Cardinal Mahony Relieved of Public Church Duties

Following up on this post from Tuesday, I’m pleased (but not entirely) to report that Cardinal Roger Mahony, formerly the Archbishop of Los Angeles, has been relieved from public church duties. His successor, Archbishop Jose Gomez, released this statement yesterday:

My brothers and sisters in Christ,

This week we are releasing the files of priests who sexually abused children while they were serving in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

These files document abuses that happened decades ago. But that does not make them less serious.

I find these files to be brutal and painful reading. The behavior described in these files is terribly sad and evil. There is no excuse, no explaining away what happened to these children. The priests involved had the duty to be their spiritual fathers and they failed.

We need to acknowledge that terrible failure today. We need to pray for everyone who has ever been hurt by members of the Church. And we need to continue to support the long and painful process of healing their wounds and restoring the trust that was broken.

I cannot undo the failings of the past that we find in these pages. Reading these files, reflecting on the wounds that were caused, has been the saddest experience I’ve had since becoming your Archbishop in 2011.

My predecessor, retired Cardinal Roger Mahony, has expressed his sorrow for his failure to fully protect young people entrusted to his care. Effective immediately, I have informed Cardinal Mahony that he will no longer have any administrative or public duties. Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Curry has also publicly apologized for his decisions while serving as Vicar for Clergy. I have accepted his request to be relieved of his responsibility as the Regional Bishop of Santa Barbara.

To every victim of child sexual abuse by a member of our Church: I want to help you in your healing. I am profoundly sorry for these sins against you.

To every Catholic in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, I want you to know: We will continue, as we have for many years now, to immediately report every credible allegation of abuse to law enforcement authorities and to remove those credibly accused from ministry. We will continue to work, every day, to make sure that our children are safe and loved and cared for in our parishes, schools and in every ministry in the Archdiocese.

In the weeks ahead, I will address all of these matters in greater detail. Today is a time for prayer and reflection and deep compassion for the victims of child sexual abuse.

I entrust all of us and our children and families to the tender care and protection of our Blessed Mother Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe and Our Lady of the Angels.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

It’s gratifying to see the expression of contrition that was so insultingly absent from the archdiocese’s statement I referred to in my earlier post. But even so, it is disappointing to learn that Mahony remains a “priest in good standing” and continues to celebrate Mass at the North Hollywood parish where he now lives. 

Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez spoke for many Catholics when he wrote the following:

With Mahony, even as more evidence of his misdeeds emerges, the chance of prosecution remains slim because of the lapsed statute of limitations.

You have to wonder, though, if there is a worse sentence for Mahony than to be kicked aside like this, his legacy tainted, his ambitions grounded, his good deeds forever in the dark shadows of his grotesque misdeeds.

Grotesque indeed. Good standing? Not with me.

  1. Nanda Panjandrum

    As I’ve said in an earlier comment: Amen to this action (and more like it). I’m wondering why, more than merely ‘relieved of his duties’, he (and others in similar situations) have not been stripped of their episcopal dignity and/or defrocked, at least.  Praying for you and fellow Angelinos, Mr. Dunphy…

  2. Peter Robinson
    C

    Jack, I’m hardly an expert in canon law, but as I understand the matter only Rome can bar a priest from exercising his faculties–that is, can remove him from “good standing.”  If I’m right about that–and maybe Ricochet member Pseudo, a scholar in these matters, will let us know–but if I’m right, then we can’t fault Archbishop Gomez for having failed to do more.  

    A related point–and, again, I’m scarcely an expert–but whereas the statute of limitations has expired on criminal prosecutions, I believe (and I repeat, yet again, that I may be mistaken) that Mahoney may yet find himself deposed in civil cases.

  3. Paul A. Rahe
    C

    It is perhaps worth mentioning that Roger Cardinal Mahony was a very close friend and ally of Joseph Bernadin, Cardinal-Archbishop of Chicago, about whose domination of the American Catholic Church in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s I wrote at length a year ago here and here. The two men cooperated at every turn; and, when Bernardin died, Mahony presided at the funeral mass.

    The cynical policy that Mahony followed in dealing with priestly predators was the policy that he, Bernadin, and others thrashed out in the wake of a scandal that broke out in Louisiana in the 1980s; and it was of a piece with their decision in the mid-1970s to subordinate the American church’s handling of the abortion question to sustaining its alliance with the proponents within the Democratic Party of a massive expansion in the size and scope of the administrative state.

    In the annals of the American Catholic church, the Bernadin era should be known as scoundrel time. It is a great misfortune that some of his proteges to this day hold positions of prominence within the US Council of Catholic Bishops.

