Los Angeles church officials are being accused of protecting pedophile priests, according to confidential church files.
Retired Cardinal Roger Mahony and other key Roman Catholic officials in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles protected molester priests, hid molestation accusations from parishioners, and ensured “damage control” for the church, according to The Huffington Post, citing church personnel files. The confidential records were filed in a lawsuit against the archdiocese.
The files reveal that Reverend Lynn Caffoe, suspected of locking boys in his room, videotaping their genitalia, and amassing a $100 phone sex bill while with a boy, was sent for therapy and removed from ministry. It took until 2004 for Mahony to have Caffoe defrocked. “He is a fugitive from justice,” Mahony wrote of Caffoe to the Vatican’s Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger—Cardinal Ratzinger is now Pope Benedict XVI. Caffoe died in 2009, six years after a newspaper reporter discovered he was working at a homeless mission. The mission, noted The Huffington Post, was just two blocks away from an elementary school in Salinas.
Of the abuse allegations, Mahony issued a statement of apology stating, “It remains my daily and fervent prayer that God’s grace will flood the heart and soul of each victim, and that their life journey continues forward with ever greater healing…. I am sorry.” Meanwhile, some 20 years ago, Mahony wrote to accused priests offering similar words of prayer. In a 1987 letter to Reverend Michael Wempe during his inpatient treatment, Mahony wrote “Each of you there at Jemez Springs is very much in my prayers and I call you to mind each day during my celebration of the Eucharist,” adding that he supported Wempe in the experience. Wempe, noted The Huffington Post, admitted to abusing 13 boys.
The files discuss Reverend Nicholas Aguilar Rivera, who victimized children of illegal immigrants, threatening them with deportation. When parents in LA complained to the church, officials there advised Rivera two days before telling the police, enabling Rivera to flee to Mexico, The Huffington Post reported. Some 26 children told police the now defrocked and fugitive Rivera abused them.
The files of 13 other priests were attached to the motion that includes 30,000 pages of exhibits. The files, in an agreement with the archdiocese, will be given to over 500 victims and, in compliance with a recent judicial order, church officials names will remain in tact; this after intervention by The Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times, said The Huffington Post.
According to the files, Reverend Michael Baker, was sentenced in 2007 for molestation—20 years after he confessed abusing two brothers, over seven years, to Mahony. After returning to the ministry from psychological treatment in 1986 with a physician recommendation that he be immediately defrocked should he spend time with minors, Baker spent time alone with boys and conducted baptisms without church permission. He remained in the active priesthood until 2000. According to key Mahony aide, retired Monsignor Richard Loomis, Baker had at least 10 other victims. Baker was paroled in 2011 and is alleged to have molested 20 children, said the Huffington Post.
Mahony also helped ensure abusive priests undergoing treatment were kept out of California to avoid criminal and civil prosecution. In 1986, Monsignor Peter Garcia, was kept at a treatment center in New Mexico after an attorney warned the archdiocese that it could face “severe civil liability” if Garcia was returned and re-offended, The Huffington Post wrote, citing the files. Garcia admitted raping an 11-year-old boy and later told a psychologist he molested 15-17 boys. “If Monsignor Garcia were to reappear here within the archdiocese, we might very well have some type of legal action filed in both the criminal and civil sectors,” Mahony wrote to the director of the treatment program Garcia was attending; Mahony moved Garcia to another center. The molester priest returned to LA in 1988 and was removed from the ministry. Shockingly, Garcia contacted a victim’s mother seeking to spend time with her younger son, said The Huffington Post. In 1989, Mahony finally took steps to defrock Garcia, who died in 1999.
As we have written, it has been more than a decade since the first major wave of sexual abuse lawsuits were weighed against the Catholic Church in the U.S. Hundreds and possibly thousands of children were victims of sexual abuse committed by priests working for the church, which rather than risking a tarnished profile, opted to keep these issues to themselves; rather than removing abusive priests, the Church transferred the accused to different churches, allowing them to prey on unknowing parishioners and their children.
Allegations have been made, not only against officials in the Catholic Church, but also against the ultra-Orthodox Jewish population, the Boy Scouts of America, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Penn State and former coach, Jerry Sandusky, to name just some.