The Brazen Clericalism of Cardinal Mahony

As archbishop of Los Angeles, Roger Mahony was famous for his petulance, dispatching angry letters to priests and others whom he considered insufficiently deferential.  But now that he finds himself in a subordinate position as a retired and rebuked bishop he displays none of the deference he once demanded.

No sooner had his successor stripped him of his diocese-wide “administrative” and “public” duties than the cardinal took to his “blog” to pout over the demotion through a snubbing letter. Hinting at a powerful faction of Los Angeles movers and shakers behind him while adopting a tone of passive-aggressive innocence, Cardinal Mahony wrote on his blog that “others” had “encouraged” him to publicize his letter to Archbishop Jose Gomez. “I hope you find it useful,” he said.

The letter was designed to embarrass, undercut, and scare his successor:  “When you were formally received as our Archbishop on May 26, 2010, you began to become aware of all that had been done here over the years for the protection of children and youth. You became our official Archbishop on March 1, 2011 and you were personally involved with the Compliance Audit of 2012—again, in which we were deemed to be in full compliance. Not once over these past years did you ever raise any questions about our policies, practices, or procedures in dealing with the problem of clergy sexual misconduct involving minors.”

Sadly, Cardinal Mahony’s bullying seems to have worked at some level. Archbishop Gomez would have been justified in strengthening his original rebuke after this appalling letter (not to mention defending himself against its insinuations and fallacious misdirection).  Instead, Archbishop Gomez has given some ground to him, writing to Los Angeles priests recently: “I am confident that Cardinal Mahony’s accomplishments and experience in the areas of immigration, social justice, sacred liturgy and the role of the laity in the church will serve the College of Cardinals well as it works to discern the will of the Holy Spirit in these deliberations that will lead to the election of our new pope.”

This is odd and unjustified praise for a cardinal who is principally known for secularizing the liturgy, blowing up at Mother Angelica, habitually defying papal directives on lay ministry, and routinely mistaking “social justice” for his own personal views in favor of socialism and amnesty. How could any of this “experience” possibly serve the College of Cardinals in its deliberations?

The irony of this line of praise is that even many of Cardinal Mahony’s old progressive defenders have abandoned it.  Liberal editorial boards from coast to coast—which once would have been inclined to overlook his role in the abuse scandal out of gratitude for his leftism—no longer bother with that charade.

Obviously, Archbishop Gomez can’t prevent Cardinal Mahony from attending the conclave. But he shouldn’t weaken his original rebuke under bullying and factionalism. If anything, he should call on Cardinal Mahony to cease his self-justifying blogging (doesn’t that qualify as a “public” activity beyond ministering at his parish?), which makes the archdiocese look like amateur hour. Even by the low standards of the post-Vatican II Church, a retired bishop launching a public-relations assault on his successor from his blog represents an astonishing display of ecclesiastical dysfunction.

Cardinal Mahony’s clericalist habits are so ingrained that it wouldn’t occur to him that his behavior constitutes an open scandal. He has long confused his perceived personal good with the good of the Church and can’t stop himself now, even though his straining attempts at vindication open the Church up to enormous ridicule during the conclave, a problem that has led at least one Italian cardinal to suggest he sit it out. In an ecclesiastical culture that prized the salvation of souls over a bogus “collegiality” (which usually means letting derelict bishops repair their images and preserve their privileges at the expense of the Church’s common good), such spectacles of egotism would be unthinkable.

Back when the very editorial boards now condemning his participation in the conclave were calling for Cardinal Bernard Law’s demotion, where was Cardinal Mahony? He was eagerly joining the media’s cries for accountability, telling reporters exactly what they wanted to hear: that “he would find it difficult to walk down an aisle in church if he had been guilty of gross negligence.” Now that he finds himself on the receiving end of Law-like coverage, he is crying foul, taking to his blog to play the victim in a series of “Lenten” reflections on his Christ-like suffering. He says that he is working hard to “forgive” his critics.

“Given all of the storms that have surrounded me and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles recently, God’s grace finally helped me to understand: 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.

But he could have accepted Archbishop Gomez’s rebuke and adopted a low profile, in which case this scrutiny would have faded. Instead, he increased his visibility by parrying with Archbishop Gomez, by defying his demotion, and by issuing a stream of non-apology apologies sure to inflame victims, all the while “tweeting” and blogging as if the Los Angeles abuse scandal never occurred.

And now he wonders why he is a target? The public’s anger is simply a response to his clericalist clawing to power.

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.

