What message is being sent to victims of priest sex abuse that Cardinal Roger Mahony will be a featured speaker at the upcoming Los Angeles Archdiocesan Education Conference, the largest Catholic gathering in the country?
Exactly five years ago, Archbishop Jose Gomez stripped Mahony of all administrative and public church duties. Why? Gomez was nice about it, but he said, “My predecessor … has expressed his sorrow for his failure to fully protect young people entrusted to his care.”
At the time, the Archdiocese released personnel files of more than 100 clergy who had committed sexual abuse. It was a 2007 lawsuit that forced open the files. Take note: it took six years of a lawsuit to get LA to open the files. Mahony had been the Ordinary of the Archdiocese for all of that time, indeed for 26 years starting in 1985.
Cardinal Mahony’s shoddy handling of sexual abuse began when he was Bishop of Stockton, California, when a parent accused a priest of molesting his two sons. Two years later, Mahony simply moved the priest to another parish where more abuse followed. A police investigation into the priest was halted after the diocese promised he would be kept away from kids. Mahoney had the priest moved to another parish.
How bad was Mahony in handling such cases? In a 2016 letter to San Diego bishop Robert McElroy, the heroic expert researcher Richard Sipe wrote, “…it is not outlandish to ask if Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles is a criminal for ‘knowingly endangering the children he was supposed to defend.’”
Sipe argued that “there is ample evidence already in the public forum that Mahony has known of priests who abused minors, reassigned them and allowed them to minister only to abuse other minors. He has not informed parishioners, or even parish staffs, that the priests he was assigning had a record of abuse.”
Sipe also said he had “received reports from two men about Mahony’s sexual life and orientation—one a former (St. John, Camarillo) seminarian who was dying of HIV-related complications and the other a longtime LA church employee. The men were credible reporters unwilling to go public or draw on corroboration.”
In 2007, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles announced a $600,000,000 settlement with 508 victims of sexual abuse.
With a record like this, it is hardly surprising that Archbishop Gomez clipped Mahony’s wings many years ago. What is surprising is Mahony’s upcoming appearance at an educational conference that draws upwards of 30,000 Catholics.
However, keep in mind that this conference has a pretty strong nutty streak. I attended it only once in the early 90s when I was invited to speak about my work at the UN. Among other oddities, I witnessed a Mass where there were dancing girls. Mahony was there. Though my talk was about the UN, one of the questions addressed to me was about the death penalty. I told the audience I accepted Church teaching which at the time clearly allowed for it. I was never invited again.
I have plenty of sympathy for Archbishop Gomez. Though there are pockets of amazing Catholics there, he was placed into what is largely a Catholic wasteland. It is my understanding that in certain years more priestly vocations came out of Thomas Aquinas College than in the entire Archdiocese of Los Angeles. I suspect, but do not know, that he feels it would be impossible to make drastic orthodox changes in Los Angeles. The hard left is dug in deep. If you remember, Bishop Robert Finn went to Kansas City and immediately cleaned house. However, he ended up prosecuted for waiting a couple of months to report a priest with child porn on his computer.
Mahony’s crimes are far worse than what Bishop Finn was charged with. Mahony’s crimes are on par with those of Cardinal Bernard Law who was chased out of the country, not by the Church, but by the secular press.
My friend Joseph Sciambra does not have the same sympathy for Archbishop Gomez. He has tried to alert Archbishop Gomez to the overt homosexualization of many LA parishes. I have seen a picture of Joseph talking about this with Gomez at the Educational Conference, all to no avail. Parishes in LA remain screamingly homosexual.
Though I have plenty of sympathy for Archbishop Gomez and the terrible situation he inherited, what is very clear is that he should stand with his decision five years ago that Mahony should not have any public role and certainly not one as a speaker at the largest gathering of Catholics in the county. The message his invitation sends to victims of priest sex abuse is: “Drop dead. We do not care about you. We care about taking care of our clerical brothers.” There is but one answer for this: Archbishop Gomez should disinvite Mahoney now.
Editor’s note: Pictured above, Cardinal Roger Mahony (L) talks with his successor, San Antonio, Texas, Archbishop Jose Gomez, during a news conference at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels on April 6, 2010, in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)