LA Times’ Lopez Misleads On Clergy Scandal

In a September 23, 2009, article in the Los Angeles Times, Steve Lopez deceives his readers by suggesting that recent testimony by a member of "[Cardinal Roger] Mahony's inner circle" could spell serious problems for the local archbishop.

Once again, Lopez, like other members of the Times, appear to have been duped by victims' lawyer John Manly. In fact, even if a "paper trail" revealed that Mahony detailed that the archdiocese was "going to wait" on calling police, this would not represent anything new or earth-shattering.

Why not? Because Cardinal Mahony has already admitted (and apologized) publicly several times since 2002 over the fact that neither he nor the archdiocese called police about Father Baker's abuse in 2000. And this sad fact has already been widely reported in the media.

And here's an important fact that Lopez didn't report (and probably doesn't even know either): The archdiocese only became aware of Baker's late-1990's abuse when a lawyer hired by two of Baker's victims sent a letter to the archdiocese in 2000. (The young men and the archdiocese eventually settled out of court for $1.3 million.)

Think about that for a minute.

As Lopez noted, the archdiocesan general counsel advised that the Cardinal not call police regarding Baker. The reason that the counsel arrived at this decision is not known for sure.

But one can easily imagine that a call to police would have publicized the case. Remember – neither the men's lawyer nor the men (who were adults in 2000) called police, either. The website of SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) openly states, "Abuse victims, like rape victims, need their privacy to recover from their trauma." The counsel may have thought that a call to police would have been viewed as an unseemly tactic to "intimidate the victims" or "interfere in a civil lawsuit." This possible scenario, in addition to the fact that the boys were now adults (which did not make reporting the case mandatory), may have led to the counsel's decision.

The bottom line: Monsignor Loomis' testimony reveals nothing but a possible "behind-the-scenes view" as to how the archdiocese reacted to the revelations that Baker committed such awful crimes.

It is also egregious that Lopez uncritically quotes lawyer John Manly. Lopez is apparently oblivious to the fact that Manly has a well-established track record of airing outrageous statements and falsehoods in the media all the time.

John Manly, the attorney who represents Luis and took the Loomis deposition, said he will ask the court to order the archdiocese to produce the memo Loomis spoke of.

"If Loomis is correct," Manly said, Mahony was "encouraging people not to call police and to intentionally cover it up. You wonder where law enforcement is on this."

Ugh. Again … the fact that Mahony did not call police in 2002 is already very well documented. Why hasn't law enforcement charged Cardinal Mahony? Because the L.A. County District Attorney is convinced that the Cardinal hasn't broken the law. And John Manly knows this.

Check out this important exchange between Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley and a host on KFI radio's "John and Ken Show" from July 17, 2007. They're discussing Cardinal Mahony, the archdiocese, and the scandal.

JOHN/KEN: … [John] Manly keeps coming on our show and says you have stuff – basically what he's saying is – you have stuff, you should be prosecuting already. But I'm not sure what the "stuff" is that he thinks you have.

D.A. STEVE COOLEY: I can’t get into Mr. Manly’s head. He’s made outrageous statements in the context of those civil proceedings for which he’s been sanctioned. He’s made outrageous statements about me. He’s made outrageous statements on your program. I’m not going to try to get into his head. However, I do extend to him an invitation to deliver to us in writing any theory he has of criminal liability on behalf of anyone involved with this matter and support it like a good lawyer. If he has any evidence, come forward. The invitation has been extended to him and has been extended to him today by [Deputy D.A.] Bill Hodgman in writing.

That was over two years ago. And far as I know, Manly, who is never shy of publicity, has not brought forth any evidence in writing.

In addition, on the very same show, in specifically discussing the statute in which priests must report known abuse of minors to authorities, Cooley added,

"We have not had one report from any source, including Mr. Manly, to suggest that any violation of that statute – that California statute – that makes that an affirmative duty."

Mandated reporting for priests began in 1997.

Got it?

The abuse of children that occurred at the hands of priests is truly despicable. And Church officials, by their own admission, terribly mishandled these cases. But this is not an excuse for journalists like Steve Lopez to dishonestly report the scandal.

But, then again, Lopez is not the first reporter to be duped by John Manly.


Oh, yeah. Lopez also misled his readers with this passage:

In a 2004 "Report to the People of God," Mahony told parishioners he had left five priests in the ministry despite complaints that they were molesters. A Times investigation came up with a different total, though, finding that Mahony had left an additional 11 priests in the ministry after concerns were raised about their inappropriate behavior with children.

Lopez is either ignorant or dishonest with this passage. What Lopez doesn't divulge to his readers is that the "additional 11" priests were allowed to return to ministry only after a thorough investigation by investigators and an oversight board into the allegations.

As I've written before, the media has been completely uninterested in those priests who have vehemently denied decades-old allegations against them.

Here's what the Times buried in an article on February 7, 2004:

[Rev.] Manuel Sanchez of Sacred Heart Church in Pomona said Friday that he did not even know his accuser. "I am completely innocent of the charges," the priest said. He said he learned of "this terrible accusation" six months ago and believed that his accuser was either "looking for money or he sincerely confused me with another person."

Sanchez was also quoted a couple years later on a CBS2 News report, March 26, 2006:

"With God as my witness, I am completely innocent of this claim of totally immoral and repugnant behavior. Being the object of a false accusation is a cause of great sorrow to me and my family."

Rev. Sanchez was one of those "additional 11." Other priests similarly reject their accusations.

Again -and this is very important – no one can deny the awful harm wrecked upon youth at the hands of priests. It happened, and it's truly abominable. But this is not an excuse for reporters like Lopez to deceive readers by publishing totally false and misleading information.


Finally … While Lopez still enjoys pounding on Cardinal Mahony with a story that's seven years old, he doesn't seem too worked up about far more recent misdeeds at LAUSD.

Lopez has devoted exactly one article to the enormous sex abuse scandals at LAUSD, and that article was almost a year and a half ago.

Why has Lopez never questioned the fact that Carol Truscott is back at her job at LAUSD ($171,000+/yr.) in light of her handling of the Steve Rooney affair? Why was Admiral David Brewer given a complete pass on the scandal in light of the fact that a memo about Rooney's February 2007 arrest was explicitly addressed to him? (For more info on this, go here.)

I guess only if Carol Truscott and David Brewer were "Rev. Carl Truscott" and "Monsignor David Brewer" would Lopez actually give a rip.