L.A. Police Investigate Church Sex Dismissals
The Los Angeles Police Department is reviewing whether any cases of child sexual abuse in the Los Angeles Archdiocese require criminal investigation.
The probe was begun in response to Cardinal Roger M. Mahony’s recent dismissal of as many as a dozen priests alleged to have sexually abused minors.
Mahony has declined to publicly discuss the dismissals, and the archdiocese has been unwilling to comment on whether it reported those abuse cases to law enforcement authorities. Church authorities also have declined to say whether the priests were moved to other parts of the archdiocese after the cases came to their attention. Sources familiar with the dismissals have said the priests had received psychological counseling and were believed to have been rehabilitated.
LAPD Lt. Daniel Mulrenin said the department’s Sexually Exploited Child Unit is conducting “general inquiries” into those dismissals. The archdiocese is “cooperating ... there is an open dialogue,” he said.
Mulrenin said the inquiries were initiated in response to a March 4 Times story that quoted church sources as saying that between six and 12 priests accused of sexual abuse had been ousted from the archdiocese in the preceding two weeks.
State law requires teachers, clergy and members of other professions to report suspicions of child abuse to authorities in most cases.
The priests’ dismissals stem from incidents that occurred as long as a decade ago, according to church sources. But since a scandal over the sexual abuse of minors erupted in the Boston Archdiocese in January, dioceses nationwide have come under increasing pressure to address sexual misconduct.
Mulrenin said the police probe is in its “very early stages.” So far, he said, the archdiocese has not handed over any documents because that issue is “still being discussed.” There are no named suspects, he said, and he did not know if any allegations had been previously reported to law enforcement. Under the law, prosecutors have a year to file charges after such crimes are reported to authorities.
A spokesman for Mahony, Tod Tamberg, said the archdiocese would not comment on reports of discussions with police.
Earlier this month, a popular Orange County priest accused of sexual molestation was forced to resign by the bishop of Orange, the Most Rev. Tod D. Brown.
In the wake of the publicity involving the dismissals, priests last Sunday across the Los Angeles archdiocese read a statement from Mahony that denounced the “scandalous evil of child abuse.”
The church, the cardinal said, will not hire or employ priests when an individual has been shown to have engaged in sexual abuse. The state law classifies clergy as “mandated reporters” required to report to police or a child protective services agency suspicions of child abuse. If, however, the claim of sexual abuse is made during a confession, a priest does not have to disclose it.
Under the law, prosecutors said, there is an exception for adults who tell a mandated reporter that they suffered abuse as a child. Prosecutors said the law presumes the adult victim can call police. This exception does not apply, however, when the adult is reporting on behalf of another victim.
Mahony last week ordered that an informational brochure on clergy sex abuse be sent to all parishes and schools in the archdiocese. The brochure, “Respecting the Boundaries: Keeping Ministerial Relationships Healthy and Holy,” was first posted on the archdiocese’s Web site in August.
The brochure and the sex abuse hotline telephone number listed within it were required of the Los Angeles Archdiocese and the Diocese of Orange as part of a $5.2-million settlement. The agreement stemmed from a lawsuit involving sexual molestation allegations against an Orange County priest.
That settlement also required the church to remove any employee found guilty of sexual abuse. That position was reflected in a Feb. 22 pastoral statement by Mahony vowing that any priest or deacon found to have abused a minor “will never return to active ministry.”
An earlier policy, adopted by the archdiocese in 1988, allowed the possibility of treating the guilty party and eventually returning him to ministry.
The archdiocese with 292 parishes in Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties has received six child molestation complaints in the last five years, said its attorney, John P. McNicholas.