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Woman Seeks to Find Priest She Says Fathered Her Child

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A woman who alleges that she was made pregnant at the age of 16 by one of seven Catholic priests who had sex with her 20 years ago said Monday that she wants Cardinal Roger M. Mahony to help her daughter identify which man is her father.

Rita Milla said she was sexually abused by Father Santiago Tamayo when she was attending St. Philomena Church in Carson. He allegedly introduced her to six other priests who she said also seduced her. When she became pregnant, she said, Tamayo sent her to the Philippines, telling her parents she was studying there. Instead, she secretly had the baby at Tamayo’s brother’s clinic.

Mahony, who was released from the hospital Sunday after being treated for blood clots in his lung, would not comment. But his spokesman, Tod Tamberg, said the cardinal would be very open to helping Milla identify the father of her daughter, who is 19.

Tamberg said the archdiocese provided an annuity for the child when she was born, but does not know how much was paid to the family. Milla’s parents learned of the child upon her return from the Philippines.

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Tamberg said Mahony does not know where the accused priests are located, nor does he know whether they are still in the priesthood. Milla said she believes at least two of the men are dead.

In 1984, Milla filed a lawsuit against the Los Angeles archdiocese alleging fraud, clergy malpractice and conspiracy. Her attorney, Gloria Allred, said the day the lawsuit was filed that “all seven priests seemed to disappear from their parish offices.” Allred said she lost the lawsuit in the state Court of Appeal because the statute of limitations had expired.

In March 1991, Tamayo apologized face-to-face to Milla, telling a news conference that he “had to go public and tell the whole truth. I knew that cheap absolution would not undo the evil of the past. I had her full trust and confidence, yet I got sexually involved with Rita.

“Weakened by the sense of my own sins, I failed as a pastor to rescue her from getting involved with the other priests.”

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Tamayo has since died.

Allred said she recently obtained letters that show Mahony was paying Tamayo to remain in the Philippines for years after the baby was born. Those letters were cited in a Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit filed last week alleging sexual abuse by another Los Angeles archdiocese priest.

In an August 1988 letter, then-Msgr. Thomas Curry told Tamayo he was surprised to learn the priest was staying in the Los Angeles area. The archdiocese “initiated salary payments to assist you while you were pursuing the possibility of permanent settlement in the Philippines,” Curry wrote, saying that Tamayo was a liability to himself, his family and the church. Copies of the letters were also sent to Mahony.

Allred said these letters indicated “a cover-up encouraged and financed by the church in order to protect itself with callous disregard for the rights of the victims.”

The payments were made public in 1991.

Tamberg acknowledged that the church paid Tamayo while he was in Asia but said it was a salary, not payments to keep the scandal quiet. “I don’t see how that’s a cover-up--telling someone to stay away because of the liability they could cause by coming back here,” Tamberg said.

Milla’s daughter, Jacqueline Milla, spoke in tears before television cameras at a news conference Monday in Allred’s law office.

“I understand that my biological father is a priest and that it is uncertain who out of several priests he may be,” she said. “I have recently seen evidence that Cardinal Mahony knew of the whereabouts of at least one of the priests. I am now asking that he reveal where I may find my biological father.... Cardinal Mahony, please return my father to me.”

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Rita Milla appealed to Mahony to treat her daughter “with more compassion and truth than they had for me.”

She said she only recently told her daughter about the priests’ abuse.

“I never let her go to church--I didn’t think it was a safe place,” Milla said.

The Los Angeles archdiocese, like many others around the country, is facing lawsuits over allegations of past sexual abuse by priests.


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