In the fight for immigrants, retired and disgraced Cardinal Roger Mahony works out[!?] of the spotlight

In the fight for immigrants, [retired and disgraced] Cardinal Roger Mahony works out[!?] of the spotlight

He told Archbishop Jose Gomez he would “stay below the radar”


Standing beneath the wooden panels of a church in the San Gabriel Valley, Cardinal Roger Mahony delivered a message that has over decades become a refrain.

“Immigrants are our brothers and sisters,” he said, celebrating Mass in Spanish on a recent Sunday. The government may demonize them, but “they aren’t our enemies.”

He told parishioners of their responsibility to fight for reform. The pews erupted with applause.

A politically sophisticated clergyman whom Pope John Paul II nicknamed “Hollywood,” Mahony was raised among California’s immigrant farm workers. Named archbishop of Los Angeles in 1985, he became a powerful voice supporting those who were in the country illegally at a time when California was a pioneer in anti-immigrant measures.

Then came the fall, when he was relieved of public duties over his mishandling of clergy sex abuse of children. Once a shining star of the American church, his reputation suffered as a result of the devastating scandal, which led to the largest settlement by any archdiocese: $660 million.

“It became very difficult to look at him, to listen to him, without thinking this is a guy who messed up on dealing with abuse in the archdiocese,” said Father Thomas J. Reese, a senior analyst at Religion News Service. “It clouded his reputation.”

The cardinal who once filled Dodger Stadium gave way to a successor, Archbishop Jose Gomez, with a more subdued style but a growing voice.

“Cardinal Mahony was very outspoken, and the public policy debate was something that he would jump into with great vigor and ease. It was something he totally enjoyed,” Reese said. “Gomez, on the other hand, is your classic pastor.… He’s a warm person, he’s personable, he wants to be with his people.”

While Gomez has stepped into the spotlight, Mahony has continued to work on the cause he adopted in his youth — sometimes through a personal blog.

“I was so happy because I no longer had administration, personnel problems, budgets and all that stuff,” Mahony said of turning his official duties over to Gomez. “I was free to do just ministry things. One of my biggest focuses, then, was to continue working with our immigrants.”

Mahony’s lifelong passion for the topic stems from his encounters with migrant workers in the fields of the San Joaquin Valley during his years in the diocese of Fresno and Stockton, and days spent in his family’s poultry processing plant. As a boy, he would sit down with the immigrant employees who worked on the property behind theirs and share ears of corn roasted over a makeshift fire pit.

He attends monthly meetings as a member of Gomez’s immigration task force and celebrates Mass in Spanish in churches throughout the archdiocese almost every weekend, filling in for other priests. Often, his sermons touch on the experience of the immigrant.

“I told the the archbishop, I said, look I’ve got more time. I can go to parish meetings. You are brand new here. You’ve got so many things on your plate that you can’t do a lot of local level stuff that I can do,” Mahony, 82, recalled.

Sitting in a conference room at St. Charles Borromeo, Mahony explained how he told Gomez that he would “stay below the radar.” He said he promised the archbishop that he wouldn’t attend public events that would draw a lot of media and that he wouldn’t make public statements.

Full story at The LA Times.

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2 comments on “In the fight for immigrants, retired and disgraced Cardinal Roger Mahony works out[!?] of the spotlight

  1. Los Angeles Archdiocese is a Reminder that Cardinal McCarrick Isn’t the Only One


    In the aftermath of the Cardinal McCarrick revelations, it’s easy to forget that two other US cardinals have been publicly censured as a result of their involvement in the priest sex abuse scandal.

    The first was Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston who resigned in disgrace in 2002 after the Boston Globe uncovered evidence that Law had covered up for priests who abused children in the Archdiocese of Boston.

    The second cardinal to be censured publicly was Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles. Mahony, who retired in 2011 after reaching the mandatory retirement age, was publicly censured by his successor, Archbishop Jose Gomez and forbidden to serve publicly in the Archdiocese following the release of personnel files documenting priest sexual-abuse cases during part of Mahony’s tenure.

    After a court order requiring the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to release documents some of which expose Mahony’s cover-up of sexual abuse by priests, Gomez publicly censured Mahony who retired after 25 years of being Cardinal Archbishop of the city in 2011.

    “Effective immediately, I have informed Cardinal Mahony that he will no longer have any administrative or public duties,” said a public letter issued by Archbishop Gomez.

