Church Coverup Scandal Hits L.A.

Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles
AP
In recent weeks, Cardinal Roger Mahony has insisted the Los Angeles Archdiocese does not protect abusive priests.

"We've been very forthcoming to law enforcement," he said on April 26. "You see, I don't want in the church anyone who's abused a child, so the last thing I want is to cover that up."

But Father Michael Baker told the Los Angeles Times that in 1986, after he informed Cardinal Mahony that he had molested children, he was at a meeting where an archdiocese lawyer asked the cardinal, "Should we call the police now?"

Mahony's response: "No, no, no."

In a letter sent to the Times on Thursday, that lawyer denies he suggested calling police and says, "I have never met Michael Baker. I have never attended a meeting with him."

Mahony admits he knew about Baker's problems, but for the next 14 years assigned him to different parishes where he had access to children.

Earlier this week, Mahony faxed a two-page letter to 1,200 priests in his archdiocese, acknowledging that he mishandled Baker's case.

"As your archbishop, I assume full responsibility for allowing Baker to remain in any type of ministry during the 1990s," Mahony wrote. "I offer my sincere, personal apologies for my failure to take firm and decisive action much earlier."

When a lawyer for some of Baker's victims wrote the archdiocese two years ago and told them Baker had confessed to her as well, the church settled quickly.

"Cardinal Mahony did what any other head of a big corporation does," said victims' attorney Lynne Cadigan. "He's going to clean up, cover up and pay off."

Now more alleged victims are coming forward, reports CBS News Correspondent Vince Gonzales.

"It seems to me that the cardinal and the church are protecting its own," said alleged victim Matt Severson.

Late Thursday, the Los Angeles County district attorney told Cardinal Mahony to turn over all documents on abusive priests or face a grand jury.

In other developments in the church sex abuse scandal:

  • A Baltimore judge denied bail and ordered a psychological evaluation Wednesday for a man accused of shooting a priest who he claimed fondled him as a teen-ager. Dontee Stokes, 26, told police he shot the Rev. Maurice Blackwell Monday after the priest refused to talk to him. Stokes was charged with attempted murder, gun violations and assault.

  • A retired priest was indicted in Salem, Mass., on three counts of rape of a child. Ronald Paquin, 59, has admitted molesting boys. He was indicted Wednesday on charges he repeatedly sexually abused an altar boy, sometimes in a cemetery. Paquin was being held on $100,000 cash bail pending his arraignment.

  • The Archdiocese of New York, in a departure from earlier policy, said Wednesday it will report sexual abuse allegations directly to prosecutors, without first conducting an internal review.

  • The Archdiocese of Louisville was sued Tuesday by five more people claiming they were sexually abused as youths by priests and that the church concealed the misconduct. The latest plaintiffs include four men and one woman. The filings bring to 54 the total lawsuits against the archdiocese since April 19.

  • A judge ordered Tuesday that all but three pages of medical records concerning retired Boston-area priest Rev. Paul Shanley be made public. The records had been sought by the family of Gregory Ford, 24, who says in a lawsuit that Shanley repeatedly raped him when he was a boy. Ford filed suit against Boston Cardinal Bernard Law, accusing the cardinal of negligence in failing to protect him from Shanley.