Cardinal Mahony’s La Cosa Nostra

“I have a 3 x 5 card for every victim I met with on the altar of my small chapel. I pray for them every single day,” retired Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony said after the court-ordered release of personnel files detailing his elaborate efforts to hide abusers from the police. How comforted the victims must feel knowing their names appear on his 3 x 5 cards. How big of him to entrust the victims of his pedophile-shuffling to the efficacy of his prayers.

Such acts of chutzpah come naturally to the cardinal. At the height of the abuse scandal, even as he retained an army of lawyers and publicists to conceal his own complicity in it, he had the gall to join the media in calling for Boston Cardinal Bernard Law’s resignation. Referring to Law, Cardinal Mahony piously told the press that “he would find it difficult to walk down an aisle in church if he had been guilty of gross negligence.”

Meanwhile, Cardinal Mahony was unleashing his attack dogs on anyone who probed his staggering negligence. Until the media furor of 2001, he had been planning on making a pedophile long known to him and residing in his living quarters, Father Carl Sutphin (with whom he had gone to seminary), associate pastor of the archdiocesan cathedral. “I can’t believe a cardinal keeps a pedophile on staff,” said one of Sutphin’s victims.

Long before Leon Panetta joined the Obama administration as CIA director, he had scented out Cardinal Mahony’s misdeeds. He “has done tremendous damage to his reputation and the archdiocese,” said Panetta after his spell as a member of the National Review Board, a watchdog group formed in the wake of the scandal. Panetta recalled a meeting at which Cardinal Mahony turned up with “more lawyers in the room than I’ve ever seen.”

After Cardinal Mahony helped orchestrate the ousting of former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating from the chairmanship of the National Review Board, Keating complained to the press that the cardinal had kneecapped him, likening his vicious behavior to that of “La Cosa Nostra.”

Throughout the abuse scandal, Cardinal Mahony has cast himself as a “naïve” waif, guilty not of a cover-up but of mere cluelessness. The recently released files explode that claim. He knew perfectly well that he was hiding criminals. “I believe that if Monsignor [Peter] Garcia were to reappear here within the archdiocese we might very well have some type of legal action filed in both the criminal and civil sectors,” he wrote to the director of a New Mexico treatment center, asking him to keep the fugitive from justice holed up there.

Together with one of his auxiliary bishops, Thomas Curry (who remains in that position to this day), Mahony plotted to keep pedophile priests from going to therapists who might report them to the police as the law required. The Los Angeles Times captured the scheming:

In a letter about Father Michael Wempe, who had acknowledged using a 12-year-old parishioner as what a church official called his ‘sex partner,’ Curry recounted extensive conversations with the priest about potential criminal prosecution. “He is afraid…records will be sought by the courts at some time and that they could convict him,” Curry wrote to Mahony. “He is very aware that what he did comes within the scope of criminal law.”

Curry proposed Wempe could go to an out-of-state diocese “if need be.” He called it “surprising” that a church-paid counselor hadn’t reported Wempe to police and wrote that he and Wempe “agreed it would be better if Mike did not return to him.”

Perhaps, Curry added, the priest could be sent to “a lawyer who is also a psychiatrist” thereby putting “the reports under the protection of privilege.”

Even when priests wanted to turn themselves in to the police, Cardinal Mahony blocked it. Fr. Michael Baker, a convicted abuser, has previously recounted to the press a meeting with the cardinal in which Mahony said “no, no, no” to the suggestion of calling the police. For the next fourteen years Baker was shuffled from parish to parish. According to these new documents, Curry told Mahony that they should keep Baker away from therapists who might report him. Cardinal Mahony’s response: “Sounds good-please proceed!!”

These documents explain why Mahony in 2007 agreed to the largest Catholic Church settlement ($660 milion) in American history rather than go through the sustained exposure of a civil trial. He agreed to the settlement just days before he was scheduled to appear as the trial’s first witness. As the Times notes, one of his alibis has been that in the 1990s therapists, not bishops, were required to report abuse. Now it is clear that he took steps to ensure that molesting priests didn’t go to them unless the therapist doubled as a lawyer.

