National Catholic Reporter

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Mahony admits protecting abusive priest

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Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles admitted, in a deposition given in February, that he protected a priest he knew had abused children. Read USA Today's Cathy Lynn Grossman's commentary.

In a subsequent statement on the matter, Mahony repeated a defense he has given numerous times in the past -- that members of the Catholic hierarchy just didn't know enough at the time about the conditions that caused abuse to get rid of priests who sexually molested children.

It is noteworthy, however, that the incident in question, his protection of now-defrocked priest Michael Baker, who's serving a 10-year sentence for molesting two children, occurred in 1986, a year after the scandal first broke nationally and 30 years after the founder of the Servants of the Paraclete, an order that treated abusive priests, began warning U.S. bishops of the need to isolate priests who abused children because of the extreme recidivism rate. His warnings eventually were sent via letter to a Vatican office in 1962 and were expresed in a personal visit with Pope Paul VI in 1963.

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It was also a year after the U.S. bishops chose to ignore a 92-page report compiled by Dominican Fr. Thomas Doyle (who has since become one of the strongest critics of the hierarchy's handling of the crisis), the late Fr. Michael Peterson, and a layman, Atty. Ray Mouton, outlining what was ahead, warning that many priests who abuse children are incurable and urging bishops to suspend abusive clerics and remove them from ministry.

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