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Los Angeles Cardinal Transfered an Abusive Priest

May 16, 2002 | AP

Cardinal Roger Mahony has apologized for transferring a Roman Catholic priest from church to church despite an alleged confession from the man that he had molested children for years.

Earlier this week, Mahony faxed a two-page letter to 1,200 priests in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, acknowledging that he mishandled the case of the Rev. Michael Baker.

``As your archbishop, I assume full responsibility for allowing Baker to remain in any type of ministry during the 1990s,'' Mahony wrote. ``I offer my sincere, personal apologies for my failure to take firm and decisive action much earlier.''

Baker, 54, is one of several former priests being investigated by police. He allegedly molested at least nine youths beginning in 1976, according to Los Angeles Times interviews with victims, relatives and lawyers.

Baker told the newspaper that in December 1986 he met with Mahony and told of his sexual misconduct with children. He claims that Mahony did not ask for specifics and appeared willing to let him remain in the priesthood.

``I told Mahony I had a problem,'' Baker said. ``He was very solicitous and understanding. I was glad I brought it up.''

Baker continued to have access to children over the next 14 years while he was assigned to nine different parishes around the Los Angeles area, the newspaper said. Baker was asked to quietly retire in late 2000.

Two men who claim they were sexually abused as children by Baker from 1984 to 1999 later agreed to a $1.3 million settlement with the archdiocese. They claim Baker often had them sleep in the rectory where he molested them.

Mahony said Baker did receive treatment and counseling, but it was ``decided that he could do specialized priestly ministry not related to children and youth.'' Despite that recommendation, it appears that Baker continued to interact with children until he left the church.

Mahony told the Times last month that there were few solutions in dealing with Baker in 1986 because the allegations were never proven.

``Our biggest problem was that ... he wasn't found guilty of a criminal act,'' Mahony said. ``That's a big problem.''

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