California Church Cover-up?

Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles AP

When victims of a California priest were awarded $30 million in 1998, it was the largest judgment ever against the Catholic Church. And, for the first time in a priest abuse case, a cardinal, Roger Mahony, testified.

"I felt like he lied to us," said juror Mary Park.

He told Park and other jurors that when he was Bishop of Stockton, he didn't know Father Oliver O'Grady was a molester. Mahony transferred the priest weeks after a police investigation. He claimed he never read the secret file his diocese kept which contained O'Grady's confession.

"We asked each other, 'Did you think he was telling the truth?' And the greatest majority of us felt he wasn't being honest with us, that he was still covering up," said Park.

In 1991, evidence surfaced connecting Mahony and his predecessors to the cover up of the Rita Milla case. When she was a teenager, a priest told her: he had a secret.

"He just leaned over and kissed me," said Milla.

In time, she says Father Santiago Tamayo forced her to have sex with him and other priests.

"It was seven priests. It didn't stop until I got pregnant," she said.

They scared her into keeping their secret and sent her to the Philippines where she almost died giving birth.

"I almost died protecting them. That's the part that woke me up. I went to the archdiocese really, really confident that they were going to listen to me. They were going to be appalled," said Milla.

But, reports CBS News Correspondent Vince Gonzales, when they did nothing she decided to sue. The priests fled and the archdiocese said it didn't know where they went. The story might have ended there, but seven years later, Father Tamayo, plagued by guilt, came back and confessed.

He'd kept letters showing the Church knew he was in the Philippines and paid him to stay there.

"We would ask that you not reveal that you are being paid by the Los Angeles archdiocese unless requested to under oath," the letters read.

"But how's he going to do that if he's hidden?" demanded Milla.

Cardinal Mahony has denied any knowledge of the case, saying -- as he did with O'Grady -- he never read the files.

But when Mahony took over the archdiocese, Father Tamayo wrote directly to him. The cardinal's staff responded, offering the priest more money to stay away because lawsuits would "only open old wounds and further hurt anyone concerned, including the archdiocese."

"Liar. What a liar. I wish I could have him right in front of me and just cram these (documents) in his face and say 'explain this'," said Milla.

Tamayo was defrocked by Mahony, not for sex abuse, but for getting married. The Church denied repeated requests to interview the cardinal, but in Rome this week, Mahony told a local reporter he has a zero tolerance policy toward abusive priests.

"That''s our number one priority, to care for victims, to make sure all children and young people are safe and we don't have a repetition of this," he said.

Rita Milla, who once thought of becoming a nun, has turned her back on the Church and is devoted only to her family -- including her oldest child, the daughter of a priest.
  • chris oregan

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