Keating was roundly criticized for likening Mahony’s conduct to “La Cosa Nostra.” But these documents confirm a level of devious maneuvering beyond even the dark satire of the Sopranos.

On Cardinal Mahony’s 3 x 5 note cards, he says that “I also list in parenthesis the name of the clergy perpetrator lest I forget that real priests created this appalling harm in the lives of innocent people.” Noticeably absent from his cards is the name of the real cardinal who abetted that harm.

This column first appeared January 25, 2013 in and is reprinted with permission.

George Neumayr


George Neumayr is a contributing editor to The American Spectator, and a weekly columnist for Crisis Magazine. He is also co-author (with Phyllis Schlafly) of No Higher Power: Obama's War on Religious Freedom.

  • Allan Wafkowski

    I think we need to consider why Cardinal Mahony was allowed to remain as bishop for so long when he consistently exhibited open hostility to Catholic orthodoxy. His acceptance of sexual immorality among his priest, and his hypocrisy in statements about Cardinal Law are, I suspect, the tip of the iceberg in this man’s moral mess.

  • hombre111

    Good article. He should have resigned. Lots of bishops should have resigned.

    • Adam Baum

      And quite a few Priests, as well. We can complain about lax and negligent Bishops, but the principal source of the crisis came from Priests, preoccupied by worldly matters and afflictions.

      • Doug

        No, the principal source of the crisis was that the majority of the Bishops in the US embraced the idolatrous belief that the welfare of one priest is far more important than the welfare of who-knows-how-many kids. According to the JJ Study, the majority of american bishops, when confronted with this situation, chose a campaign of lies, distortions and obstruction of justice. The prayers of the victims went unanswered; their welfare was considered irrelevant.

        • Unfortunately, there was a period of time when Catholic seminaries allowed homosexuals to become priests. I have no idea exactly when this became the norm. Much as the bishops themselves have been hesitant to deal with this subject, it is obvious that active homosexual priests are a bad idea for the Catholic Church. One time when the USCCB used to broadcast their meetings, Bishop Bruskewitz stood up and said that they needed to address the homosexual problem in the priesthood. He didn’t get very much response. Now that Weakland has retired along with Gumbleton and the like maybe they will change their ways and admit the truth. Mahoney would have been at the top of my list to go. Fortunately, the truth about this disgrace to the Church has been publicly found out. Mother Angelica must have prayed a lot for justice for Mahoney. I hope he gets it. If not here, he’ll get in when he comes face-to-face with Our Father in Heaven.

      • hombre111

        I think the Church would have escaped relatively unscathed in the bishops had done something forceful as soon as they started receiving reports of abusive priests. The agony comes from the cover-up.

  • Steve Golay

    Was not Mahony one of John Paul’s 2’s first appointments – maybe the first? It’s nagging to me, that he got away with so much – when, obviously, so many knew (even outside the cave of privilege). There were secretaries, administrative assistants, fellow bishops, housekeepers — that persons(s) his house guest talked to. And, above all, the delicious, fertile gossip swamp of the gay community. Regarding the latter, what’s rarely discussed is the sexual adventures abusing priests had outside the confines of parishes and parishioners; as if the only accessible victims were catholic families. Of course, more often than not, but there is a lot of anonymity for a pedophile to venture outside.

    His house guest!! What did the cardinal permit his guest to do (to access) within his quarters?

    John Paul was – however how often – informed of his cardinal’s misdeeds and M.O. of resolving archdiocesan problems. He must have been. For many years this as disturbed me; revents me from asking for his intercession; found it difficult to rejoice with his admission to the altar as a blessed, and saint no doubt. John Paul’s illness was no excuse.

    With a man like Mahoney, where’s the gut disgust, that wont to vomit – to chuck it up, along with all this stench within the Church?

