Cardinal Mahony told KNX radio news in Los Angeles that he was “mystified and puzzled by the whole thing” because the grand jury had subpoenaed files on 22 priests, of whom two are dead and the rest have been removed from the priesthood.
He said prosecutors seemed to be looking for documents related to transfers of the priests between parishes, and whether parishioners were informed of their history of abuse.
The news of a federal investigation into the archdiocese, the nation’s largest, electrified abuse victims and their lawyers, who have insisted for years that senior church officials should be held accountable for reassigning known molesters to continue working in parishes and schools.
“Even if they hand up indictments and they lose, no victim would fault a prosecutor for going after a bishop and losing because frankly that’s what we’ve been doing for decades,” said David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “The real pain for victims is seeing people with subpoena power and a bully pulpit not even try.”
Cardinal Mahony said in the radio interview that he did not know whether he was a target of the investigation but that he would be willing to testify before a grand jury.
He seemed puzzled at the timing of the investigation. He said that after the archdiocese issued a report in 2004 on its role in the priest scandals he thought that “somebody might raise some questions, but it never happened.”
Then, in 2007, the archdiocese paid $660 million to settle lawsuits with 508 people who said they had been abused by priests or church employees — the largest settlement made in the scandals. Cardinal Mahony said Thursday that only the United States attorney in Los Angeles, Thomas P. O’Brien, could say why the investigation was occurring now. Mr. O’Brien’s office would not comment.
Cardinal Mahony has been subpoenaed to testify in March at a trial in Fresno, said Anthony M. De Marco, a lawyer in Los Angeles who is handling the case. It involves two brothers who say they were molested by a monsignor in the 1970’s, when the cardinal was auxiliary bishop in Fresno.
The archdiocese released a statement calling for the government to investigate who leaked grand jury information. It also said it could find no reason for “a responsible federal investigation” of the archdiocese or the cardinal, but that it would cooperate fully.
A government official who requested anonymity because grand jury proceedings are secret said that among several statutes being applied in the federal inquiry is the “honest services mail fraud statute” — a law used in corruption cases against government officials. The theory, the official said, is that archdiocesan officials may have deprived parishioners of “honest services.”
Nicholas P. Cafardi, dean emeritus at Duquesne University School of Law, who served on the American bishops’ first review board on sexual abuse, said, “This appears to be a real stretch,” and called it an intrusion into the church’s First Amendment rights.
He added: “It’s time for this to be over. L.A. has settled with all of their claimants.”But John C. Manly, a plaintiffs lawyer in Newport Beach who has been bringing cases against the archdiocese and Cardinal Mahony for more than 10 years, disagreed, saying: “My experience is, if they get this to trial and any jury sees the documents and finds out what he did, he’s finished. The documents tell the tale.” +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
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