  • Kathy


  • Clericalism of any stripe, be it progressive or traditional, is always based on worldly expectations and fear. Fear of losing power and fear of looking weak. There is no Holy Spirit in this posturing. Authentic Christian humility in this case would be just as suggested: to acknowledge the wrong done and to step out of the limelight and let the healing continue. But no, Mahoney gets to vote on the next pope, which, unfortunately, taints the whole process and makes the Church look inept. Nonetheless, the Holy Spirit will prevail and I have full confidence that our next Holy Father will be a strong and holy man of Christ.

    • One bad apple among dozens of good apples couldn’t possibly taint the whole crate. Yes, throwing the bad apple away would be easier, but that’s when the analogy fails, for we’re talking about a man, a son of God, as scandalous and a sinner as he is, much like we are.

      • Joseph D’Hippolito

        Augustine, we’re not just talking about “one bad apple.” We’re talking about somebody who aided and abetted pedophiles. How many of us would do that? Moreover, Mahony provides the quintessential example of the isolated, arrogant “leadership” that has permeated the Catholic Church for centuries! Mahony acts as if he’s accountable to nobody for nothing. He’s not the only one, as the clerical sex-abuse crisis — a worldwide phenomenon and a systemic collapse of institutional moral integrity — proved.

        I’m assuming you’re Catholic, Augustine. If so, I suggest you read Ezekiel 34, 1 Samuel 2:12-36 and Matthew 23. A holy, righteous God is not amused by such false shepherds as Mahony, Law, Weakland, etc. For far too long, Catholics have acted as if their church is exempt from divine judgement. Well, the end is coming. It’s coming soon and Catholics are in for one big surprise when many of them have to face God Himself.

        Not for nothing did St. John Chrysostom say, “The floor of Hell is paved with the skulls of bishops.”

        • I don’t dispute about the disgrace that Card. Mahoney is as a shepherd, but I do dispute your allegation that his participation int he conclave taints it. It doesn’t and I believe that you agree with me on that and that you didn’t meant to state such a thing.

          • Joseph D’Hippolito

            Augustine, I never mentioned the conclave, nor implied anything about it. I Nevertheless, since your brought it up, let me state for the record that Mahony should not be allowed to vote on the next pope — not because his presence would taint the conclave but because his moral judgement is questionable. Besides, refusing him to vote would be a proper punishment for the man, short of either laicization or excommunication.

            • Thanks be to God for His Holy Spirit, on whom we can rely.

      • Let us hope that our current Holy Father Francis will encourage this bishop’s repentance and open the door widely for this prodigal son. As a child of the Father, he too must repent of his sins and dutifully perform penance.

  • poetcomic1

    “Given all of the storms that have surrounded me and the Archdiocese of
    Los Angeles recently, God’s grace finally helped me to understand: 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.

    Ewwwwww! Even an amateur psychologist could spot the almost erotic masochism of this. It is certainly not ‘humility’ and note how he avoids any hint of ‘mea culpa’. He is playing the ‘martyr’. Bullies weep with self pity when you hit them.

    • Conniption Fitz

      His ego-centricity is also apparent.

  • Glenn M. Ricketts

    Mahony has always struck me as the quintessential post Vatican II “progressive:” I’ll do what I want, you do what you’re told.

    • hombre111

      That was the average bishop’s attitude long before Vatican II. It is also the average pastor’s attitude today, as the old servant model priests give way to the younger institutional and authority conscious priests.

      • Glenn M. Ricketts

        But then, Vatican II was going to be different, wasn’t it, without all of that reactionary authoritarianism? The older bishops were indeed authoritarians and didn’t claim to be anything else. That could indeed be unpleasant, but at least they never claimed to “open” “sensitive,” “responsive to the people,” etc., etc.

      • Oh yeah, and things were so much worse back then!

        I mean really, you had to scratch and claw to find room in a pew, it was darn crowded at Mass on Sunday! And back then, kids couldn’t watch their favorite television shows because they would have to pray a rosary with their family; don’t get me started about how horrible it was that Catholic children had share bedrooms with lots of brothers and sisters! And back then they actually had to learn about their faith, because all those mean priests and bishops insisted that they new their catechism. Thankfully, today, kids can learn about hugging and emotional stability and political correctness instead of that stodgy stuff about heaven, hell, purgatory, redemption, etc. And no guitars and bongos at Mass! How horrible was that? I mean really, how can Sister Feel-good dance to organ music?? And what about Confession? Good thing we got rid of that! It is such a great thing that we have had servant model priests instead of those terrible institutional/authority priests who want us to go to Confession, be worried about heaven and hell, and all that old fashioned stuff.

