April 8, 2014


Summary: The Los Angeles Archdiocese, after decades of institutional failure to protect children, has paid dearly for it in the past 10 years with record settlements against them, but the bleeding hasn’t stopped yet. Documents released last year detail the depths former Cardinal Roger Mahoney went to protect his predator priests, which include blatant obstruction of justice by purposely not cooperating with police.

After decades of lacking institutional control, the past decade has seen the Catholic Church finally pay the price for their many sins committed against children under their trust, paying out over $740 million dollars in the past 10 years for sexual abuse claims. Last month, a $13 million settlement with 17 plaintiffs is further proof of the degree of accountability that the Church is being held to. Surely, the Los Angeles Archdiocese will point to these settlements as progress in the healing process for the victims. Also, it can be viewed as a liberation of sorts from their checkered past. Before you get the impression that all is well in L.A., the Archdiocese was hit with yet another lawsuit last month stemming from a former volunteer (13 at the time), who alleges he was repeatedly subjected to acts of childhood sexual assault, including sodomy by Timothy Kovacs, a former volunteer at St. Luke’s Catholic Church who was a licensed family and marriage counselor.

How did their situation get this severe in the first place? Where were the courageous ‘men of the cloth’ to keep their volunteers, students and altar boys safe from these types of heinous crimes? The answer to that question is sadly simple; there were none. The L.A. Archdiocese failed children at the highest levels of leadership, as evidenced by the sheer volume of plaintiffs alone. When you consider that Roger Mahoney, the now-retired Archbishop, knowingly and actively obstructed justice by not cooperating with the police, it’s no surprise to see just how systemic the leadership failure was. As it relates to both the Kovacs case and previous cases against the Archdiocese, here are the key facts and allegations that paint a better picture into this nightmare:

– The recent $13 million settlement was centered on the multiple sexual abuses by former Father Nicolas Aguilar-Rivera, who fled his Los Angeles parish for Mexico in 1988; his whereabouts are still unknown today.

– In conjunction with the L.A. police investigation of Aguilar-Rivera, they asked the Archdiocese for a list of altar boys at the parish where he worked. Then-Archbishop Mahoney told a subordinate to not give the list, claiming he didn’t want the boys to be scarred by the investigation, and that he felt the boys were too old to be victims.

– Internal church files were finally released last year. They revealed that then-Cardinal Mahoney diligently worked with his top aide to shield molester priests, provide damage control for the church, and keep parishioners in the dark about the abuses. Sadly, no criminal prosecution can occur, as these events are now outside of the statute of limitations.

– In the most recent lawsuit stemming from the Kovacs’ sexual assault allegations, Mahoney is also named in the suit. Moreover, Kovacs was removed from the Church, only later to be hired by the Baldwin Park Unified School District, where he was employed as an assistant director of early childhood education. Surely, the school district would have not hired Kovacs had they any inkling of his past.

I understand that statute of limitations in public law is important; a liable person or organization should, after a reasonable amount of time, be able to assume that past issues are in the past. There is something fundamentally wrong  when an organization that purposely circumvents law can be afforded the protection that a statute of limitations provides, especially when these documents were only released last year. This is why it’s so important to enact bills that specifically target this type of behavior, namely Senate Bill 131, which would allow for a one year suspension of the statute of limitations, and allow those abused by Church members to recover damages, a bill the California Catholic Commission heavily lobbied against – now it makes more sense why, it’s only about the money to them, not doing what’s right for the victims created by their hand.

We call on the Los Angeles Archdiocese, Cardinal Mahoney, and others responsible for actively committing or being complicit with these heinous crimes to fix this situation.  Praying for the victims will not make them better; ensuring they receive the best mental and physical health care for the rest of their lives will do them much better.  Do what’s right, at once.

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LA Archdiocese Hit With Sex Abuse Lawsuit