L. A.'s Catholic Archdiocese Reaches $10 Million Settlement With Sex Abuse Victims

Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles reaches $10 million settlement.

ByABC News
March 15, 2013, 2:21 PM

March 15, 2013— -- The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles has reached a $10 million settlement with four victims of sexual abuse perpetrated by former priest Michael Baker.

The settlement follows weeks of sharp criticism of Cardinal Roger Mahony, who is accused of actively protecting the pedophiliac priest as head of the archdiocese for nearly three decades. Mahony has been in the public eye since the court-ordered release of the church's personnel files in January, which revealed his involvement in the cover up.

The settlement "lays bare the responsibility and grotesque conduct of Cardinal Mahony and others, who helped him his entire time as archbishop of Los Angeles to cover up, conceal and maliciously protect child molesters from the faithful and from law enforcement," said John Manly, the attorney for the victims.

"Instead, they intentionally sent him to minister and teach in low-income and primarily Hispanic parishes and schools, because of their lack of knowledge of our laws and customs, their reluctance to contact law enforcement and their devotion to the Roman Catholic Church," he added.

Preceding the formal announcement, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles apologized to victims in a statement that said Baker had "deceived parishioners, therapists, church leaders and most of all, his victims."

"The Archdiocese has expressed deep regret for the mistakes made in handling his case and has taken responsibility for the terrible harm he inflicted upon his victims," the statement read.

Michael Duran, one of the victims, said he felt "some vindication."

"I'm coming forward because I did nothing wrong. I'm finally putting the shame back on my abuser and the church that protected him," he said, at a press conference Thursday.

Duran said his faith in the Church had been destroyed and that a new pope could make no difference for him. He said he was hopeful the new pope might "actually take some real steps" towards protecting children around the world.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the 12,000 pages of recently released church personnel files from the Los Angeles archdiocese show that Mahony and church officials concealed abusers from police in the 1980s. The documents included details on 122 abusive priests.

Following their release, Archbishop José Gómez removed Mahony from all public duties. At the same time, Auxiliary Bishop Thomas J. Curry, Mahony's former right-hand man, resigned from his current position in Santa Barbara.

Manly said not enough has been done to hold Mahony responsible.

"[Mahony] has received no punishment--not a day in jail, not a search warrant, not even been asked to testify in front of a grand jury. Why?" he said, calling for a new investigation. "If that does not occur, this will happen again."

Mahony has recently taken to social media to defend his actions as Cardinal.

In a recent blog post, he wrote that he feels he is being called by God "to be humiliated, disgraced, and rebuffed by many."

"In recent days, I have been confronted in various places by very unhappy people," he wrote. "I could understand the depth of their anger and outrage."

Sex-abuse scandals have rocked the Catholic Church since the 1980s. One of the earliest to garner national attention involved a priest who molested dozens of boys at the diocese of Savannah in Louisiana. The scandal ended with Gilbert Gauthe being indicted for 34 counts of sex-related crimes against children.

"In nearly three decades since the Gauthe case, more than 6,000 priest were, by the Church's own definition, 'credibly' or 'not implausibly' accused of raping or sexually abusing children and adolescents. Lawsuits and criminal charges were brought against nearly every Catholic diocese in the U.S., and nearly 500 clerics were jailed," Michael D'Antonio, author of the forthcoming book "Mortal Sin: Sex, Crime and the Era of Catholic Scandal," wrote in the Los Angeles Times.

In Los Angeles, the charges led to a settlement in 2007 between the church and 500 victims.