Friday, March 29, 2002
Parks Asks for Names of Victims, Abusers in Archdiocese; Mahony Says No
By KIMBERLY EDDS, Staff Writer
LAPD Chief Bernard Parks wants the Roman Catholic Archdiocese to turn over any written reports regarding child sexual abuse by priests, along with the names of the dismissed priests and the names of all victims who reported abuse to the church within the city of Los Angeles, according to a letter released yesterday.
Parks’ March 25 letter was released by the Archdiocese, along with Cardinal Roger M. Mahony’s response. The cardinal said he would not comply, explaining that the Archdiocese as an entity is not required by law to report child abuse and in many cases may not even be aware that reports were made due to the confidentiality guaranteed by law to mandatory reporters.
Mahony reiterated his denunciation of the abuse of children and insisted that church officials in the Los Angeles area are abiding by the five-year-old state law that requires suspicions of child abuse by members of the clergy be reported to police or child welfare officials.
Parks also requested the names of any LAPD investigators “who were given information regarding child abuse incidents” and the dates of those reports.
Mahony maintained that while individual clergy members are required by state law to report reasonable suspiscion of child neglect or abuse, the church as an institution is not required to do so.
“The law also provides a penalty to any mandated reporter who fails to report,” Mahony wrote. “But institutions as such do not report.”
State law requires that mandated reporters, which includes members of the clergy, must telephone either a police or child welfare agency immediately if they suspect child abuse and provide a written report within 36 hours. Failure to do so could result in a misdemeanor prosecution.
But the mandatory reporter is not required to provide a copy of the report to the Archdiocese and since mandatory reporters are ensured confidentiality, the Archdiocese would only know of the report if the reporter chooses to share it, Mahony said.
“There are undoubtedly reports of which we have no knowledge,” Mahony wrote.
But LAPD spokesman Lt. Horace Frank said the department believes it needs access to those reports, and is allowed by law to have that access.
“Obviously there appears to be a difference of opinion between our thinking and that of the Archdiocese,” Frank said.
The LAPD began an investigation into child abuse within the Los Angeles Archdiocese after church sources revealed that six to 12 priests were recently removed from the archdiocese because of allegations the sexual abuse of minors.
As of July, the Archdiocese has imposed a “zero tolerance” policy for sexual abusers and just last week a priest was dismissed from the presidency of an Encino Catholic school for sexual abuse.
Investigators from the LAPD’s Juvenile Division, Sexually Exploited Child Unit, met with the Archdiocese’s legal counsel, Sister Judith Murphy, on March 8 and were assured that all appropriate reporting had taken place.
“During that meeting, Sister Murphy, stated that all child abuse incidents known to the Archdiose have been reported to the appropriate law enforcement authorities, including the Los Angeles Police Department,” Parks wrote.
Frank said the department does not have any reports regarding sexually abuse within the Archdiocese.
“We don’t have that information,” Lt. Horace Frank said. “We are asking them to release it to us as required by law.”
The LAPD will consult with the District Attorney’s Office Coo to determine a course of action, Frank said.
Mahony maintains that recently dismissed priests who were in the jurisdiction of the LAPD have been properly reported and have been prosecuted and given probation years ago.
District Attorney Steve Cooley has also been in contact with Mahony on the issue and Tuesday released a letter he wrote to Mahony urging the archdiocese to comply with the mandatory reporting requirements.
In his response Mahony also assured Cooley that church officials were abiding by the California Child Abuse and Neglect Act, which requires the mandatory reporting.
During his “Mass of reparations” at Our Lady of Refuge Church in Long Beach Monday night, Mahony told about 300 Catholic priests he would support victims of long-ago sexual abuse who want to break confidentiality agreements, but would not release the names of their abusers.
He also pledged full disclosure and cooperation with law enforcement in any new cases.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company