually abused as many as 20 boys, including one who he tied up and raped. Many of his victims were undocumented immigrants, who he threatened to have deported if they resisted him. In 1986, Mahony sent Garcia to New Mexico for therapy, noting that "we might very well have some type of legal action filed in both the criminal and civil sectors" if the rapist was dealt with in California. Garica left the priesthood in 1989 and died 20 years later without ever facing prosecution.
In the award-winning 2006 documentary film "Deliver Us From Evil," Mahony is accused of protecting a child-raping priest named Oliver O'Grady while Bishop of Stockton in the 1980s. The film alleges that Stockton police closed an investigation into O'Grady's crimes after Mahony transfered him to San Andreas, where he continued to rape children. Mahony was promoted to Archbishop of Los Angeles shortly thereafter. O'Grady eventually confessed to sexually abusing dozens of children and served seven years behind bars before being deported to his native Ireland. In December 2010, he was arrested in Dublin after pornographic images of children as young as 2 years old were found on his computer.
In 2007, Archbishop Mahony and the Catholic church apologized for clergy sex abuse following a record $660 million settlement paid out to more than 500 victims.
Ray Boucher, a lawyer who represented some of the plaintiffs in the sex abuse case, told the Los Angeles Times that the newly-released documents were "particularly damning" and demonstrated the "wanton disregard for the health and safety of children, and a decision by the highest members of the church to put its self-interest and the interest of abusive priests ahead of those children."
Molestation and rape of children by Catholic clergy is a truly global epidemic. Countless tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of children have been abused in recent decades, and the reaction of Catholic leaders has ranged from ordering cover-ups to paying priests to leave the church to claiming that boys raped by priests were willing homosexual participants, not victims of pedophile predators.
Like the majority of pedophile priests and those who protected them over the decades, Roger Mahony never faced justice for his part in the rape of countless innocent children. He is living freely in southern California.