    The documents, some 12,000 pages, show that Mahony purposely concealed from the public his knowledge of priests who had committed sex crimes with youth, transferring the perpetrators after they received counseling only to have them sexually abuse again and again.

    The abuses were so severe that Archbishop Jose Gomez commented, “I find these files to be brutal and painful reading. The behavior described in these files is terribly sad and evil.”

    Earlier this year, Pope Francis appointed Mahony as his special envoy to the Diocese of Scranton for the diocese’s 150th anniversary. A swarm of protests engulfed the Diocese of Scranton and Mahony subsequently backed out of the engagement.

    The Archdiocese of Los Angeles still has not recovered from the corruption and scandal in part caused by Mahony’s actions. In a 2013 article on Mahony’s tenure in Los Angeles, the LA Times wrote,

    “In the child sex abuse scandal that has shaken the Catholic Church, Mahony is a singular figure.

    He became the leader of America’s largest archdiocese at the very moment the church was being forced to confront clergy molestation. Because he was just 49 when he took office, he was in power for the entire arc of the abuse crisis. Long after peers had retired or died, Mahony was around to face the public’s wrath. Because of the unique way abuse lawsuits played out in California, his files on molesters became public while in most other corners of the church, they remain under lock and key.

    The archdiocese’s confidential personnel files, released this year as part of a massive settlement of civil lawsuits, provide the most detailed accounting yet of how clergy abuse was handled in a U.S. diocese. Along with sworn testimony by Mahony and his advisors and interviews with church officials, victims’ families and others, the nearly 23,000 pages maintained by the archdiocese and various religious orders suggest a man who was troubled over abuse but more worried about scandal — and how it might derail the agenda he had for himself and his church.”

    When he was named the Archbishop of Los Angeles in 1985, Mahony was the youngest (49) archbishop in the country and he was ambitious, not unlike his East coast colleague Cardinal Law.

    Both men’s ambition however clouded their judgment and led them to make fateful errors in dealing with the burgeoning priest sex abuse scandal. Now, more than three decades later, the reputations of both men have been sullied by their failure to protect children. That will be their legacy.

    • LA Archdiocese Responds to Legal Examiner on Cardinal Mahoney

      JOSEPH H. SAUNDERS JUL 12, 2018

      I want to begin by thanking Adrian Alarcon, Director of Media Relations for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles for his thoughts on my recent blog post concerning Cardinal Roger Mahony. He contacted me in response to my last article and makes the point that:

      “Cardinal Mahony was and remains a priest in good standing with full rights to celebrate the Holy Sacraments and minister to the faithful without restriction. The LA Times covered the clarification in the following article on February 15, 2013:

      Cardinal Mahony was not “relieved of his duties.” He was already retired and thus did not have administrative public duties as Archbishop of Los Angeles.”

      I think while Mr. Alarcon’s statement may reflect Cardinal Mahony’s current practice the issue is more complicated than that and bears further discussion.

      As the National Catholic Reporter noted in its February 1, 2013 article entitled, “Cardinal Mahony barred from public ministry in Los Angeles”, Archbishop Gomez did indeed prohibit the cardinal from exercising any public ministry within the archdiocese.

      Now, whether or not an archbishop can forbid a cardinal from anything is another matter altogether. Mr. Alarcon notes that Cardinal Mahony “was and remains a priest in good standing with full rights to celebrate the Holy Sacraments and minister to the faithful without restriction.”

      The same NCR article explains, “Church law gives cardinals extraordinary authority even beyond their own dioceses, with Canon 357 of the Code of Canon Law saying that ‘in those matters which pertain to their own person, cardinals living outside of Rome and outside their own diocese are exempt from the power of governance of the bishop of the diocese in which they are residing.’”

      Canon law seems to prohibit Archbishop Gomez from doing what he said he was going to do in his public letter. However, that’s not really the point. The salient issue is Mahony’s behavior after he was called on the carpet by a colleague (Gomez) after those damning documents were released.

      Rather than accepting the Archbishop’s censure as a sign of sorrow for what he’d done, Mahony (at least through his underlings at the archdiocese) chose to remind Gomez that he was a cardinal and couldn’t be treated so disrespectfully. The real issue isn’t whether Gomez was right or Mahony is a priest in good standing. The issue at hand is Mahony failed to protect innocent children. Mahony’s response is disappointing and, in my opinion, is reminiscent of Cardinal Law’s response in Boston.

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