Returning US cardinal faces abuse probe call
Pope Francis must redouble efforts to excise the "cancer" of sex abuse, a US victim said Thursday after winning a $1 million payout -- and urged the new pontiff to defrock the cardinal involved.
Retired Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony, who was stripped of his duties in January after files were published that revealed he helped cover up scandals, should also face criminal action when he comes home, said victim Michael Duran.
Mahony is expected to return from Rome after taking part in the 115-member papal conclave which chose Argentine cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the first pope from Latin America on Wednesday.
Duran, who says he was raped repeatedly by a Californian priest in the mid-1980s, said the Catholic Church has an opportunity under the 76-year-old pontiff to really crack down on sex abuse.
He is one of four victims who received a combined $10 million from the Catholic archdiocese announced earlier this week, while the papal conclave was in session.
"This is a great opportunity for the Catholic Church to make amends to all the victims, and really implement some real procedures and some structure in the hierarchy to protect children worldwide," he told AFP.
"My faith in the Catholic Church has been destroyed ... I hope that our new pope defrocks ... Cardinal Mahony for his role in covering up the abuse that I suffered," he said, while acknowledging: "I don't have high hopes for that."
Lawyers announced Tuesday that the Los Angeles Archdiocese had agreed to pay nearly $10 million to four victims of a priest, the Reverend Michael Baker. Duran was the only victim who appeared at a press conference Thursday.
Mahony -- who was stripped of his Church duties by his successor after the release of the files exposed his role in the cover-up -- approved the deal earlier this month, before traveling to the Vatican.
Lawyer John Manly, who represented them in the civil case, said Mahony should face a grand jury. "There is a cancer in this Archdiocese. There is a cancer in this institution. It needs to be cut out," he told reporters.
"This is a worldwide problem. The only reason it has come to light in the United States with such ferocity is because of our civil justice system. The fact that individuals can file lawsuits."
Duran, who was about 10 years old when the abuse started, said the papal election was difficult for him to watch. "It's hard to look at TV right now. Every day is a constant reminder of what happened to me," he said.
"I would like to see Michael Baker, my abuser, in jail. But I would also like to see Mahony at least be indicted. Let a jury decide what he did," he told reporters.
The 40-year-old, a third generation Mexican-American, said the fact that Pope Francis is the first Latin American pontiff could be good for Latinos, including the huge Hispanic community in southern California.
"I think it's good for them," he said. "One of the first steps is to protect the children. Many of the victims, including myself, were Latino. So I hope he has a little more sympathy than the previous pope, and is smart about it."
But standing next to his wife Margarita -- who fought back tears as she told reporters how she stood by her husband in launching the legal action -- Duran said his Catholic faith had been shattered.
"I will probably never go back to the Catholic Church," he said.