Federal prosecutors are investigating Cardinal Roger M. Mahony and other officials of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles over their handling of alleged clergy child molestation cases, reports say
The Los Angeles Times, citing two unidentified law enforcement persons familiar with the case, reported on its Web site that Mahony is among those being investigated by a federal grand jury to determine if he failed to keep children safe from predatory priests.
The Wall Street Journal, citing an unnamed source, said authorities are looking to see if church officials tried to cover up the sexual abuse of minors by priests.
The International Herald Tribune says the sources spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the investigation.
Mahony's attorney, J. Michael Hennigan, told the Times he has been informed that the cardinal is not a target of the inquiry.
In a statement e-mailed to The Associated Press, Hennigan said the archdiocese had received requests from the federal government for information about "a number of individual priests, two of whom are deceased and none of whom are known to be in ministry."
Hennigan said the archdiocese was fully cooperating with the probe, and he criticized the government for leaking the information. He said the archdiocese would press for an internal investigation into the matter.
"The Archdiocese is not aware of any fact or set of facts that would support a responsible federal investigation of the Archdiocese or of Cardinal Roger Mahony," Hennigan's statement said.
"While the history of clergy sexual abuse in the Church is regrettable, it served as the foundation for broad reforms in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles."
The Los Angeles archdiocese, the largest in the U.S., reached a $660 million settlement in July 2007 with more than 500 alleged victims of clergy abuse. The settlement is the largest on record.
At the time, Mahony apologized for what he called a "terrible sin and crime" and said such abuse should never happen again.
"There really is no way to go back and give them that innocence that was taken from them. ... The one thing I wish I could give the victims, I cannot," he said at the time.
Alleged abuse victims reacted to news of the investigation with joy.
David Clohessy, director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said he was stunned by the report but also gladdened.
"From our perspective, it's crystal clear that parishioners were deceived and defrauded. It's simply common sense," he said by phone.
"You can't have hundreds of priests molest thousands of kids and have there not be fraud and deception."
He said he had been swamped with phone calls from alleged abuse victims around the country.
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