        If those institutional/authority priests come back, what will we do? We won’t be able to believe what we want and still call ourselves Catholic! We won’t be able to do whatever we want and not feel guilty about it! We won’t be able to think about Jesus as a smiling and laughing buddy instead of the God-Man Who will come to be our Judge! Egads! How terrible!!

        • Adam__Baum

          Great response David: “Hombre” prides himself on being one of those priests that spent all his time railing on about various harsh realities he imagined to be contrived indignities and injustices, even as real injustices were created by the institutions (principally government) pursuing endeavors that were counterproductive, ineffective or inefficient-but for which he had unbounded faith.

          They could tell you all about poverty and the need to have a massive government enterprises, but never the need to curb your libido until you were wed-because in addition to being God’s design for humanity, the stable family is the best antipoverty program ever designed. Forget the disciplines of weekly Mass and frequent confession.

        • hombre111

          The institutional/authority priests are already back. In my diocese, they have been in charge for the last ten or fifteen years. As I keep reminding them, whatever is happening in their parishes, and in the Church, is on them. So, when highschool students leave their faith right after Confirmation, that was their doing. If theirs is the better model, the trend should be slowing down.

      • Glenn M Ricketts

        If I could follow up once again, I’d go with Cardinal Ratzinger/Benedict XVI’s observation that the post-Vatican II era witnessed the emergence of an “unprecedented clericalism.” That certainly rings true in my own experience since never, never did I experience such relentless micromanagement and minute authoritarianism as was the case in the “progressive” era that followed the Council. We were commanded to accept the new liturgy, commanded to use new catechetics, commanded to “renovate” churches, commanded to abandon Gregorian chant, from clerics who never stopped smiling at us through tightly gritted teeth. And we were also commanded to tell them that yes, yes we liked – no, we LOVED everything that they were commanding us to do. If I recall, it was referred to at the time as the “pastoral” approach.

        • hombre111

          Good point, actually. What amuses me is this was also the style of the old church”pray, pay, and obey.” The conservatives did not object, because it suited them. When the new stuff came, the conservative heart stirred with an unconservative rebellion. If you really did believe in the good old ways, you would have meekly gone along. And so, in a strange way, the Council empowered you to lift your voice in a way you would never have dared to do before.

          • Glenn M. Ricketts

            Hombre, you seem to have a gift for missing the point. I offered some reflections – not about the “good old days” per se, but about the glaring inconsistency of clerics like Mahony who weren’t going to be like those bad old uptight authoritarians, but who ended up outdoing them in spades.

            But instead of replying to the substance of my comment, you indulge in fatuous amateur psychoanalysis and tell me what I must REALLY be thinking, and what I’d do if ……… etc., etc. I’m not much of a mind reader myself, but what you write tells me that you don’t read very carefully before playing a pre-recorded message.

            I wonder also if you could put the sarcasm in your pocket? Christian charity is another quaint term from the Stone Age, but I think it’s still useful on occasion.

            • hombre111

              You might have a good point about sarcasm, but after 48 years as a priest I think I have earned the right to be a curmudgeon. But I still stand by my point. If a vote were taken today on the changes you lament, you would lose. Most Catholics would never go back. And if conservatives truly behaved like they did in the good old longed for days, they would have obeyed in the meek spirit of the Gospel. But the Council opened the door to lay involvement and reaction, and the conservatives became the Church Militant in opposition to their bishops and pastors, when they tried to rule by decree,as was the rule in the old days. Wonderful irony.

              • Glenn M. Ricketts

                I’ll take your word for it Father Hombre, but I ask again that you re-read what I wrote previously, since you’re response isn’t connected at all. We may cross paths again, if you’re a regular reader of this site, but if you’d like to continue the discussion individually, please feel free to shoot me a message at I have no need for internet anonymity, and I’d be glad to hear from you.

  • In order to understand this all too human reaction by Card. Mahony, let me recall the Kubler-Ross stages of grief:

    – Denial: “This can’t be happening to me.”
    – Anger: “Why is this happening? Who is to blame?”
    – Bargaining: “Make this not happen, and in return I will ____.”
    – Depression: “I’m too sad to do anything.”
    – Acceptance: “I’m at peace with what happened.”

    In my amateurish opinion, it seems that the cardinal has entered the second stage publishing this letter. Hopefully, by the time the conclave begins, he’ll be at the bargaining stage. 🙂

    • Julie

      Hopefully by the time the conclave begins he is home watching it on tv.

  • jacobum

    The Cardinal is/has been an ongoing continuous embarrassment to himself and the Church. He and Cardinal Bernardin of Chicago did more to facilitate emptying Catholic Churches in the US than any of their fellow bishops. They were the “modernist” liberal progressives that Pope Pius X warned about. Mahony has not a shred of humility.

