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LA cardinal to be deposed in abuse lawsuit

LOS ANGELES — Cardinal Roger Mahony, the former Roman Catholic archbishop of Los Angeles, will be questioned under oath next week as part of a clergy abuse lawsuit just days before he flies to Rome to help select the next pope, attorneys said Friday.

The recently retired head of the nation’s largest archdiocese will be deposed Feb. 23 about how he handled a visiting Mexican priest who police believe molested 26 children in the Los Angeles archdiocese during a nine-month stay in 1987. The Rev. Nicolas Aguilar Rivera fled to Mexico in 1988 after parents complained. He remains a fugitive.

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The agreement was brokered behind closed doors Friday by a Los Angeles judge. Michael Hennigan, an archdiocese attorney, confirmed the parties agreed to a four-hour deposition with no limitations on the line of questioning.

Mahony has been deposed in civil clergy abuse lawsuits multiple times over the years. Next week’s deposition, however, would be the first since the archdiocese released thousands of pages under court order from the confidential personnel files of more than 120 priests accused of sex abuse.

The files show that Mahony and other top archdiocese officials maneuvered to shield accused priests and protect the church from a growing scandal while keeping parishioners in the dark. The cardinal was publicly rebuked by his successor, Archbishop Jose Gomez, but on Friday, the archdiocese released a letter Gomez sent to priests urging them to pray for Mahony as he prepares to go to Rome to select the next pope.

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