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Don't judge 1986 acts by 2010 standards, Cardinal Mahony said in deposition

June 16, 2010

In newly released testimony from a sex-abuse lawsuit, Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles said that the decisions he made in 1986 should not be judged by today’s standards.

"The challenge is trying to look at 1986 through the lenses of 2010," Cardinal Mahony said. He was explaining his failure to inform police after a priest admitted that he had molested children. The cardinal admitted that he had erred by accepting the priest’s promise not to repeat the sexual assaults, but said that in the 1980s the Church did not have strict standards for dealing with clerical abusers.

The priest involved in the case, Michael Baker, has since been laicized and is now serving a prison sentence for sexual assault on two children. He has been charged with molesting more than 20 children. The Los Angeles archdiocese paid $2.2 million to settle the lawsuit for which Cardinal Mahony was testifying.

The transcript of the cardinal’s deposition, made public yesterday, offered no new surprises. But John Manly, the plaintiff’s lawyer who was questioning Cardinal Mahony, said that the full text “paints a picture of somebody who obfuscates, dodges, lies, and explains away everything.”

Cardinal Mahony issued a statement after the release of the transcript, repeating his apology for failing to remove Baker from ministry. “I believed too readily in Baker’s contrition, and in our ability to treat and monitor him effectively,” he said. The cardinal said he was confident that new policies now in place in the archdiocese would protect children adequately.


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  • Posted by: extremeCatholic - Jun. 18, 2010 8:31 PM ET USA

    Perhaps bishops didn't pick up the phone and call the cops when informed of sexual crimes against minors in 1986, but regular people did. I don't think Card Mahony will experience a just punishment for his crimes in this life.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 16, 2010 10:35 PM ET USA

    "obfuscates, dodges, lies, and explains away everything," and priests like him do the same when the subject of hell is brought up. If they believed that anyone who does such evil things to children spends eternity in hell, they would have always known what to do; they wouldn't have wasted five minutes before hanging the scoundrels.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 16, 2010 7:55 PM ET USA

    Um, I can understand that we shouldn't apply today's standards to the practices of the 15th, 16th, 17th century, not even to those of 1960's (pre-Vatican II, pre-women's lib; different mindset; pop-psychology all the rage) but by 1986 an abhorance of sexual predators was universal as was the understanding that it should NEVER be tolerated.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 16, 2010 7:44 PM ET USA

    Well, in 1986 we really didn't know that sexual abuse was all that wrong, you know. The bishops discovered just how wrong it was when they realized that the alternative was bankruptcy.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 16, 2010 12:25 PM ET USA

    Spoken like a man who understands that you can't denigrate the Tridentine Mass by invoking the standards of today.