The case of a notorious molester from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Stockton has come back to vex Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony, who testified at a 1998 civil trial involving the former priest.
Six lawsuits accusing ex-priest Oliver O'Grady of abuse were filed last year, under a California law that lifted for one year the statute of limitations in old sex-abuse cases.
Now plaintiffs' lawyers want to discover what Mahony knew about the activities of O'Grady, a former Lodi and Stockton priest who pleaded guilty in 1993 to molesting two brothers and served seven years in prison before being deported to his native Ireland. Mahony was bishop in Stockton from 1980 to 1985, during part of O'Grady's tenure in the diocese.
O'Grady was priest at Lodi's St. Anne's Catholic Church from 1971 to 1979.
The brothers won a $30 million judgment against the Stockton Diocese after the 1998 trial, which featured dozens of pages of confidential church documents and sworn testimony from Mahony, who by then was cardinal of the Los Angeles Archdiocese. The award was reduced to $7.5 million a year later in a settlement with the diocese.
The six new cases threaten to reopen a controversial part of Mahony's past at a time when he has been criticized for his handling of the abuse scandal that has enveloped the Catholic church nationwide since 2002.
Earlier this week, the plaintiffs' attorneys asked a Northern California judge to consider holding Mahony in contempt of court because he did not show up for depositions in the six cases, which allege abuse by O'Grady dating back to the early 1970s. At least two of the victims claim abuse that allegedly occurred while Mahony led the Stockton Diocese.
John Manly, one of the plaintiffs' lawyers, said he wants to ask Mahony, "Was there any investigation done? Did you look into it? What did you do?"
"The reason Mahony doesn't want to be deposed is because he knows a lot," Manly said. "The diocese knew in 1976, at least, that this guy's a perpetrator."
Mahony's lawyers responded to the contempt motion by asking the judge to sanction the plaintiffs' attorneys for filing an improper motion. Mahony was scheduled to be deposed in April but did not attend after the two sides disagreed on the ground rules for the session.
The cardinal repeatedly has said the current Stockton cases stem from alleged abuse that happened years before he arrived in the diocese.
Donald Woods Jr., an attorney for the Los Angeles Archdiocese, said Mahony has testified on four separate occasions under oath about his time in Stockton and has nothing more to offer. Mahony became the archbishop of Los Angeles, the nation's largest archdiocese, in 1985 and was made a cardinal in 1991.
"He doesn't know very much about O'Grady," Woods said. "His recollection about what happened has been exhausted in those transcripts."
The six cases from Stockton are the latest troubles related to clergy abuse for Mahony, who has been criticized for being too lenient on some accused priests. In a detailed report prepared by the diocese and released earlier this year, Mahony apologized repeatedly for mishandling some cases since coming to Los Angeles.
The Los Angeles Archdiocese faces more than 400 civil cases and has been criticized by the Los Angeles County district attorney's office and by a national Catholic oversight panel for fighting the release of thousands of pages of priest personnel documents.
This week, the archdiocese also sought to join a federal challenge to the constitutionality of the 2002 state law that temporarily suspended the statute of limitations for molestation cases. The law resulted in more than 700 claims statewide, including those against the Diocese of Stockton, which covers a largely rural region south of Sacramento.
In October 1984, while Mahony led the Stockton Diocese, O'Grady's therapist reported to Child Protective Services authorities that the priest had admitted having "contact of a sexual nature" with a child and "other past behaviors of a similar nature," according to a police report in O'Grady's confidential church file that was part of the 1998 trial.
Stockton police investigated but dropped the case a month later, after being unable to confirm the abuse of a 9-year-old boy. A diocesan attorney promised police O'Grady would be removed from the parish and transferred to a location where he "will only be working with adults and away from children," according to the police report.
In December of that year, O'Grady was transferred to a rural parish in San Andreas, where he was named parish administrator, according to letters from Mahony in O'Grady's personnel file.
That same month, a psychiatrist completed an evaluation of O'Grady that had been requested by Mahony. In a letter to Mahony, contained in O'Grady's personnel file, the psychiatrist reported that O'Grady "reveals a severe defect in maturation, not only in the matter of sex, but more importantly in the matter of social relationships."