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L.A. archdiocese settles sex abuse cases for $10 million

The archdiocese of Los Angeles, its former leader Cardinal Mahony, and an defrocked priest have agreed to pay $10 million to settle four child sex abuse cases.

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Finaldi, however, disputed the notion that Mahony should be absolved of any obligation to alert authorities.

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"You have a priest who is confessing that he sexually molested two kids, and you don't pick up the phone and call police? There's no reasonable excuse for not doing that," he said.

Scandals over sex abuse in the U.S. Catholic Church, which erupted in 1992 with a series of molestation cases uncovered in Boston, have cost the church billions of dollars in settlements and driven prominent dioceses into bankruptcy.

The Los Angeles archdiocese, which serves 4 million Catholics, reached a $660 million civil settlement in 2007 with more than 500 victims of child molestation, marking the biggest such agreement of its kind in the nation. Mahony at that time called the abuse "a terrible sin and crime."

The archdiocese has reached a handful of settlements in other cases since then, but the one announced on Tuesday was by far the biggest, Finaldi added.

In a rare church rebuke of a cardinal, Mahony was censured in late January by his successor, Archbishop Jose Gomez, and stripped of all public and administrative duties. But Mahony retained his title as cardinal and his the right to take part in the Vatican conclave that selects a new pontiff to replace retired Pope Benedict XVI, an authority he chose to exercise.

The censure followed the public release of over 12,000 pages of confidential files unsealed as part of previous civil suits, revealing how numerous known or suspected pedophiles in the clergy were shielded from law enforcement scrutiny by church officials.

One of Mahony's former top advisers, Thomas Curry, stepped down as bishop of Santa Barbara as a result of the disclosures.

In addition to sending abusive priests to a church-run pedophile treatment center in New Mexico, Mahony and Curry also worked to keep those priests from later revealing their misconduct to private therapists who would have been obligated to report molestation to police.

Baker confessed his molestation of two boys to Mahony in 1986, early in Mahony's tenure as archbishop. After six months in treatment, he was placed back in the ministry in the Los Angeles area, supposedly in a job precluding any contact with children, Finaldi said.

But according to Finaldi, Baker was assigned to a residence attached to a church that also operated a school.

Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Andre Grenon and Cynthia Osterman

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