Commentary

OK, here's the overview:

In the wake of widespread sexual abuse allegations against Catholic priests, radio station KFI aired an allegation against a California Catholic Cardinal. The allegations were brought be a woman who said that Cardinal Roger M. Mahony sexually abused her 33 years ago while she was a high school student were he was an administrator.

What is wrong with this case is that the woman, 51-year-old Floa Mae Hickman, the woman making the claim has these things going against the veracity of her testimony:

—The alleged event happened more than three decades ago.
The Cardinal's alleged crime was that after she being knocked unconscious during a fight with other students, she awoke to find the "bottom" portion of her clothing removed and Mahony "over her."
      That is the sum total of her testimony. She does not define what being "over her" means, nor does she allege he removed her clothing or that he was doing anything untoward at all. He may have been trying to revive her after she was knocked at at his school. She does not remember any other details from the incident three decades ago.

Further complicating her testimony is the fact that she is taking medication for depression and has been told by a psychiatrist that she is a paranoid schizophrenic.

I am not so bothered by Ms. HIckman's story. (By the way, she says she tried to tell police about it at some undetermined point in time, but the "didn't believe her.")She has a right to make such allegations and the police have the duty to determine whether there is enough evidence of a crime (and that it remains within the statute of limitations) to mount an investigation.

But I am appalled that KFI would air the bald allegations in such a circumstance. What is to be served by this other than to smmear the Cardinal's reputation by making public what appears at first blush to be a matter that no court would ever lend credence to? Who is safe from such irresponsible gossip-mongering?

Cardinal defends himself against abuse accusations

Here's the story:

by Kim Baca, Associated Press

FRESNO, Calif.—Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, already under fire for his handling of sexual abuse allegations against other priests in the nation’s largest Catholic archdiocese, is now confronting accusations of his own.
       Lt. Michael Guthrie of the Fresno Police Department confirmed Saturday that an investigation involving Mahony was under way. Mahony said he was cooperating fully with police.
      Flora Mae Hickman, 51, of Fresno, Calif., says she was molested by Mahony while she was a student at San Joaquin Memorial Catholic High School in 1969. But contacted Saturday, Hickman offered no details of what she claims Mahony actually did.
      Mahony revealed the accusation, and denied it, in a three-page statement on Friday night.
      "My personal integrity and reputation demand that I take all possible steps to refute this false allegation," Mahony said.
      Mahony’s statement came as more accusations against Catholic priests surfaced nationwide, including Saturday’s admission by the Sacramento Diocese that 14 priests have been accused of sexual misconduct with children over the past 30 years.
      Mahony issued his statement after a Los Angeles radio station obtained and quoted from church emails about abuse cases that refer briefly to the woman’s claim, which she first made to the pastor of St. John’s Cathedral in Fresno on March 20.
      Hickman told The Associated Press on Saturday she was knocked unconscious while fighting with students and woke to find the "bottom" portion of her clothing removed and Mahony, then a monsignor in Fresno, "over her."
      Hickman also said she is taking medication for depression and has been told by a psychiatrist that she is a paranoid schizophrenic. She said she could not remember many details of what happened.
      The AP does not normally identify alleged victims in sexual assault cases, but Hickman gave permission for her name to be used. Her name was also included in Mahony’s statement.
      On Thursday, confidential emails between Mahony and his staff, including his lawyers, were obtained by radio station KFI. The emails contained numerous references to the sexual abuse scandal and Mahony’s concerns about the way the archdiocese was responding to it.
      Attorneys for the archdiocese lost a late-night court hearing Thursday to keep KFI and the Los Angeles Times from quoting from the emails.
      Despite saying she could not remember details, Hickman insisted Saturday the charges are true and that the incident caused her to lose her faith.
      "I’m not making this up. I know this is a serious allegation. This has been eating at me. I did call police when I was out of high school. They didn’t believe me," she said. Hickman also told of another incident involving Mahony during which she claims he hit her. Both incidents occurred between 1969 and when she graduated in 1970, Hickman said. A 1970 San Joaquin Memorial Catholic High School yearbook contains a photo of Hickman, confirming she was a member of the graduating class that year.
      Mahony, 66, became the head of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in 1985 and was elevated to Cardinal in 1991.
      The internal emails he wrote during the past two weeks reveal his concerns over the church’s response to sexual abuse allegations in the archdiocese, which serves 5 million Catholics in three Southern California counties.
      Los Angeles police have said they are investigating reports that the diocese has removed six to 12 priests accused of sexual abuse in cases dating back 10 years.