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Mahony to testify in molestation case

March 17, 2009 12:06:28 PM PDT
The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Los Angeles is in Fresno on Tuesday to testify in the case of two brothers who claim they were molested by a priest at a church in Wasco.The alleged victims George and Howard Santillan claim they were molested for 14 years from 1959 to 1973 by Monsignor Anthony Herdegen.

Mahony is not a defendant in the case, but was called as a trial witness, but for part of that time, Cardinal Roger Mahony served in a number of high-level administrative positions in the Diocese of Fresno, with jurisdiction over the parish.

By taking the stand on Tuesday, Mahony becomes the highest ranking U.S. Roman Catholic official to testify in a civil trial.

The lawsuit, filed by the brothers in 2003, was initially thrown out by a trial judge, but the suit was revived in May by state appellate judges, apparently on Mahony's testimony.

The judges said Mahony's deposition might indicate high-level administrators in the Fresno Diocese had been alerted to the alleged abuse.

Mahony's testimony this week comes as a federal grand jury is investigating whether the cardinal and other Roman Catholic Church leaders committed fraud by failing to adequately deal with priests accused of sexual abuse in Los Angeles.

The alleged victims said a part-time housekeeper let the boys into the priest's bedroom and knew they were with him alone. The brothers said their mother confronted the housekeeper, who cried and apologized. The housekeeper has since died.

Mahony last appeared in court in 1998 over allegations by two Stockton area brothers who were molested for years by a priest who was under Mahony's watch.

That case resulted in a $30 million verdict, which was later reduced to $7 million. Mahony, who was bishop of Stockton from 1980 to 1985, testified he was not aware of the alleged abuse.


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