December 4, 2007 / 8:46 PM / 12 years ago

LA cardinal was assaulted over Church abuse: paper

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Leading U.S. Roman Catholic Cardinal Roger Mahony was attacked on the street by a man enraged by the Church’s sex abuse scandal just days after his Los Angeles diocese agreed to make a record payout to more than 500 victims, a Los Angeles newspaper reported on Tuesday.

Cardinal Roger Mahony sits in the courtroom during a settlement conference over priest abuse cases at Los Angeles Superior Court in Los Angeles July 16, 2007. Mahony was attacked on the street by a man enraged by the Church's sex abuse scandal just days after his Los Angeles diocese agreed to make a record payout to more than 500 victims, a Los Angeles newspaper reported on Tuesday. REUTERS/Al Seib/Pool

Mahony, 71, spoke of the July attack at a recent conference of priests and said it gave him a deeper understanding of the suffering endured by victims of the nationwide scandal.

Father Sal Pilato, principal of Junipero Serra Catholic High School in Los Angeles who heard Mahony speak at the conference, said the cardinal was dropping off letters at a mailbox near the downtown Los Angeles cathedral where he lives.

“Somebody recognized him and attacked him. It was shocking because it was an act of violence and it was someone we know and respect,” Pilato told the Los Angeles Daily News.

Mahony told the priests that the man began shouting expletives and knocked him to the ground. It took a month for his injuries to heal after the attack.

It was not known whether the man was himself the victim of sexual molestation by a priest and Mahony did not report the assault to police. Mahony’s office declined to comment.

The Los Angeles Archdiocese, the largest in the United States, in July publicly apologized and finalized a record $660 million settlement to 508 local victims.

Mahony had come under particular fire from victims and their lawyers for blocking efforts in the courts to keep secret internal records of abuse and suspect priests.

Pilato told the Daily News Mahony spoke of the assault with fellow priests in October during a discussion on the abuse issue. The scandal, involving sexual assaults by trusted priests on young Catholics and subsequent cover-ups, erupted in Boston in 2002 and has affected virtually every diocese in the United States.

“The main message was that his wounds healed within a month, bruises and all, but the victims of child abuse are still suffering after many years, that their wounds are far deeper than what he experienced,” Pilato said.

News of the attack on Mahony was published a day after a former Catholic priest was sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to molesting two teenage boys in the mid-1990s in the Los Angeles area.

Michael Stephen Baker, 59, is believed to have molested more than 20 young boys in his 26 years as a priest and had confessed his problem to Mahony in 1986.

Mahony, who was then a bishop, sent Baker away for treatment and later reassigned him to other parishes. Mahony publicly apologized in 2004 for mishandling the Baker case, which he described in a 2002 newspaper interview as the one “that troubles me the most.”

Reporting by Jill Serjeant, editing by Eric Walsh

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