Tags: Issues | Warning | Cardinal | Mahony

DA Issues Warning to LA 's Cardinal Mahony

Friday, 17 May 2002 12:00 AM

In a hand-delivered letter to the cardinal, District Attorney Steve Cooley warned that he would go through the grand jury process to get the requested information if he did not get it from the archdiocese in the very near future.

"Nothing short of a full accounting with written documentation is acceptable" Cooley said in his statement. "If it is not forthcoming, the district attorney will utilize the grand jury to obtain it."

Mahony, who heads the three-county Los Angeles archdiocese, had pledged two months ago to cooperate with police and sheriff's investigators in their probes of 36 children who had been allegedly sexually molested by priests. But Cooley's office told reporters Thursday that prosecutors were still waiting for the documentation.

"Not one scrap of paper," Cooley's spokeswoman, Sandi Gibbons, replied, when asked what evidence the archdiocese had turned over to date.

The District Attorney's Office said Cooley had repeatedly sent letters to Mahony urging him to turn over the requested documents, and that Cooley was completely dissatisfied with the lack of response.

"The cardinal has replied that such information has been provided," Cooley's statement said. "Although some information has been given verbally to law enforcement by the archdiocese, as of today, the archdiocese has provided no written information to the Los Angeles police and Sheriff's Departments and other police agencies investigating allegations of child molestations by priests in Los Angeles County."

There was no immediate response to Cooley's letter from the increasingly beleaguered cardinal.

Mahony earlier this week apologized to the 1,200 priests in the Los Angeles archdiocese for not taking firmer action against a priest who had admitted to him in 1986 that he had molested two boys.

The letter, faxed to the clergymen on Tuesday, was issued in advance of a Los Angeles Times story published Thursday that contended that Mahony allowed the priest, the Rev. Michael Baker, to remain active until his forced retirement in 2000.

"As your archbishop, I assume full responsibility for allowing Baker to remain in any type of ministry in the 1990s," Mahony wrote. "If I had known in those years what I discovered in early 2000, I would have dismissed him from all ministry and requested his dismissal from the priesthood in the late 1980s."

The letter stated that Baker was dismissed in 2000 after the archdiocese learned that two Phoenix men were preparing a lawsuit alleging Baker had molested them during the late 1980s. The suit was settled confidentially for $1.3 million.

Mahony admitted in his letter that in late 1986, Baker had "disclosed to me that he had problems in the past of acting out sexually with two minors."

Mahony said he ordered Baker to a New Mexico treatment center for pedophile priests at the time for evaluation after which he was returned to ministries that did not involve contact with children.

The Times contended, however, that Baker did have frequent contact with minors during the next 14 years as he worked at nine parishes in the Los Angeles area, including six with adjacent elementary schools.

Mahony maintained that the archdiocese received no reports of problems involving Baker until the lawsuit in 2000.

The Times said Thursday that in a series of interviews, Baker, 54, told the newspaper that Mahony had rejected a suggestion from a church lawyer in 1986 that the police be called in to investigate the incident involving the two boys.

"I told Mahony I had a problem," Baker said. "He was very solicitous and understanding. I was glad that I brought it up."

Mahony told the Times he did not recall the meeting, but the newspaper said that leaked e-mails indicated Mahony was still reluctant as late as this spring to turn Baker's name over to law enforcement investigators.

Mahony had said at a retreat for archdiocese priests in the summer of 1985 -- shortly after his appointment to lead the archdiocese -- that anyone with such a problem was invited to come forward and speak to him about it.

"We made it clear that if you told us, we would follow the policies," Mahony told the Times, which added that the policy was to remove the priest from his ministry, but keep the investigation in-house.

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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In a hand-delivered letter to the cardinal, District Attorney Steve Cooley warned that he would go through the grand jury process to get the requested information if he did not get it from the archdiocese in the very near future. Nothing short of a full accounting with...
Friday, 17 May 2002 12:00 AM
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