By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Ziemann and Mahony met in the early 1960s, when Ziemann was attending Our Lady of the Angels Seminary in San Fernando and Mahony was at St. John’s. Mahony graduated from St. John’s in 1962. Ziemann later attended St. John’s and graduated in 1967. Mahony was the serious student. Ziemann was the worldly charmer following in his footsteps.
In 1987, Ziemann became Mahony’s auxiliary bishop. He was a rising star. In 1992, however, Ziemann left Los Angeles to become the bishop of the Diocese of Santa Rosa. There, he fell into trouble, when a Costa Rican priest sued him for blackmail, charging that Ziemann forced the priest to be his sex partner.
The diocese settled out of court for $535,000, in 1999, and Ziemann resigned in disgrace. He left the diocese $16 million in debt. Ziemann has been charged in civil court with molesting minors from 1967 to 1992. The Vatican has removed his faculties as a bishop and he currently resides at Holy Trinity Monastery in St. David, Arizona, near Tucson.
Observers of the church scandal find it impossible to believe that Mahony was unaware of the danger Ziemann (and Baker) posed to minors. What is more disturbing, they say, is the role of the St. John’s old boy club.
Technically, the Vatican approves all transfers related to bishops. But Ziemann’s placement in Santa Rosa required the assent of Archbishop William Levada of the Archdiocese of San Francisco (St. John’s Class of 1958). And, Ziemann’s later residence within the Diocese of Tucson has required the assent of Bishop Manuel Moreno (St. John’s Class of 1961). Both are close friends of Mahony’s. Sources familiar with St. John’s — a seminary known for sexual tolerance — contend that Levada, Mahony and Moreno hold the key to the depths of the priest scandal in Los Angeles.
Authorities are investigating other leads, which they believe flow along the Mahony-Moreno axis between Los Angeles and Tucson. Last Friday, however, Moreno resigned as bishop of Tucson, citing health reasons. He leaves a diocese racked with scandal.
Prosecutors in Ventura and Los Angeles counties also are targeting Mahony’s top administrators, known as vicars of clergy. Several have appeared before the grand jury in Ventura. They are:
ŽBishop Thomas Curry, vicar of clergy, 1986-90. Curry was aware of charges that a priest molested altar boys in two parishes but allowed him to flee to Mexico, in 1988. The priest, the Rev. Nicolas Aguilar Rivera, was charged with lewd acts on a child and is still at large.
Curry also wrote letters in 1987 and 1988 to an exiled priest urging him to stay away from Los Angeles. The priest was accused of molesting a teenage girl along with six other priests and impregnating her, and had fled to the Philippines. “My client was acting in the best interests of the priest, the church and all those concerned,” said Brian Hennigan, a former ä federal prosecutor with Irell & Manella who represents Curry.
Curry is the bishop of the Diocese of Santa Barbara, appointed by Mahony in 1994.
ŽMsgr. Timothy Dyer, vicar of clergy, 1991-95. Dyer and Michael Baker were classmates at St. John’s. After Baker had admitted to molesting children, in 1986, Dyer accompanied him on trips in the 1990s to the Tucson diocese, where Baker allegedly molested the two boys he settled out of court with in 2000. “There was no suggestion of impropriety,” Michael Hennigan, lawyer for the Los Angeles archdiocese said. “No one knew Baker had misbehaved during that time.”
ŽMsgr. Richard Loomis, vicar of clergy, 1996-2000. E-mails leaked to KFI radio in April 2002 reportedly came from Loomis’ computer. He resigned as secretariat director in October to pursue parish work. “Msgr. Loomis is not the focus of any investigation,” said his attorney, James Farley of Ventura. “He was only [before the grand jury] to explain the process of handling priest complaints.”Msgr. Craig Cox, vicar of clergy, 2000-2002.
Many are skeptical that the criminal case will stick to Mahony or his top people, however. Prosecutors have been unable to charge higher-ups in the church despite clear showings of a cover-up in Boston and Rockville Center, New York, due to expired statutes of limitation. And, a key California law that extends the statute of limitations for charging priests with crimes against children is up for review before the U.S. Supreme Court. If the law is stricken, prosecutors would lose one of their most potent weapons in building up to a larger case against Mahony.
Don Steier, who represents Baker, Ziemann and several other key defendants in the criminal probe, also said Mahony has complied with child abuse reporting laws enacted in 1997. Steier has represented the archdiocese’s priests for 20 years. “Did Mahony fail to turn over priests to the authorities?” Steier said. “Yes. But not after 1997.” (Prosecutors believe the archdiocese steers its most vulnerable priests toward Steier to keep them within the fold. Steier denies he is a key player.)
Criminal law experts doubt that the church hierarchy could be charged with serious crimes. “Church officials would have had to either molest children or intend that someone else would,” explained former prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi. “Although Mahony may have looked the other way, I find it inconceivable that he and his administrators actually intended for priests to molest children.”