‘Thwarting’ an Investigation

Santa Barbara Bishop Accused of Sex Abuse Cover-Up

Thursday, January 24, 2013
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Santa Barbara’s Auxiliary Bishop Thomas J. Curry has been accused of “thwarting” potential sex abuse investigations by responsible law enforcement agencies concerning at least three pedophile priests during the 1980s when Curry served as the archdiocese’s chief advisor to archbishop ​— ​and later cardinal ​— ​Roger Mahony on sex abuse cases.

Attorney Tony De Marco submitted just-released church personnel records demonstrating how concerned Curry and Mahony were that sexual-offender priests might come to the attention of law enforcement investigators. De Marco submitted these documents as part of a lawsuit he filed on behalf of a man who claims he’d been abused by a priest, Nicholas Aguilar Rivera. Rivera remains at large, and De Marco is demanding the opportunity to depose Curry and Mahony to demonstrate the extent to which the archdiocese was “thwarting law enforcement investigations.”

In 1986, Curry wrote a memo to Mahony about Michael Baker, a priest who’d admitted to molesting boys that year. Curry cautioned against allowing Baker to see a California therapist. “I see a problem here, in that if he were to mention his problem with child abuse it would put the therapist in a position of having to report him.” Curry then added, “I think we have to be very careful about whom he goes to see and what kind of information is released to the program. Given the fact that he cannot mention his past problem, the necessity to be so circumspect might defeat the purpose of his going to a therapist.”

Curry suggested reassigning Baker to any number of functions where he would come in minimal contact with juveniles, including the Matrimonial Tribunal, “counseling those whose marriages have broken up.” At the bottom of this typewritten memo, Mahony had responded in handwriting, “Sounds good ​— ​please proceed!!”

Bishop Thomas J. Curry
Click to enlarge photo

Paul Wellman

Bishop Thomas J. Curry

In a news story broken this week by the Los Angeles Times, Curry opined it would be preferable if a priest who’d confessed to church authorities that he’d repeatedly molested a 12-year-old boy went to see a therapist who was also an attorney. That way, Curry suggested, anything the priest told the therapist would be legally privileged information. Concerning another pedophile priest, Curry argued he not be allowed back in Los Angeles, because he might be seen by one of his nearly 20 victims.

In response to these allegations, Mahony issued a lengthy statement apologizing for not doing more to protect the children of his archdiocese. Curry has thus far declined to comment. Attorney Michael Hennigan, representing the archdiocese stated, “There never was any cover-up.” If there had been, he added, it would have been exposed in one of the three grand jury investigations that have taken place.

Hennigan said the church was not obligated to report allegations of clerical sexual abuse until 1997; prior to that, such information was regarded as privileged and confidential. The idea was to treat pedophile priests therapeutically, he said, and no priest could absorb the benefits of therapy if he worried his therapist was obligated to inform on him. “Families were encouraged to report to police,” he said, though some of the pedophiles listed by De Marco preyed upon the children of immigrants, knowing they wouldn’t go to authorities.

The personnel files themselves have been the subject of intense negotiation, mediation, and litigation between the archdiocese and attorneys representing abuse victims and their families. As part of a global settlement, the archdiocese had agreed to make public certain files and documents relating to the sex abuse scandal. Some accused priests sued, arguing such a settlement violated their privacy. The archdiocese argued in court for a limited disclosure of information, and a mediator assigned to the case agreed.

That result was challenged not just by the sex abuse victims, but by the Los Angeles Times, insisting that the names of church authorities ​— ​like Mahony and Curry ​— ​be un-redacted. Late last year a judge agreed, voided the mediator’s ruling, and ordered the documents released. Hennigan insisted that the archdiocese never fought the release of information so much as it fought for a limited disclosure. Critics of the church have seized upon the recently released documents to argue church authorities can’t be trusted to police themselves.

Hennigan insists that the media has focused almost entirely on past abuse cases, decades old, and has ignored reforms enacted since. “We have hired retired FBI to investigate any claims, even anonymous ones,” he stated. Dozens of cases, he said, have been forwarded to legal authorities for further action or investigation. Tim Hale, a Santa Barbara attorney specializing in sexual abuse litigation, countered that the archdiocese should relay all complaints to the police, not to its own investigators.

In the meantime, a judge will determine whether De Marco can depose Curry and Mahony after a hearing scheduled next month.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

Here's a list of 172 accused Minnesota clerics.

Bob_Schwiderski (anonymous profile)
January 24, 2013 at 4:02 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Hero: John Wojnowski

Bob_Schwiderski (anonymous profile)
January 24, 2013 at 4:03 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Curry should be defrocked, and charged with some sort of crimes. I thought the "priests" were about protecting their Jesus said, suffer the young ones to come unto me. However, these criminals thought it more important to protect THEIR HIERARCHY and their precious "church" than to protect children in their flock from rapacious male priests. Jail time needed for these creeps.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
January 24, 2013 at 5:59 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Firstly, I want to thank Nick Welch, The Independent and KEYT for running the local aspects of the Bishop Curry story.
They, unlike other local news organizations did their jobs.

