In a deposition included as evidence in several child sex abuse cases against the Los Angeles archdiocese of the Catholic Church, it was revealed today that retired Cardinal Roger Mahony withheld potential victim information from investigating officers when requested in 1988. The police asked for a list of names of all the altar boys from the last church an accused priest had worked. The church did not cooperate.
Last year under court order, the church provided their internal files for any priests accused of child abuse. Within that documentation was information passed from then Archbishop Mahony to one of his subordinates stating that a list of boys’ names was not to be provided to the police under any circumstances. When questioned for the first time about the information found in the internal file as part of the deposition, Mahony stated that he did not want the police questioning all of the altar boys, as it could have harmful ramifications to those not involved, and they had no suspicion of any additional victims of abuse.
The police eventually did get the information they needed on the potential victims by questioning the families of the parishes themselves. The accused priest in this case, Nicholas Aguilar Rivera, was determined to have abused 26 children in approximately 10 months while working as a visiting priest in the Los Angeles archdiocese, which is the largest in the country. In addition to withholding information, Rivera was advised by the archdiocese that the police were being notified of the accusations against him, and he subsequently fled the area before being questioned by the police. He has never returned and is believed to be in his native country of Mexico. If he does return to the United States, he will be arrested.
Prosecution of Mahony or any other church officials involved in withholding information from the police for obstruction of justice is unlikely, as they are now outside of the statute of limitations for these abuse cases, which is approximately 3 to 5 years. In addition, the police were able to obtain the information on the potential victims via alternate means. There was also no action taken by the church against the archdiocese or its leaders for the handling of these abuse cases based on the content revealed in the internal files. It did not prevent Mahony from being elevated from an Archbishop to a Cardinal. Cardinal Mahony advised he did not know that Rivera was warned by the church ahead of the police being notified. He retired in 2011.
The archdiocese in Los Angeles has paid approximately $700 million in settlements since 2006 for the cases of child abuse brought against them. There has been $13 million paid out to 17 victims in the case against Rivera and 4 other priests. Additional civil lawsuits are still pending against the archdiocese. Cardinal Mahony has been formally investigated by prosecutors with regard to the information withheld from the police, but there will be no additional criminal action taken against him at this time.
By Jennifer Bridge