Trials Of The Church: "He's Sorry He Got Caught"

Sandra Hughes is a CBS News correspondent based in Los Angeles.
The Los Angeles Superior Courtroom was so full, not all of the victims were allowed inside. They gathered to witness the announcement of the largest settlement in Catholic Church history, $660 million to be paid by the Los Angeles archdiocese to 508 victims of sexual abuse by clergy. There where so many lawyers, some had to sit in the jury box.

Despite a sometimes dry legal proceeding, emotions were raw in the courtroom. At one point, Ray Boucher, the main plaintiffs' lawyer was given the opportunity to speak and as he did some broke down and sobbed out loud. When Michael Hennigan, the archdiocese's attorney stood and faced the victims to say how much the church regretted the long wait to resolve the case, one angry man shouted "not accepted."

Many of the victims who were inside the courtroom had been headed to trial today in the case against Father Clinton Hagenback, who is now dead.

Steve Sanchez is one of those victims. Like many, he questions the timing of this settlement. After all, the first person on Steve Sanchez's witness list was Cardinal Roger Mahony (seen at the left). Mahoney is the head of the L.A. Archdiocese and has long been accused of ae massive cover-up in the sex abuse scandal here.

After the hearing Steve told me, "Mahony got off cheap today." "You know, $660 million and he was supposed to take the stand in our case, he bought himself off the witness stand."

Another man, with whom I spoke, Lee Bashforth, carried a picture of himself at seven years old with now convicted sex offender Michael Wempe. Just talking about Wempe brought tears to his eyes. Bashforth was particularly offended by Cardinal Mahony, who issued a public apology yesterday.

"He's sorry he got caught," is what Lee said. Today in court, Cardinal Mahony didn't say a word. But it was mentioned in court that he took two rushed trips to the Vatican to get this deal hammered out and for that, at least, plaintiffs' attorney Ray Boucher seemed willing to forgive him.