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Advocates for clergy abuse victims urge parishioners to speak out about convicted priest

August 23, 2009 |  5:13 pm

Members of a support group for victims of alleged clergy abuse passed out leaflets in front of St. Columbkille Catholic Church in South Los Angeles today, urging parishioners and church employees who have information about sex crimes to speak out.

St. Columbkille is the former parish of defrocked priest Michael Stephen Baker, who in 2007 was sent to prison for sexually abusing two boys, and who authorities have identified as a prolific child molester.

Joelle Casteix, southwest regional director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said the group believes there may be many more sexual abuse victims at the parish. St. Columbkille officials were not available for comment.

Baker was recently questioned by a federal grand jury investigating how the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles and Cardinal Roger M. Mahony handled priests accused of molestation, according to sources familiar with the proceedings.

J. Michael Hennigan, an attorney representing Mahony and the archdiocese, has said the cardinal is not a target of the inquiry.

Casteix alleged that the archdiocese has not aggressively sought out other victims and witnesses, and said she believes that parishioners could help law enforcement build a case against Catholic higher-ups and potentially bring new charges against Baker.

Hennigan said “the archdiocese aggressively investigates every allegation or suspected incident, and in those cases looks for other victims. If SNAP has other information, they should deliver it to us and we will pursue it as we have done in the past.”

-- Carla Rivera