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UPDATE, 5/7/2021: In response to ChurchMilitant's query, the spokeswoman for the archdiocese of Los Angeles sent an email stating, "It is our understanding that the recent civil suit is being withdrawn." Church Militant contacted Peter Schweitzer, spokesman for Saunders Law Firm, representing the accuser, to ask him to confirm whether the lawsuit is being withdrawn, but received no response as of press time.
LOS ANGELES (ChurchMilitant.com) (warning: some explicit content) - A new lawsuit accuses California Cdl. Roger Mahony of sexually abusing a male minor. It is the first such lawsuit ever brought against the former archbishop of Los Angeles.
Filed April 19 in Los Angeles Superior Court, the plaintiff, under the alias John Doe, is suing "The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Los Angeles," which includes Cdl. Roger Mahony and staff of the archdiocese.
The lawsuit alleges Mahony "repeatedly sexually assaulted, molested and abused" Doe in 1986, when he was 17. The plaintiff also accuses the archdiocese of knowing about the archbishop's abuse and covering it up.
Doe describes himself as being raised in Mexico and moving to Los Angeles when he was still a minor in 1986. There his family attended St. Vibiana Catholic Cathedral, the former cathedral of the archdiocese before it was replaced by the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.
It was at St. Vibiana where Doe first met Abp. Mahony, who took a special interest in the boy, becoming a "trustworthy mentor" and gaining the boy's "trust and confidence as a spiritual guide" and "authority figure."
"Archbishop Roger Mahony's conduct constituted 'grooming' of Plaintiff and culminated in his sexual assault and abuse of Plaintiff," the lawsuit states, going on to graphically detail the incident:
Archbishop Roger Mahony's sexual abuse of Plaintiff included, but was not limited to, repeated groping and fondling of Plaintiff's genital area, and culminated in oral copulation in the bathroom of St. Vibiana's rectory approximately two weeks prior to Plaintiff's 18th birthday while another member of the clergy stood guard at the door and eagerly watched.
The lawsuit also notes Mahony's homosexual interest in Doe: The archbishop "sexually abused Plaintiff for sexual gratification which was, at least in part, based on Plaintiff's gender, who was a minor boy at the time."
Doe claims the abuse has resulted in "PTSD, severe anxiety, depression, lost interest in activities, an inability to concentrate, feeling of self-blame, feelings of estrangement from friends and/or family, hypervigilance, a lost sense of worth, a sense of being tainted, suicidal ideation and a loss of sexual desire."
He's seeking a jury trial and unspecified damages.
Doe believes Mahony has other victims, and that the archdiocese kept this from authorities.
"Archbishop Roger Mahony is believed to have previously sexually assaulted other young victims other than Plaintiff prior to the time he sexually assaulted the Plaintiff," the complaint notes.
Mahony's name appears on the L.A. archdiocese's list of publicly accused priests, with the accompanying status of "Exonerated/Retired/Full Faculties to Minister." He had been accused by two youths between 1970 and 1993 of abuse, but none of the allegations were substantiated.
Doe accuses the archdiocese of "actively shielding" Mahony from taking responsibility for his alleged crimes and "failing to report" him to civil authorities.
"[A]lthough Defendants knew that Abp. Roger Mahony was a pedophile and had sexually assaulted other minors, Defendants accepted, ratified and even encouraged Abp. Roger Mahony's lewd and predatory conduct, and continued to allow him access to children, including but not limited to Plaintiff."
This accords with the track record of the L.A. archdiocese under Mahony's leadership from 1985–2011, when Mahony and his team gained a notorious reputation for covering up sex abuse and protecting predators, including sending priests out of state to escape prosecution.
His actions led to the single largest sex abuse payout in U.S. history: $660 million in 2007. The archdiocese has since shelled out millions more.
Records show Mahony actively blocked investigations, including refusing to hand over to investigators a list of altar boys who had served with visiting Mexican priest Fr. Nicolas Aguilar Rivera in 1988. Authorities eventually obtained the list through parish families, and Rivera was convicted of abusing 26 altar boys during his 10 months in Los Angeles.
Mahony was sued last year by a victim for reinstating a known predator to priestly ministry. Archdiocesan records show Fr. Michael Baker privately confessed to Mahony in 1986 that he had molested two boys; instead of reporting him to police, Mahony sent him out of state to a rehabilitation center before placing him back in active ministry, where he went on to abuse more children. Baker was eventually convicted in 2007 of child sex crimes and sentenced to 10 years in prison. He is believed to have as many as 23 victims.
Other instances of Mahony's protection of predators are too numerous to recount.
In 2003, after California's bishops followed Mahony's lead and refused to take part in a survey of sex abuse in each diocese, Frank Keating, then-chairman of the National Review Board for the Protection of Children and Young People, compared the hierarchy to the mafia.
"To act like La Cosa Nostra and hide and suppress, I think, is very unhealthy," said Keating. "To resist grand jury subpoenas, to suppress the names of offending clerics, to deny, to obfuscate, to explain away; that is the model of a criminal organization, not my Church."
The comments drew a special rebuke from Mahony.
"This is the last straw," the cardinal told the Los Angeles Times in 2003. "To make statements such as these — I don't know how he can continue to have the support of the bishops." Keating eventually left his role as head of the National Review Board, accusing Mahony of listening "too much to his lawyer and not enough to his heart."
Steve Cooley, then-L.A. district attorney, agreed with Keating that Mahony was less than cooperative during the D.A.'s investigation: "We share his frustration." In spite of Mahony's promises of transparency, he refused for months to open up personnel files on abusive priests, stymying the criminal investigation.
Leon Panetta, also a member of the National Review Board, later going on to head the CIA, said of Mahony that he "has done tremendous damage to his reputation and the archdiocese," recalling a meeting where the cardinal showed up with "more lawyers in the room than I've ever seen."
Mahony has not yet publicly responded to the lawsuit.