Police probing alleged child abuse by priests

The Associated Press
Friday March 29, 2002



LOS ANGELES — The Police Department, investigating allegations that priests sexually abused children, has asked the Los Angeles Archdiocese to identify the suspected clergymen and their victims. 

Police Chief Bernard Parks requested the information in a letter to Cardinal Roger Mahony, who heads the Catholic archdiocese, the nation’s largest. The letter cited a recent Los Angeles Times report that as many as a dozen priests have been dismissed by the archdiocese “due to allegations that they sexually abused minors.” 

“The LAPD is conducting a criminal investigation into these child abuse allegations,” Parks said in his letter, dated Monday. 

Mahony has said several priests recently were dismissed, some for abuses that occurred decades ago. He has refused to confirm the Times’ figure or reveal their names. 

Parks’ letter asked the archdiocese to provide “the names of the dismissed priests” and of victims who reported child abuse allegations to the archdiocese, along with any reports that the archdiocese made to police investigators. 

“Recently dismissed priests who were in the jurisdiction of the Los Angeles Police Department have been duly reported,” Mahony said in a Thursday reply to Parks. “They were prosecuted and served probation — many years ago. These cases are a matter of public record and known to your detectives. 

“You may be assured of our full and continuing cooperation in the future,” Mahony added. 

The cardinal said state law requires individual priests and others working for the archdiocese to report “reasonable suspicion of child neglect or abuse” to local police or child protective agencies. 

“We are confident that each individual has carried out his or her responsibility,” he said. 

However, individuals making such reports are ensured confidentiality by the law and are not legally required to share them with the archdiocese. The archdiocese has a policy that asks individuals to report suspected abuse by priests to a supervisor but “there are undoubtedly reports of which we have no knowledge,” Mahony wrote. 

In addition, Mahony said the archdiocese includes not only Los Angeles County but Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, and reports of suspected abuse may have gone to other police agencies in those jurisdictions. 

On a related matter, the Orange County Diocese said Thursday it has removed all priests known to have molested children. 

A five-member panel reviewed clergy personnel files under a new “zero tolerance” policy, Bishop Tod D. Brown said. 

The Rev. Michael Pecharich, 56, was forced to resign earlier this month as head of a parish in Orange County’s Rancho Santa Margarita after confessing that he molested a boy 19 years ago. His case had been known to church officials since 1996. 

Last August, the Los Angeles Archdiocese and the Orange County Diocese settled a $5.2-million case alleging that Monsignor Michael Harris molested a 17-year-old boy in 1991 in Rancho Santa Margarita. Harris denied the allegation but agreed to leave the priesthood.