LOS ANGELES – Cardinal Roger M. Mahony said Thursday he was "mystified and puzzled" by a federal grand jury investigation into the handling of alleged clergy child molestation cases by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
Mahony told KNX radio that he would gladly testify before a grand jury, but that he believed investigators were looking into issues that have been thoroughly dealt with.
"Well, basically we were mystified and puzzled by the whole thing," Mahony said. "We have been through these investigations for years now."
Mahony said 22 priests were named in a federal subpoena of documents from the archdiocese but none were still in the priesthood.
"Two are dead, the other 20 have returned to the lay state and are long gone," Mahony said.
On its Web site Wednesday, the Los Angeles Times quoted two anonymous law enforcement sources as saying Mahony is among those being investigated by the grand jury to determine if he failed to keep children safe from predatory priests.
The Los Angeles archdiocese, the nation's largest, reached a $660 million settlement with more than 500 alleged victims of clergy abuse in July 2007. The settlement is the largest on record.
At the time, Mahony apologized for what he called a "terrible sin and crime" and said such abuse should never happen again.
Mahony told the radio station he has not been told he is a target of the investigation, and that he knows only that the former priests named in the subpoena are of interest to investigators.
Los Angeles U.S. attorney's spokesman Thom Mrozek said his office has no comment on the reports, and an attorney for a number of accused priests, Donald Steier, did not return calls.
Mahony's attorney, J. Michael Hennigan, told The Associated Press Wednesday the archdiocese was fully cooperating with the probe, and he criticized the government for leaking the information.
"The Archdiocese is not aware of any fact or set of facts that would support a responsible federal investigation of the Archdiocese or of Cardinal Roger Mahony," Hennigan said in an e-mailed statement. "While the history of clergy sexual abuse in the Church is regrettable, it served as the foundation for broad reforms in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles."
David Clohessy, director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said he was stunned but gladdened by the report. The Times said the prosecutors are "applying a legal theory in an apparently novel way" by trying to determine whether church officials' actions constituted a fraud against parishioners.
"From our perspective, it's crystal clear that parishioners were deceived and defrauded," Clohessy said. "It's simply common sense."