Here we have the master architect of a plan that allowed Cardinal Mahoney and the LA Archdiocese to keep Catholic priests that had and in some cases continued to rape children, as far away from the police and the courts as possible. Anything to protect the church!

Bishop Curry is still in charge of Santa Barbara area Catholic churches and their schools. Were I a parent with a child in the church or one of its schools, I would be uneasy with Curry still in charge. Who is with my child today?

This is the same man who oversaw the destruction of the convent on Nopal Street and the displacement of long-serving and loved nuns who lived there. The nuns and the public were lied to in this case.

Bishop Curry should be shunned. Every time he walks into a church service, the congregation should walk out!

ErnieSalomon (anonymous profile)
January 24, 2013 at 10:43 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The paper trail clearly demonstrates that both Curry and Mahoney actively and intentionally aided and abetted child molesters. These two ran the equivalent of a criminal enterprise for felonious behaviour and how any Catholic can still give money on Sunday is beyond me. I am a Catholic an my kids go to a Catholic school and the last time Mahoney gave mass there, 3 years back I think, I told the school my kids would not be attending Mass that day because he was presiding
Tuition for my kids does not go to the church because the school is operated as an independent school.

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
January 25, 2013 at 6 a.m. (Suggest removal)

"In response to these allegations, Mahony issued a lengthy statement apologizing for not doing more to protect the children of his archdiocese." An "apology" for not doing more? Come again. Did someone within reach of a telephone watch the neighbor's house burn down before calling responders?

salsipuedes (anonymous profile)
January 25, 2013 at 7:37 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Here we go again. What part of CRIMINAL MOLESTATION & WILLFUL HYPOCRISY doesn't the archaic Catholic Church get? I find it utterly amazing people in the 21st century still choose to believe in this superstitious hocus-pocus.

When is the Catholic Church going to be listed as a domestic terrorist organization? What does it take when hundreds of thousands of children world are taken as victims by this cabal of festooned perverts?

Draxor (anonymous profile)
January 27, 2013 at 7:44 a.m. (Suggest removal)

People in this town must not support this conspiracy. Time to pause and take a step back. Rubbing shoulders today with this hypocrite is egregious. Considering the information we have read, and thank you Nick Welch, this man should not be allowed into the public arena. Remember the agony these criminals have inflicted on the innocents. Ireland has bitterly condemned this breach of trust and the people have shown courage and strength to put the welfare of their children before this group of flawed religious hypocrites.

samuel (anonymous profile)
January 28, 2013 at 1:17 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The CATHOLIC CHURCH is a CRIMINAL ORGANIZATION led by an INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL. The orders and consent to evade the law came from across international borders to protect the organization as a whole. Sounds like a mafia to me.

Why don't priests go to the police when evidence of molestation is discovered. It's simple, those in a CRIMINAL ORGANIZATION do not rat on one another. This emboldens each and every one of them knowing their SEX CRIMES will be covered up. So now the crimes are too old to prosecute and the church simply has to do some PR work? That's pitiful and says a lot about religions place in our society.

The amazing thing to me is good people still attend the church on a weekly basis and trust their kids in the care of priests. Will we learn of another coverup in 30 years about their children being molested???

BOYCOTT THE CATHOLIC CHURCH! No longer fund RELIGIOUS ORGANIZED SEX CRIMES! To not do so is to support all organized crime.

Validated (anonymous profile)
January 28, 2013 at 2:24 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Some believed that sex abusers could really be rehabilitated, and others were afraid of the backlash, either ways it was bad policy. These people cannot be rehabilitated, at least not around children, and should be handed over to authorities, no excuse. I know the church is now correcting this behavior, but in some dioceses more needs to be done. I am also a Catholic, and will not throw my faith away because of men's mistakes. Besides this the church is guilty of genocide, enslavement, and extortion, but that has nothing to do with my faith in the good of men, or God.

AZ2SB (anonymous profile)
January 28, 2013 at 4:39 p.m. (Suggest removal)

It's all over the news: Pope Benedict is resigning. He is doing so *officially* because he says he doesn't have the physical energy to keep up with the job. My understanding is Feb 28th, is the date. Could the crisis mounting in the Catholic Church be the reason?...a la the way British Prime Minister Harold MacMillan resigned in 1963 for health reason? (He died in 1986 at the age of 92)

billclausen (anonymous profile)
February 11, 2013 at 4 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Couldn't happen fast enough, good riddance to that Nazi dirt bag.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
February 11, 2013 at 10:40 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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