- The Washington Times - Monday, April 8, 2002

NEW YORK (AP) The Archdiocese of New York said yesterday that six priests have been asked to leave their assignments because of past accusations of sexual misconduct.
The announcement, made in a statement released by archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling, came less than a week after the archdiocese said it had given the Manhattan district attorney's office a list of cases involving priests who had been accused of sexual misconduct with minors.
Telephone calls to Mr. Zwilling's home and office yesterday were not immediately returned.
The statement released yesterday said information concerning the six priests asked to step down from their archdiocese positions was included in information forwarded to District Attorney Robert Morgenthau.
The archdiocese did not release the names of the priests because not all of the accusations had been substantiated, the statement said.
"The priests in question have been informed that they are not to present themselves as priests or exercise their priestly ministry publicly at least until the matter is further clarified or resolved," the statement said.
With 2.4 million members, the New York archdiocese is the nation's third-largest.
The Catholic Church has been rocked in recent months by accusations around the country of sexual misconduct by priests. New York's Cardinal Edward Egan was accused of helping to hide such cases when he was bishop of Bridgeport, Conn. Cardinal Egan said he handled the cases appropriately.
Also yesterday, a pastor approached last month about sexual-abuse accusations involving Los Angeles Cardinal Roger M. Mahony said he believed the claims were false.
Flora Mae Hickman, 51, of Fresno, claimed she was molested by Cardinal Mahony while a student at San Joaquin Memorial Catholic High School in 1969. A photo in the school's yearbook confirmed that she was a member of the graduating class of 1970.
Miss Hickman said she had been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic and was taking medication for depression. She told the Los Angeles Times one reason she made the accusation against Cardinal Mahony was that the state was cutting her disability payments and she needed a cash settlement from the church.
She told the Associated Press that she was knocked unconscious while fighting with students and woke to find the "bottom" portion of her clothing removed and Cardinal Mahony, then a monsignor in Fresno, "over her."
Miss Hickman said she could not remember many details of what happened.
"She claimed that happened with 40 different youths watching. There's no way that is going to happen in front of all those people," Monsignor John Esquivel said after leading Mass yesterday at St. John's Cathedral in Fresno. "I don't believe the allegations are true."
Miss Hickman went to Monsignor Esquivel with the accusations last month.
The Fresno Police Department was investigating, and Cardinal Mahony said he was cooperating. Cardinal Mahony revealed the accusation Friday night and denied it.


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