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    What about the money that Mahony stole from the LA “contractually” dedicated cemetary maintenance fund to partially pay for his $660 million dollars in settlements? – Stealing from the dead.
    And what about other money given by Faithful Catholics for the operation of the LA Diocese (not for crimes committed, and then covered up by the Cardinal which is aiding a abeting)?
    Mahoney violated many teachings in the “Catechism of the Catholic Church” while serving as a Bishop then Cardinal.
    Archbishop Gomez should look at the teachings of the Church, rather than trying to protect someone who’s pride comes before his faith.

    • ANNE_JMJ

      I ask all Cardinals and Bishops not to protect any of their guilty brethern.
      Do not create an additional scandal, because it will appear that his title is more important than the sins committed.
      btw – Mahony violated Church teaching when he did not encourage ILLEGAL immigrants to obey civil immigration laws. (CCC 2241 – second paragraph).
      Mahony left his Diocese in shambles, and helped to leave them State of CA in shambles. CA is one of the top 4 pro-death (abortion) States in the Nation.

      Preach against sin.

  • Nordic Breed

    Mahoney: Narcissistic personality disorder.

  • cestusdei

    He is very proud of his humility.

    • John200

      That has to be the comment of the day.

      Well said.

    • MV Boyce


  • Pray for him: Cardinal Mahoney.

    • Wilson

      You pray for him. I have other intentions.

  • I am not a supporter or opponent of the Cardinal but I must correct something which is totally in error. A few years when there was a problem w/a certain Cardinal who was being criticized by another Bishop (as in this case); the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, stated very concisely that no one has the right to publicly criticize a Bishop, not even another Bishop, except the Pope. AB Chavez had no authority to criticize Cardinal Mahoney publicly as he did. That privilege belongs to the Holy Father, Bishop of Rome.

    • Adam DeVille

      This is rank nonsense on many levels. The pope, responding to criticism of Cardinal Sodano by Cardinal Schonborn of Vienna, intervened only to say that two cardinals should not be attacking one another in public–he would handle it privately. As for the idea that nobody can criticize a bishop, consider the words of the saintly and long-suffering Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky,
      primate of the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church for nearly half a
      century until his death in 1944:
      people are completely right to demand certain things from a bishop,
      and it is absolutely correct to censure him if he shirks the task that
      he has to perform on behalf of the Church and his people.

  • A Random Friar

    I am going to stick with one point, that this was a lessening of the original decree. I will say no. First, because the original language to many was unclear. Were the cardinal forbidden to celebrate Sacraments publicly in LA, it would have said so. This, to me, sounded the equivalent of a pastor removed for any number of reasons (mental incompetence, mishandling of funds), and not allowed to have a pastorship, but might still be able to celebrate the Sacraments.

    Also, Bishop Curry seemed to be under the same umbrella, and indeed, is. The clarification was made for him as well.

    I am not arguing merits for or against, only that point.

  • Vicky Hernandez

    It says a lot a about Cdl. Mahony that his blog does not have a forum for readers’ to post their comments/reactions to his scribblings.

  • Vicky Hernandez

    Maybe Cdl. Mahony wants to go to Rome and stay there ’cause he won’t be extradited. Just like Law.

  • Adam DeVille

    Until people like Mahony are–even in retirement–deposed from office and degraded from their orders, the Church, and her hierarchs in particular, will (rightly) have no serious authority in the eyes of most.

  • jacobhalo

    Hot off the wire from “Inside the Vatican” Magazine. It seems the Pope is resigning for other reasons. Supposedly, there is a homosexual advocate group of clerics who are pushing for homosexual rights. This story is in the Italian newspapers.

    • ATT

      The fact that anyone thinks the Pope would resign for this reason is simply laughable. Gimme a break.

    • Julie

      and it’s obvious you ran with it before getting any facts. The article did NOT say that; it stated that “anonymous” sources are saying that. In the meantime, I hope you have been reading the ongoing follow up articles.

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  • Cheeseburger

    Outstanding article…in crystal clear summation you have exposed Mahony for being the shameful, modernist we all knew he was…for years!…his criminal conduct is so ignominious, it cry’s to heaven for vengeance!

