Cleaning House: Cardinal Mahony Protected Church Over Victims

Pope Francis is reordering Catholics' priorities, but it comes too late for retired Cardinal Roger Mahony.
Cleaning House: Cardinal Mahony Protected Church Over Victims

The LA Times has an in-depth article about Cardinal Roger Mahony's decisions regarding molestations by Catholic priests, which highlight his priorities above all. I can't help but wonder what he might have done if he were confronting those issues through the same lens Pope Francis is today.

From the article:

Mahony knew the larger church was just starting to confront clergy abuse. In 1985, after a molester priest caused a scandal in Louisiana, U.S. bishops held a closed-door session on abuse at their annual conference.

Mahony and other bishops subsequently received a lengthy report warning of the legal and public relations ramifications of abuse and offering tips for dealing with such cases. The report, written by a priest, a psychiatrist and a lawyer, presented the topic in a risk-analysis manner appealing to pragmatists like Mahony.

"Our dependence in the past on Roman Catholic judges and attorneys protecting the Diocese and clerics is GONE," the report said.

Among the recommendations was that bishops rely on lawyers' advice. Not long after Mahony arrived, he consulted the archdiocese's longtime attorney about Cristobal Garcia, a priest accused of molesting an altar boy and then fleeing to his native Philippines.

The lawyer, J.J. Brandlin, was unequivocal: "Be sure that someone has reported the matter to the authorities," he urged. "The law carries a heavy burden."

The advice went unheeded. Brandlin stepped down shortly thereafter, and in his place Mahony hired the law firm of prominent venture capitalist Richard Riordan, a devout Catholic.

Riordan is a familiar face to anyone who has been in Southern California for any length of time. Republican, deeply conservative and Catholic, he represented the face of funds, not people. With Riordan's help, Mahony was able to sweep the abuse allegations under the rug and deal with them "privately," in order to protect the church at the expense of its people, and in particular, those children being victimized by authority figures.

Mahony's first priority was to protect the abusers and the reputation of the church:

Mahony and his aides insisted on secrecy even when lives were at risk. In one case, the archdiocese was informed that a man dying of AIDS had been having sex with a parish priest, who in turn was abusing high school students. At the time, the average life expectancy after an AIDS diagnosis was 18 months. Yet church officials did nothing to alert the priest or the students. "People involved in these activities usually are aware of these matters," a Mahony aide wrote.

Mahony's schedule brought him in regular contact with the police chief and the district attorney, but he never mentioned the accused abusers in his ranks or reported them to law enforcement. In private memos, he discussed with aides how to stymie police.

Mahony and his aides selected therapists who they knew wouldn't report abuse to authorities, and urged suspected molesters to remain out of state to avoid police investigations and lawsuits. Mahony ordered one priest who had admitted preying on as many as 20 children to stay away from California "for the foreseeable future" to avoid prosecution.

In the end, the outcome was awful for everyone, but most of all for the victims of those priests. The entire article is worth the time to read, because it reveals the mind and heart of a man who was passionate about progressive ideas like immigration and the poor, but put the welfare of the Catholic Church as an institution above people. To this day, Mahony feels that he has been victimized by police and the press, despite clear documentation that his choice to hide the abuse from police and the public actually resulted in more molestations.

"I am not being called to serve Jesus in humility. Rather, I am being called to something deeper — to be humiliated, disgraced, and rebuffed by many," he wrote on his blog. He added, "To be honest with you, I have not reached the point where I can actually pray for more humiliation. I'm only at the stage of asking for the grace to endure the level of humiliation at the moment."

This is the "humiliation" he has suffered:

Cardinal Mahony’s role in the sex abuse scandal has seen three grand jury investigations. Notwithstanding, no criminal charges have ever been filed against Mahony or anyone in the church hierarchy.

And despite numerous calls for his resignation for his role in the cover ups, he stayed in office until the Vatican’s mandatory retirement age of 75. Additionally Mahony still remains a bishop in good standing in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, with full rights to celebrate the Holy Sacraments of the Church and to minister to the faithful without restriction.

Mahony was also able to participate in the papal conclave that choose Pope Francis in March of this year.

Whatever "humiliation" Mahony claims to have suffered pales in comparison to what the young victims of those priests bore. They lost their innocence and their faith to gratify a disgusting pedophile's urges. Perhaps Mahony should ask himself what Jesus, or even Pope Francis, would have done. I'm pretty sure it wouldn't have involved wealthy donors to the church and evading police inquiries in order to protect an institution at the expense of children.

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