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Ex-Priest Faces New Accusations of Abuse

Times Staff Writer

A woman whose brothers were allegedly abused by a Los Angeles Catholic priest sued the church Monday, claiming she too was sexually molested as a child by since-defrocked priest Michael Stephen Baker.

Identified only as Cynthia C., the woman alleges that Baker molested her after he admitted to Cardinal Roger M. Mahony that he had abused several youths.

The woman, who now lives in Guadalajara, Mexico, alleges that she was first abused at the age of 13, when she met Baker at a Pico Rivera parish where her mother worked.

The alleged acts of molestation continued after December 1986, when Baker told Mahony that he abused children. Mahony sent him for treatment to a New Mexico facility and restricted his ministry.

The two brothers received a $1.3-million confidential settlement in 2000 from the archdiocese after alleging that they were abused by Baker from 1984 to 1999. Baker was defrocked in December 2000, after those allegations were made to the archdiocese. Mahony first notified police about Baker last year.

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“This lawsuit is about accountability and truth and what the hierarchy knew, and when they knew it,” said John Manly, co-counsel for the woman. “How could the archdiocese keep in their employ someone doing this?”

Tod Tamberg, archdiocese spokesman, said that, since the archdiocese has yet to see the suit, it would refrain from commenting.

Baker, 55, was charged with 34 counts of child molestation in connection with a boy he allegedly abused during the 1970s and 1980s. Investigators believe there are nine or more victims. He has pleaded not guilty.

Mahony has said he met with Baker briefly in 1986, heard his admission and then sent him for treatment. From there, Baker was assigned to a specialized ministry not related to children. Baker received interim assignments to parishes until 2000. Mahony has maintained that he immediately removed Baker from ministry in 2000, when he became aware of new allegations from the brothers. He apologized to priests in May 2002 for failing “to take firm and decisive action much earlier.”

Baker, according to the suit, allegedly began molesting Cynthia C. in 1984 when her mother began working at St. Hillary Catholic Church in Pico Rivera. Baker, the suit alleges, molested two of her brothers and plied them with “money, liquor and sexually oriented magazines” and “a book containing pictures of naked children.” The suit alleges that Baker threatened their mother’s livelihood if they revealed the abuse.

Around the time that Baker told Mahony about his abusive behavior, the girl’s mother relocated to Guadalajara, but the abuse continued as the priest visited the family in Mexico, the suit alleges. The abuse allegedly continued until she was married at 17. The suit, which also named Baker, alleges childhood sexual abuse, assault and battery. It also alleges that the archdiocese was negligent and inflicted emotional distress.

Meanwhile in Malibu, retired priest Michael Wempe, 63, was charged with 42 counts of child sex crimes. A judge ordered him held in lieu of $2-million bail. Wempe has denied that he molested five boys ages 7 to 16 between 1977 and 1986. He was forced by Mahony to retire last year.

Another retired priest, Titian Miani, 76, was charged Monday with two counts of committing a lewd act on a child. The victims were allegedly molested in the mid-1960s.

Miani, the 11th priest or seminarian charged in Los Angeles, was arrested Thursday and released Saturday on $200,000 bond. He will be arraigned July 21. Both priests face life sentences if convicted.


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