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LA Is Worst Catholic Diocese For Child Abuse

Feb 17, 2004 | AP

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles America's largest - released a detailed study today on child sex abuse by its clergy since 1930, reporting the highest number of claims against a US diocese to date.

Los Angeles church officials say that, over the decades, they received allegations from 656 people who said they had been molested by 244 priests, deacons, religious brothers, seminarians and one other person.

More than 5,000 priests worked in the archdiocese during that period.

Cardinal Roger Mahony compiled the report as part of an unprecedented, nationwide accounting of abuse cases commissioned by America's bishops to help ease two years of crisis over molestation in the church.

"The archdiocese has committed significant resources to help those who were harmed to recover from their horrible experiences," the report said.

"We hope our efforts will help, but we realise that only the grace of God can provide the complete healing the victims need."

A national study is to be released on February 27.

CNN reported yesterday that it had seen a draft of the national survey, and that 4,450 clergy nationwide had been accused of molesting minors since 1950.

The Los Angeles archdiocese acknowledged in its report that it is at the centre of a "tempest of blame and criticism" over how it dealt with victims and accused priests.

Mahony has been targeted for pledging full disclosure of information about clergy misconduct, then fighting the release of some personnel files to a grand jury, including records of counselling for priests, which the archdiocese considers confidential under state law.

The archdiocese is also facing a flood of civil cases. More than 500 claims have been made against the Los Angeles church since state lawmakers temporarily lifted the statute of limitations on child sex abuse lawsuits.

In the report, Mahony repeatedly apologised for mishandling some cases since he became Los Angeles archbishop in 1985, and asked the region's 4.2 million Catholics to pray that victims heal and reconcile with the church.

But he also argued that the understanding of how best to address abuse had changed over time, and that some approaches previously recommended by psychiatrists and others were only now considered inadequate.

The archdiocese is among the few to reveal the names of most of the accused.

Among them is former priest Michael Baker, who remained in church work even though he admitted molesting two boys, and now faces more than 20 abuse claims.

Cardinal Mahony "was far too lenient in permitting him to continue in assignments", the report said.

Mahony, who was falsely accused of abuse himself, cautioned that some of the allegations could be unsubstantiated. Some claims have been made against clergy who could not have been in the place where the alleged crime occurred, according to the report.

The archdiocese said it had paid $10.4 million in settlements since 1985.

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