    • JPII was focused on the stories of false accusations against saints, and when his advisors told him accusations against Maciel and whomever were scurrilous, he took their word for it.
      Also, when JPII and Ratzinger were trying to crack down on Hunthausen in Seattle, Mahony, Weakland & co. sent a letter to the Vatican threatening schism if the Vatican ever removed a US bishop from office. JPII chewed Mahony out on the Mother Angelica controversy in 1998, and his fury at the US cardinals upon learning of how bad the situation really was in 2002 has been well-documented.

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  • Margaret

    Allan, an excellent question that nobody cares to answer. WHY did Cardinal Mahony stay in his position for all that time? The same could be asked of Archbishop Rembert Weakland and so many others. WHO in Rome was protecting these people? Why are they still protected? Do they have no shame?

    • 3909mi

      Who has been the great “bishop maker” in the US over the last 15-20 years? He wears red, and his initials are JR.

      • Ratzinger?

        • 3909mi

          Not Ratziger…

      • Nick D

        Mahony was consecrated bishop almost 40 years ago. And made cardinal almost 30 years ago. So why do you implicate the Holy Father in Mahony’s rise to his positions?

        • schmenz

          Because, Nick, the Holy Father never took any decisive actions against him when he had every opportunity to do so. Our recent Popes, all the way back to Pius XII, somehow feel reluctant to use their God-given power. I don’t know why.

          • Nick D

            Perhaps because he does not want to be perceived as an authoritarian old man in an ivory tower by the secular world? Or he does not wish to pull up the wheat with the weeds? Just because someone has power doesn’t mean he ought to use it whenever you think he should.

            Remember, the Holy Spirit doesn’t give us the perfect man to succeed Peter; He gives us a man who won’t be a total disaster.

            Jesus never said that the neighborhood parish would last into the ages; or the Archdiocese of LA; only the universal Church will stand strong agains the gates of Hell

            • schmenz


              If a Pope is afraid of what the world thinks of him, or “does not want to be perceived as an authoritarian…”, then we would have a Pope who is afraid of governing and that would mean disaster for the Church.

              But we Catholics can learn much from our history, particularly the history of our Popes, many of whom used their authority courageously and decisively in the face of powerful enemies. They knew when it was necessary to use that power and they went ahead and used it and were not terribly interested if the world thought them authoritarian or not.

              Most Catholics alive today have no experience of a strong Pope, so the notion of a pope hurling clear condemnations and applying strong government is foreign to them. We have become used to the timid, ambiguous, overly kind attitude of our recent Papacies. But as we look around us we must see that the “Mr Nice Guy” approach has utterly failed to restore peace in the Church. Quite the contrary.

              Lastly, please don’t worry over my discomfiture regarding when “I” think a Pope should use the power God gives him (and gives him for a reason). He knows when to use it; I am merely trying to gently prod him into acting. Like many I recognize the good things that, say, Benedict XVI has done and is doing. But unlike some I will not allow that to blind me to the man’s less than helpful words and actions.

          • Income and Dividend Guru

            Because we the faithful sit on our asses and allow these liberal scumbags to subvert the Church.

      • Justin Rigali?????

    • schmenz

      An excellent question. As one who suffered through the fiefdom of Rembert Weakland I believe I can offer a clue as to the answering of these good questions. I believe that Weakland knew, as they say, “where all the bodies were buried.” They didn’t discipline him because they were afraid of what he knew.

      What else can explain it? What explained Dolan’s keeping Weakland around when he succeeded him in Milwaukee even after he was exposed as a homosexual pervert? Indeed, what explains Cardinal Dolan’s allowing – to this day – homosexual “masses” in a New York City parish? What explains the execrable Cardinal Wuerl’s absolutely despicable behavior last March in the Guarnizo affair? What explains some of those German Cardinals and Bishops who have among their portfolios publishers of homosexual pornography? This situation stinks to high Heaven, and it goes far deeper (and much higher up) than we want to admit. How prophetic was the priest who back in the 1980s wrote of “The Homosexual Network”. It’s more like the Mafia than a network. Surely Weakland, one of Villot’s boys, was/is at least a Junior member of that network.

