Leaders Should Lead — Not Cover Up Child Sexual Abuse
Four men – haunted for years by child sexual abuse – received some measure of justice today in Los Angeles, California. After several years of civil litigation, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles finally agreed to pay four victims of sexual molestation by one of that area’s most infamous priest pedophiles. The settlement came on the heels of the release of 12,000 pages of internal church documents that had been collected in a similar, criminal case.
The priest (now, a former priest) at issue is Michael Baker. Father Baker has been accused of sexually abusing at least 23 boys over 30 years of service to the Catholic Church. Father Baker was convicted in 2007 of molesting two boys and spent four years in prison.
Much of the substance of the four cases settled this week centered on the negligent supervision of Father Baker by the church, and particularly Cardinal Roger Mahony. Evidence in the case revealed that Father Baker had previously admitted to Cardinal Mahony that he had molested more than one boy, but that Cardinal Mahony only briefly removed Father Baker from contact with children. Once Father Baker was returned to a regular parish, he began molesting boys just as he had before.
Apparently, many of the 12,000 pages of documents recently produced detailed Cardinal Mahony’s dealings (or absence of dealings) with Father Baker. As one of the settling Plaintiff’s attorneys said, “Cardinal Mahony’s fingerprints were all over the case.”
As a Florida child sexual abuse attorney, the lack of leadership in cases like this never ceases to amaze me. What kind of “leader” allows children to be placed at risk, and to be abused, simply to protect one of his employees or his organization? After all, what kind of institution is there to protect if it is totally devoid of morals, ethics, or integrity?
Another thing struck me about this story, as reported by the L.A. Times. The attorney for the Archdiocese said, “We’ve taken responsibility for Michael Baker, whatever he did.” I am left to wonder if that would have been true if the 12,000 pages of documents had not been produced…
If you have any questions regarding a Florida child sexual abuse case, call Winter Park attorneys Kim Cullen and Robert Hemphill at 407-254-4901.