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LA cardinal to be deposed in abuse lawsuit

Posted: February 2, 2013 2:30 p.m.
Updated: February 15, 2013 2:30 p.m.

This June 14, 2006 file photo shows Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony speaking at a news conference in Los Angeles. (AP)

 

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Attorneys for an alleged victim of priest sexual abuse will depose the former Roman Catholic archbishop of Los Angeles next week as part of a clergy abuse lawsuit, attorneys in the case said Friday.

Cardinal Roger Mahony will be deposed Feb. 23 about how he handled a visiting Mexican priest who police believe molested 26 children in the Los Angeles archdiocese during a nine-month stay in 1987. The Rev. Nicolas Aguilar Rivera fled to Mexico in 1988 after parents complained. He remains a fugitive, with warrants for his arrest in both the U.S. and Mexico.

Michael Hennigan, an archdiocese attorney, confirmed the parties agreed to a four-hour deposition with no limitations on the line of questioning.

Confidential files of more than 120 priests accused of child molestation released last month show that Mahony and other top archdiocese officials maneuvered behind the scenes to shield accused priests and protect the church from a growing scandal.

The cardinal was publicly rebuked by his successor, Archbishop Jose Gomez, and stripped of his public duties. He has apologized for his handling of priests accused of abuse.

The agreement allows attorneys to question Mahony before he leaves for Rome later this month, where he will help select a new pope, said Anthony De Marco, who represents a 35-year-old man who alleges he was abused by Aguilar Rivera.

Los Angeles church officials warned the priest that parents had complained about abuse but waited two days to call police — allowing him to flee to Mexico, court papers allege.

Documents included in Aguilar Rivera's confidential personnel file, which was released under court order on Jan. 31 with dozens of others, show the priest came to Los Angeles after he was brutally beaten in his Mexican parish. His Mexican bishop told Mahony in a letter that rumors of homosexuality swirled around the priest but had never been substantiated.

In one memo, Mahony ordered church officials not to turn over a list of altar boys to police who were investigating.

"We cannot give such a list for no cause whatsoever," Mahony wrote in the memo from Jan. 26, 1988.

De Marco said he hopes to get much more out of this deposition of the cardinal than he did five years ago, when he questioned Mahony but had strict limits about what he could ask. At the time, he said, he only had about 40 pages of the priest's 150-page confidential file.

"It's a vastly different examination when you have their contemporaneous notes, which we have now," said De Marco. "In that case, we have a whole lot more that we know and we don't have limitations on scope, so we should learn a whole lot more."

The archdiocese agreed to a record-breaking $660 million settlement in 2007 with more than 500 plaintiffs that included a promise to work to release the confidential files of priests accused of sexual abuse. Attorneys for individual accused priests, however, fought the disclosure for more than five years.

The deposition agreement allows De Marco to question Mahony about up to 25 additional priests names in clergy abuse cases, he said.

Hennigan, the archdiocese attorney, declined to comment further.

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