      Look at the Vatican’s utter reluctance to use the word “homosexual” when discussing the priest scandals. I note the LA Times calling the victim “a parishoner”!! Heaven forbid that they would say that it was a homosexually-disturbed priest who was buggering adolescent boys. The Vatican is the same as the media: they will not use the word homosexual, or perversion, or sodomy. Why is that? True, this Pope, like his predecessor, prefers to speak in ambiguous pieties rather than strong, hard and CLEAR language, and we know he is utterly terrified of the media. John Paul II was an unmitigated disaster for the Church despite several charming personal qualities (and some welcome pro-life rhetoric) because, like Benedict, he never took decisive action. Governing was alien to him, as to Benedict.

      We have a long way to go before the stables will be cleaned out of this filth. Prayer, sacrifice, and being Catholic will go a long way to seeing that happen.

      • musicacre

        Church desperately needs to prune dead branches

    • See my reply above. For some reason, the Church makes a bishop the legal owner of all property in his diocese. If the Vatican “removes” a bishop, the bishop can easily take his diocese into schism.

  • JAM

    Is the cardinal now beyond the reach of the criminal law?

  • J G

    Remember Mahoney was a darling of the Left. You didn’t see NCR hounding him to resign.

    • Nick D

      Should be NSR: National Schismatic Reporter

  • Adam Baum

    I have no particular fondness for Mahoney as I can’t recall it being merited. My recollections of his episcopacy seem to be those of a man who was ambivalent about orthodoxy at best, with an interest in public policy matters for which he had no particular competence-while I could be wrong, I just can’t seem to recall a story where my reaction was “atttaboy”.

    However I have even less fondness for Leon Panetta, another nomimal Catholic who sold his sold to the statist left. For a lawyer to complain about the an individual’s retention of lawyers is especially rich.

    Let’s be honest- Panetta is the type of Catholic, his boss Obama loves-the ones that advance every manner of political corruption, but reserve a special and contrived indignance for politics among Church bureaucrats and see the need to subordinate Church to state and clerics to politicians. He serves (willingly and eagerly, given his age) a corrupt and imperial President who apparently holds the Church in the same light as his “mentor” Frank Marshall Davis.

    Pardon me if I don’t accept Panetta’s words as indisputable proof of the Cardinal’s moral turpitude.



    • schmenz

      You are spot on about Panetta, Adam. He is one of the many criminals in DC that disgust me. But Mahony is an outright villain, too.

  • jpct50 This gives some needed perspective, in spite of the odious Mahoney!

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  • At least 12 years ago I signed a petition that went to the Vatican imploring Pope John Paul II to put the brakes on Mahony. There were tons of documents sent with this petition listing the appalling, heretical, homosexual, scandalous escapades going on in LA with him at the helm. His “catechetical conferences” were nothing but a cesspool of dissenting, social justice, pro-homosexual, pro-abortion, sexually-perverted heretics!

    As per usual, the good Pope DID NOTHING! Enough said.

  • Mahoney has already put out his own “apologia pro vita sua,” saying the new Archbishop of Los Angeles never told clueless Roger that he thought his stewardship was questionable. But the real interesting thing is that the Vatican has kept silence on this (consider how it snapped at Schoenbrun)–really, how long are THEY going to be clueless about the ticking bomb of the incumbent Dean of the College of Cardinals, Angelo “It’s all a bad rumor Holy Father” Cardinal Sodano?

  • Deacon Ed Peitler

    Just remember that if the laity were so upset about the leadership of any one bishop who had deviated from the orthodox teaching of the faith, there are innumerable ways of making their lives so unpleasant that they would resign. Of course this would be after a reasonable appeal to the Vaitcan. Why did Card Law resign? Simply because he was hounded by the press and pressure groups like SNAP. So Mahoney could well have been hounded out too if people wanted to. The sheep are…well…sheepish.

  • Sexually assaulting a 12 year old is not pedophilia. It is a case of homosexuals preying young men/boys. it is called pederasty. This is a simple case of Mahoney covering up his own proclivities. John Paul II is being fast tracked for sainthood for to cover up of his inactivity on this matter.

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  • poetcomic1

    “Are you more Catholic than the Pope?” These days you have to be.

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