  • Cheeseburger

    One more thing…Cardinal mahony is a progressive, liberal modernist, of the highest water. he has openly defied the magisterium is his secularization of the liturgy and in the past, openly courted “homosexual young men” to enter the seminary… which the Pope has forbidden, for a number of years! This man is a glaring, shameful example of post Vatican II modernism, and “modernism” is “the synthesis of all heresies”…”the smoke of satan that has entered the church”, as Pope Paul the VI declared in a sermon in 1972. “By their fruit you shall recognize them”. Gospel of Matthew, 7: 15-20

  • Midnight Express

    Cardinal Mahony was the leader of the “lavender mafia”, in the archdiocese of Los Angeles. For many years, the seminary in Camarillo was literally “crawling” with flagrantly homosexual men, many of whom were involved in shocking behavior, in the community and at the seminary. This becam common knowledge in the community I lived in, which was adjacent to the seminary. I have heard it has gotten better in the last couple of years, I guess it had too, when it got this bad, their was no place to go but up! At one time I seriously contemplated becoming a priest and was going to enter the seminary…I went to a weekend retreat at the seminary and met a young men, who claimed he was a “marine reserve officer”, he was decked out in “yellow dolphin shorts”, was shirtless, and was generously slathered in suntan oil…this seminarian was parading around like a “rooster” on the make! This is the disgusting and shameful activity that I was present too, at this retreat… albeit it was 20+ years ago… it burned an indelible impression in my mind. I decided to forego furthering my discernment and application process to this seminary. Shocking, positively shocking…yet every word is true…I was their, it was grotesque

    • poetcomic1

      “…not that there is anything wrong with that.” To quote Seinfeld.

  • Mr. RING

    This man should be in the state penitentiary…pure and simple and doing hard time, for a variety of crimes. He is guilty of protecting known sexual predator’s who sexually assaulted hundreds of children in southern California, he placed these “pederast” priest’s back into active ministry, “EVEN AFTER” they had admitted to various sexual crimes against children, all of which are felonies!… Then, in order to pay off the massive out of court settlement, to the victim’s of this clergy abuse, “which was in the hundreds of millions”…he proceeded to “liberate” monies from the Catholic Cemetery Maintenance Fund”…which is to be used for upkeep and maintenance of Catholic cemeteries in the Archdiocese. If this is not embezzlement, what is? Furthermore, in the state of California, embezzlement has no statute of limitations…

    • djpala

      10-4 !

  • djpala

    This article faces the truth head on. The sodomite-collective inside the Catholic Church must be destroyed. This Cardinal deserves to be incarcerated ! He is of the ‘bernardin’ fellowship. Until all of these deviates are removed the scandal will continue.

  • Carol LaSalle

    Unfortunately your article is ‘spot on.’ There does not seem to be even a speck of true humility in this man and he keeps shooting himself in the foot every time he opens his mouth. He would do well to take himself off to a monastery and live out his days in prayer and sacrifice for the wrongs he committed against the Church and it’s people.

  • Maryanne Leonard

    This is the best article I’ve read on this appalling subject.

  • John Madison

    Cardinal Mahony needs to retire to the seclusion of a cloistered monastery and lead a life of prayer and meditation for the Church and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. He might also learn some needed humility.

  • Dr. Zaius

    Remember when Roger Mahony claimed to have been physically assaulted when going to get his mail a few years ago? You know who attacked him? The same ones who broke George Steinbrenner’s hand in the elevator and the same ones who attacked Morton Downey Jr. in the bathroom, shaving his head and putting a swastika on his face backwards years ago.

    He also publicly defied Pope John Paul II’s directives at eliminating abuses in the liturgy
    saying that he wouldn’t implement Ecclesia de Eucharista, and stated in a 2004 deposition that a priest expressing sexual urges toward a 9-year-old would not be an automatic cause for
    removing him from duty in his archdiocese.
    He should have been prosecuted under the RICO laws years ago.

  • Piotr Chomicki

    You all need to get a life.

    • Julie

      and since you too are here commenting on this article along with everyone else you criticize, what exactly does it say about you?

  • Julie

    That this person is still going to be part of the conclave electing our new pope is an utter disgrace.

  • He is a gross embarrassment to our Church, to say the least. I pray (literally) that his brother Cardinals give him some fraternal correction while he is in Rome.

  • RuariJM

    “I am confident that Cardinal Mahony’s accomplishments and experience in the areas of immigration, social justice, sacred liturgy and the role of the laity in the church will serve the College of Cardinals well…”

    I read that as ‘damning with faint praise’ – did no-one else?

    I mean, what were the Cardinal’s achievements in those areas – at least, what have they been exposed as now?

  • Martin

    After all the condemnations, please don’t forget to pray for him!

  • SemperIdem

    Terrible. Why is he still a Cardinal?

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  • Susan

    The equally despicable Bernadin and Mahony were the pair that led the American Catholic Church into the dismal abyss it languishes in now.