LA archdiocese gets creative in defending priest abuse case

Associated Press/June 9, 2006

Cardinal Roger M. Mahony intervened in a molestation suit against a former police official and won a court ruling that could help the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles defend sexual abuse lawsuits involving pedophile priests.

The appeals court ruling would make it difficult for plaintiffs to gain access to priests' personnel files. Victims' attorneys have appealed it to the California Supreme Court.

More than 550 parishioners have sued the archdiocese for allegedly failing to protect them from sexual abuse by priests. Three years of negotiations have not resulted in a settlement, and the first three cases are set to go to trial in November.

Mahony intervened in March in a civil suit alleging several former Los Angeles police Explorer Scouts were molested in the late 1970s by the department's highest-ranking openly gay officer, Deputy Chief David Kalish. The plaintiffs said the department should have known about the alleged conduct.

Authorities said the accusations, which Kalish denied, were too old to prosecute.

In the civil case, Kalish's lawyer argued that state law required the Explorers to show specific sexual misconduct before the LAPD could be forced to open its files. A California appellate court agreed and on Feb. 24 dismissed the LAPD as a defendant.

Mahony's lawyer on March 3 asked the court to publish the decision, which would make it apply to other cases and not just the suit against Kalish. The court did so four days later.

Now Raymond P. Boucher, an attorney for many of the church's accusers, has asked the California Supreme Court to depublish the ruling on the grounds that it would deny victims their day in court.

Plaintiffs argue that the archdiocese's files contain evidence that church officials left pedophile priests in ministry without alerting parishioners or police.

Boucher criticized Mahony for intervening in the Kalish case without the plaintiffs' knowledge.

"I thought it was underhanded for the archdiocese to surreptitiously send that letter and never give us an opportunity to respond," Boucher said.

J. Michael Hennigan, the cardinal's lawyer, and Tod Tamburg, Mahony's spokesman, declined to comment Thursday to the Los Angeles Times.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.