Cardinal Roger Mahony at a mass welcoming the Los Angeles Diocese's new archbishop (Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times / May 26, 2010)
- For four years, beginning when she was 16 and a parishioner at a Wilmington Catholic Church, first one and then all seven priests had sex with her, beginning when one who fondled her through a broken confessional screen. Two of them assured her that “it was morally, ethically all right for her to have sexual intercourse with them … that by doing so, that she would be helping them and helping herself.” Milla was 16 when all this began; the age of consent in California is 18, but no question of criminal charges was evidently pursued in this matter, perhaps because of the statute of limitations.
- When she became pregnant -- by one of the younger priests, as DNA tests showed years later -- Milla says there was talk of an abortion; then the priests got her a passport, arranged travel to the home of one priest’s relative in the Philippines for her pregnancy, and told her family she was going abroad to study. When she came back with a baby daughter, and the priests did not pitch in to support the child, she asked the church to help hold the priests to their responsibility. But, she said, when one churchman said it was probably her fault, and not the priests’ alone, she went to a lawyer.
- Not soon enough. California courts first dismissed the archdiocese from the case, saying that because sex with parishioners isn’t part of a priest’s job description, the church couldn’t be liable. And then the courts threw out Milla’s case completely because her legal clock was timed out -- by about six months before the suit, as it turned out. The courts said she should have sued, at the latest, within a year of her daughter’s birth.
- Milla was regarded as off-balance, a fantasist, a scarlet woman. She filed a slander suit against a bishop who told a local Spanish-language radio station that she was a “person of bad reputation.” Then-Cardinal Timothy Manning, at the archdiocese’s old cathedral of St. Vibiana’s, scolded The Times for its coverage of Milla’s case. And the priests could not be served with the lawsuit because they could not be found. When I called looking for them, I was told they were out of the office. Then I was told they were away on vacation or retreat, then transferred to unknown parishes. Gone.
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