By Phil Lawler
(Catholic Culture) It’s a coincidence, no doubt, that the Stockton diocese settled a sex-abuse case just before Cardinal Roger Mahony, the former Bishop of Stockton, was scheduled to testify.
Actually Cardinal Mahony wasn’t ready to take questions. He had left for Rome, ignoring his date with the court, and the plaintiff’s lawyer was threatening to have the cardinal held in contempt. That threat went by the boards when the case was settled.
Stockton’s Bishop Stephen Blaire says that it was “in the best interest of everybody” to reach the mutually agreeable deal, in which the diocese paid $3.75 million to a single plaintiff. The bishop hopes that no one will think the settlement is an indication that the diocese admits culpability. And certainly we can all understand that sometimes it’s better to avoid a protracted legal dispute. But $3.75 million—payable to one alleged victim—is an awfully steep price to pay for avoiding the aggravation of a trial, especially when you consider that the trial was already underway.
The diocese was in an awkward position, of course, because another key witness in the case—beside Cardinal Mahony, I mean—had gone missing. Father Michael Kelly, the priest whose alleged misconduct had triggered the lawsuit, had also skipped town, flying home to his native Ireland just before he was supposed to testify. Bishop Blaire said that he was shocked by the priest’s flight.
What might Cardinal Mahony have said, if he had testified in this case? We’ll never know. But it doesn’t take much imagination to guess what sort of questions the plaintiff’s lawyers would have asked. They would surely have questioned the cardinal closely about something that came out in a previous abuse case, back in 2004:
Two decades go when he was bishop of Stockton, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony ordered two priests accused of child molestation to leave the country, according to a transcript of a deposition he gave last month. [emphasis added]Link: