Details on 11 Los Angeles Priests Missing in '04 Report
Mahony's disclosure on sex abuse claims left out
information on clerics who stayed in ministry.
By Jean Guccione and William Lobdell - LA Times Staff Writers
April 20, 2006
Cardinal Roger M. Mahony acknowledged to Los Angeles Catholics
in his 2004 "Report to the People of God" that he left
five priests in ministry despite complaints that they had molested
But a Times analysis of church records released since then shows
that he left 11 other priests in ministry for periods up to 13 years
after parishioners raised concerns about inappropriate behavior
Seven of these 11 cases were not detailed in the People of God
report. The other four were mentioned incompletely; the report said
they were removed when complaints were lodged but did not disclose
that the Los Angeles Archdiocese had received earlier reports of
The Times analyzed edited summaries of personnel records written
and posted on a public website by the archdiocese in October. The
summaries were first given to counsel for more than 500 plaintiffs
suing the church over alleged sexual abuse by priests. The archdiocese
and the plaintiffs are engaged in court-ordered mediation.
One of the 11 cases involves the late Msgr. Leland Boyer, whose
publicly released file summary revealed that three allegations of
child molestation had been lodged against him. One of his alleged
victims, Jaime Romo, said archdiocesan officials had assured him
in 2002 that he was Boyer's only accuser. Romo, in an interview,
said he was enraged when he saw that Boyer's file summary included
two other allegations of sexual misconduct, in 1981 and 1995.
"I would still like to believe, 'Oh, my gosh, somehow it was
an oversight,' " said Romo, 46, a professor at the University
of San Diego. "It is deeply saddening for me to know [that]
so many situations were maintained that put people at risk."
Mahony has fought to keep from releasing full personnel files either
to prosecutors or plaintiffs' lawyers in the civil cases. On Monday,
however, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a California appellate
court ruling requiring him to hand over to prosecutors the files
of two priests who are under criminal investigation.
Legal experts have said the high court's refusal to hear Mahony's
appeal increases the likelihood that the Los Angeles church may
soon have to hand over many more confidential documents in the civil
In a letter accompanying the 2004 People of God report, Mahony
said the report provided the "fullest possible disclosure"
of how the church responded to allegations of clerical sexual abuse
in the decades before he arrived in 1985 and since.
Mahony declined to be interviewed for this article. His spokesman,
Tod Tamberg, said the People of God report was not meant to be encyclopedic,
but "represented some of our most egregious cases and provided
a look into the range of responses over time." Mahony never
knowingly concealed information about his oversight of predatory
priests, Tamberg said.
But The Times' analysis found that although the report included
detailed accounts of mistakes involving Michael Baker, Gerald Fessard,
Carlos Rodriguez, Carl Sutphin and Michael Wempe priests
whose alleged sexual misconduct had already been written about in
The Times it left out or abridged details of other potentially
embarrassing cases that had not been widely publicized.
One abridged story involves Father Lynn Caffoe. The report said
the archdiocese sent Caffoe to residential treatment in 1991 on
the recommendation of a therapist after three families had complained
that he had been "overly familiar with their teenage sons."
He was then put on inactive leave.
In 1994, while Caffoe was still out of ministry, a high school
boy alleged that the priest had abused him, according to the report.
The information was forwarded to child-protection authorities, and
Caffoe never returned to ministry, the report said.
The report did not mention that three other complaints came in
during Mahony's tenure before action was taken the first
in 1986, five years before Caffoe was removed. It also does not
mention that the archdiocese waited more than a month after the
families complained to restrict Caffoe's ministry and did
so only after the priest's therapist reported the suspected child
abuse to law enforcement, according to his personnel file summary.
Two months later, the priest was living at a Long Beach parish "on
Another priest whose record is abbreviated in the report is Richard
Henry. The report stated that he was removed from ministry in 1991
after he pleaded no contest to four counts of lewd conduct with
a child under 14.
His case is labeled as one in which the church intervened quickly.
But Henry's summary shows four pre-1991 complaints against him
the first in 1980, when a parishioner passed on a rumor that Henry
had a boy "living in his house" every weekend. The other
three were made in 1988, during Mahony's tenure: A layperson reported
that the priest "grabs little boys and hugs them," a nun
said he "favors boys over girls," and a pastor said Henry
was spending too much time alone with a boy.
The summary of Henry's personnel file shows that in response to
those 1988 complaints, the archdiocese put Henry into psychotherapy
and warned him to be mindful of "appropriate boundaries"
with minors, but left him in ministry in his Paramount parish.
Two men have filed suit alleging that Henry abused them on Mahony's
In describing his response to sexual abuse allegations, Mahony
has said he and other bishops initially believed molesting priests
could be cured through therapy. He said that his approach changed
over time, and that he established a zero-tolerance policy in 1992
for abusive clergy.
"It was very clear from '92 on, there was only one course
of action and that was, these guys had to go," Mahony told
The Times in 2002.
But The Times' analysis shows that the zero-tolerance policy was
not always enforced, as the case of Father Joseph Pina illustrates.
Pina is one of the seven priests left in ministry during Mahony's
tenure whose history was not detailed in the People of God report.
Pina's name appears in the report only on a list of 211 accused
In 1990, the summary of his personnel file states, Pina told an
archdiocesan official that he had "past sexual interest in
a minor" and that he was seeing a therapist. In 1993, the brother
of the girl who had aroused Pina's sexual interest contacted the
archdiocese, alleging abuse that began when his sister was 16.
In 1994, Pina was sent to a Pennsylvania hospital "for therapeutic
treatment," the summary states. In 1998, Pina was promoted
to pastor at St. Emydius Catholic Church in Lynwood. That same year,
three women reported "boundary violations." Pina denied
"any inappropriate conduct with two of the three women."
At that point, he was placed on "sick leave" and never
returned to ministry.
In 2001, as part of a legal settlement, the church agreed to remove
any priest who had been the subject of a credible sexual abuse allegation.
But in 1992, Mahony's policy on accused priests "was still
evolving," Tamberg said.
"What Cardinal Mahony meant at that time by 'zero tolerance'
was that henceforward any priest with a contemporaneous, proven
report of child sexual abuse would be removed," the archdiocese
spokesman said. "In other words, zero tolerance for any new
allegations of abuse arising in 1992 or after. This standard did
not include boundary violations or decades-old allegations of abuse."
Boundary violations are considered nonsexual, covering such behavior
as a priest walking with his arm around a child, said J. Michael
Hennigan, an attorney representing the archdiocese. Catholic officials
in Boston and elsewhere have used the term interchangeably with
child molestation, and the Los Angeles Archdiocese sent at least
one priest to a residential treatment center for what was reported
as a boundary violation.
Hennigan said the cardinal began dealing proactively with clergy
sexual abuse on his arrival in the Los Angeles Archdiocese in 1985.
But Hennigan acknowledged that Mahony had been "overly optimistic"
at first about the prospects for treating abusers through psychological
therapy and made some "terrible mistakes" by ordering
accused priests to counseling and then letting them back into the
"He ultimately got to the point where he is now, which we
believe is one of the nation's leaders in how to deal with the problem
on a large scale," Hennigan said.
On the Web
The Los Angeles Times has posted on its website a searchable database
of records for 247 Los Angeles priests who have been accused of
child molestation. The priests listed were either accused in civil
lawsuits, named by the church or both.
The database was compiled from public records provided by the Los
Angeles Archdiocese, the lawsuits and the Official Catholic Directory,
an annual listing of U.S. clerics and their assignments.
By going to http://www.latimes.com/priests
, readers can access the assignment histories for all the priests,
the years and locations of abuse alleged in lawsuits, and edited
summaries of their personnel files that were released publicly by
the archdiocese and turned over to plaintiffs' counsel.
Comparing the documents
The Los Angeles Archdiocese in October publicly released edited
summaries of priests' personnel files that it had turned over to
plaintiffs' counsel as part of an effort to settle sexual abuse
lawsuits. Church officials detailed some of the cases in a 2004
"Report to the People of God." But a Times analysis of
the summaries found that the archdiocese provided incomplete information
in the report for numerous cases in which priests remained in ministry
after complaints came in during Cardinal Roger M. Mahony's tenure.
In these four cases, the People of God report described action
taken against priests, but omitted some complaints:
People of God report: In 1991, three families complained the priest
was "overly familiar with their teenage sons." The allegation
did not involve "any actual sexual molestation," but the
archdiocese immediately sent Caffoe to residential treatment and
barred him from ministry. File summary: Three previous complaints
had been lodged against Caffoe during Mahony's tenure: by a nun
in 1986 who reported a "boundary violation," by an anonymous
caller who complained of "inappropriate behavior" involving
two boys in 1989, and by a pastor and school principal in 1991 who
told church officials of "various boundary violations."
Caffoe lived at a parish after his treatment and was placed on inactive
leave in 1992 after priests found a videotape in his room of "improper
behavior" with several "fully clothed" high school
People of God report: The archdiocese removed Henry from ministry
in 1991 after he pleaded no contest to four counts of lewd conduct
with a child under 14. File summary: In 1980, a parishioner reported
that the priest had a boy "living in his house" every
weekend. In 1988, three additional complaints came in, from a pastor,
a nun and a parishioner who said Henry "grabs little boys and
hugs them." The priest was sent to therapy.
People of God report: Miller was accused in 1977 of molesting a
10-year-old. Church leaders treated the accusation as "a warning."
They removed Miller from ministry in 1996 after another complaint
of decades-old abuse. File summary: In 1981, Miller was promoted
to pastor of his own parish. By 1984, he had been demoted to associate
pastor of another parish. In 1989, the pastor at Miller's parish
reported the priest had committed "boundary violations"
People of God report: Rucker was one of the few priests in ministry
who had "confirmed prior allegations" of child molestation
when Mahony arrived in 1985. The priest retired in 1987. The archdiocese
received just one more complaint about Rucker, dating from the 1960s,
until more alleged victims began coming forward in 2002. File summary:
Retired in 1987, Rucker lived without restrictions at a parish with
an elementary school. One person in 1989 and two people in 1990
alleged past "inappropriate conduct" by Rucker. The priest
"settled" with one of his accusers. In 1994, a fourth
alleged victim filed a suit that was dismissed later that year.
In 2002, Rucker was barred from public ministry.
In the following cases, the People of God report included little
more than the priests' names in a list of those accused. The summaries
show that the archdiocese allowed the men to continue as priests
despite complaints of sexual misconduct made to the cardinal or
Kevin Barmasse: In 1983, after parents complained that Barmasse
had sexually abused their son, Barmasse was sent to the Diocese
of Tucson on condition that he get treatment there. He remained
a Los Angeles priest while an associate pastor at three Arizona
parishes. In 1991, a report came in that Barmasse had allegedly
"made sexual advances toward five male high school students"
in the mid-1980s. In 1992, Los Angeles church officials removed
him from ministry in any diocese.
Leland Boyer: A man reported to a church official in 1981
that Boyer had kissed him. In 1995, a second man said Boyer had
sexually abused him a decade earlier when the accuser was about
13. Archdiocese officials restricted Boyer's ministry but allowed
him to remain pastor emeritus at his parish, which had a school,
until his death in 2004.
Michael Buckley: The subject of three earlier complaints
of sexual misconduct with minors including an allegation
that he exposed himself to two brothers in 1959 Buckley was
the target of three more complaints after 1991. His priestly faculties
were revoked in 1994.
Peter E. Garcia: In 1984, Garcia resigned as pastor of an
L.A. parish and was placed on sick leave after a woman said that
he "engaged in sexually inappropriate conduct" with her
three nephews. Garcia was allowed to serve in two New Mexico parishes,
with unspecified restrictions, while undergoing treatment at a center
for predator priests. In 1987, the Los Angeles archdiocese told
him "not to engage in any ministry."
Roderic M. Guerrini: Police in 1992 began investigating
a report that Guerrini in the late 1970s had inappropriately touched
and kissed a teenage girl working in the rectory of his Oxnard church.
Her two sisters made similar complaints. Guerrini was referred to
a therapist while continuing as pastor of a church in Venice. He
denied the allegations and was never charged. He retired in 2002.
Michael Stephen Nocita: Nocita was a high school principal
in 1988 when police began investigating a therapist's report that
a 23-year-old woman had disclosed that, as a teenager, she had had
an "intimate" relationship with the priest. The next year,
Nocita became associate pastor at a Los Angeles church. In 1991,
he was placed on inactive leave. He was removed from ministry in
Joseph Pina: In 1990, Pina admitted a "past sexual
interest in a minor." The girl's brother later reported that
his sister was 16 when the alleged abuse began. In 1998, Pina was
promoted to pastor at a Lynwood church. That same year, three women
reported "boundary violations." Pina was placed on "sick
leave" and never returned to ministry.