As an auxiliary bishop under Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony in the 1980s, Patrick Ziemann presided over many confirmations. He had a favorite gimmick during the ceremonies: He would give dollar bills to the confirmandi if they could answer easy questions about the faith.
Last week a former altar boy filed a lawsuit saying that Ziemann gave him money too — for sex. The lawsuit, according to the Associated Press, “alleges the unidentified plaintiff was first molested when he was a sixth grade altar boy at St. Matthias Church in Huntington Park, an eastern suburb of Los Angeles.
“At 17, the plaintiff alleges, the Rev. G. Patrick Ziemann began paying him for sexual acts, and Ziemann continued the relationship after being named spiritual director of the now-closed Queen of Angels Seminary in the San Fernando Valley in 1985.”
The lawsuit also claims that Ziemann got promoted to bishop “in part as a reward for his agreement to engage with [church officials] in a conspiracy to conceal sexual abuse” within the church.
The last time Ziemann got hit with a lawsuit the faithful had to pay out over $500,000. That one was filed by an embezzling priest Ziemann had courted. The priest complained that Ziemann had outfitted him with a beeper so that he could be available for sex at all hours of the day. The church very stoutly denied the charge that Ziemann had forced himself on the priest. It was consensual dating and sex, church officials argued, and then proceeded to pay the priest hundreds of thousands of dollars for his “false” charges.
Let’s see how much money the church doles out for “false” charges this time. Ziemann, in case you didn’t know, is still a bishop. Presumably he could have even showed up in Dallas to hammer out the zero-tolerance policy.
Thanks to the alternative Los Angeles New Times — which takes an interest in these matters while its mainstream counterpart dozes — it is now known that Ziemann is marinating under the Arizona sun. According to New Times reporter Ron Russell, Ziemann hangs out with the Arizona arts set, says mass at a retreat center, and occasionally counsels prospective seminarians.
No doubt he is tanned, rested, and ready for his next legal challenge. Perhaps Sitrick and Co., Cardinal Mahony’s public relations firm, can lend a hand. Having recently served Enron, according to the New Times, the firm is battle-tested.
Mahony’s con-the-faithful-with-the-faithful’s-money campaign is apparently going so well that he no longer has to sound repentant. Last week he told reporters that it was unfair to judge him according to the standards of the past. He feels confident enough to trot out once again the psychiatrists-misled-me defense, which might be a little more convincing if he weren’t still relying on them.
The new Ziemann case, however, may dampen the cardinal’s new PR offensive. At some point he will be asked: When did you know that Ziemann was breaking his vows? Was it before or after you made him an auxiliary bishop? Was it before or after you recommended him to the bishop’s seat in Santa Rosa?
This is no off-the-wall inquiry given that Mahony, after learning that Father Carl Sutphin was a molester, brought Sutphin into his residence and made him the associate pastor of his new cathedral. Look, Sutphin was in the most well-supervised setting of the archdiocese, explained the cardinal after the news broke. Perhaps this innovative style of supervision applies to Mahony’s bishops as well. What better way to watch Ziemann than to make him a member of the apostolic college, we may hear from Mahony before this is all over.
According to the New Times, Mahony populated his inner circle with problem priests. Father Michael Baker, who was reassigned to a host of parishes after telling the cardinal he had molested children, “was among an elite number of prelates privileged to spend weekends with the cardinal at his cabin near Yosemite National Park.”
“Another priest caught up in the widening scandal — and who may prove to be a source of special embarrassment to Mahony — is Monsignor Chris Van Liefde,” reports the New Times. “Until Mahony placed him on administrative leave in early June, Van Liefde was not only the pastor of the large St. Genevieve Parish in Panorama City, but was also the Los Angeles City Fire Department’s chaplain. Typically, the archdiocese has refused to provide much information about Van Liefde, other than to say Mahony’s suspending him from his clerical duties is related to an alleged incident 28 years ago. Van Liefde’s fall from grace occurred just days before he was to conduct a conference to help fellow priests avoid the pitfalls of sexual abuse.”
Spin, spin, spin, Sitrick and Co. Cardinal Ken Lay needs your help.