  4. Paul A. Rahe
    C
    Peter Robinson: Jack, I’m hardly an expert in canon law, but as I understand the matter only Rome can bar a priest from exercising his faculties–that is, can remove him from “good standing.”  If I’m right about that–and maybe Ricochet member Pseudo, a scholar in these matters, will let us know–but if I’m right, then we can’t fault Archbishop Gomez for having failed to do more.  

    A related point–and, again, I’m scarcely an expert–but whereas the statute of limitations has expired on criminal prosecutions, I believe (and I repeat, yet again, that I may be mistaken) that Mahoney may yet find himself deposed in civil cases. · 1 minute ago

    Peter, you may be right in what you say in your first sentence. But a bishop can bar a priest from saying mass in any public setting in his diocese. Perhaps Mahony could be assigned as chaplain at the state prison where he belongs.

  5. Skyler

    The catholic clergy seems to forget the Christ gave them the power to forgive sins and also gave them the power to hold sinners damned. Personally, I’d be on board for a lot more damnation than I’m seeing.

  6. Peter Robinson
    C
    Paul A. Rahe

    Peter Robinson: Jack, I’m hardly an expert in canon law, but as I understand the matter only Rome can bar a priest from exercising his faculties–that is, can remove him from “good standing.”  If I’m right about that–and maybe Ricochet member Pseudo, a scholar in these matters, will let us know–but if I’m right, then we can’t fault Archbishop Gomez for having failed to do more.  

    A related point–and, again, I’m scarcely an expert–but whereas the statute of limitations has expired on criminal prosecutions, I believe (and I repeat, yet again, that I may be mistaken) that Mahoney may yet find himself deposed in civil cases. · 1 minute ago

    Peter, you may be right in what you say in your first sentence. But a bishop can bar a priest from saying mass in any public setting in his diocese. Perhaps Mahony could be assigned as chaplain at the state prison where he belongs. · 1 hour ago

    And you, Jack and I could agree on his vestments:  an orange jumpsuit.

  7. twvolck

    The chart that accompanies Pseudodionysius’s post on this subject (on the Member Feed) indicates a sharp falloff in complaints of abuse during Cardinal Mahoney’s tenure.  This could be for several reasons: people may typically report abuse years after it happens, which would temporarily reduce complaints during the most recent Archbishop’s tenure; the quality of the clergy could have improved; the Archdiocese might have strongly discouraged such complaints during his tenure or suppressed them; or, perhaps the Archdiocese took measures that reduced the frequency of such abuse.

    Anyone got any theories?

  8. Pseudodionysius
    twvolck: The chart that accompanies Pseudodionysius’s post on this subject (on the Member Feed) indicates a sharp falloff in complaints of abuse during Cardinal Mahoney’s tenure.  This could be for several reasons: people may typically report abuse years after it happens, which would temporarily reduce complaints during the most recent Archbishop’s tenure; the quality of the clergy could have improved; the Archdiocese might have strongly discouraged such complaints during his tenure or suppressed them; or, perhaps the Archdiocese took measures that reduced the frequency of such abuse.

    Anyone got any theories? · 0 minutes ago

    In the John Jay report — I’m going from memory — the peaks in time were roughly consistent across time with one or two exceptions across diocese and archdiocese. But remember: the complaints piled up under each successor, so just because they originated in an earlier time didn’t mean the successor wasn’t sitting on an accumulated pile of kindling that dwarfed what went before.

  9. Pseudodionysius
    Peter Robinson: Jack, I’m hardly an expert in canon law, but as I understand the matter only Rome can bar a priest from exercising his faculties–that is, can remove him from “good standing.”  If I’m right about that–and maybe Ricochet member Pseudo, a scholar in these matters, will let us know–but if I’m right, then we can’t fault Archbishop Gomez for having failed to do more.  

    A related point–and, again, I’m scarcely an expert–but whereas the statute of limitations has expired on criminal prosecutions, I believe (and I repeat, yet again, that I may be mistaken) that Mahoney may yet find himself deposed in civil cases. · 1 hour ago

    I’d refer to myself as obsessive compulsive disorder amateur. 

    You and Paul are correct: Canonical censures, removal of faculties and other measures can only come from Pope Benedict XVI, Archbishop Gomez has authority over the Archdiocesan liturgical celebrations (I’d ordinarily say Masses, Eucharistic exposition and benediction and public recitation of the Divine Office, but this is Los Angeles we’re talking about after all) and acted as far as he was able.

  10. Pseudodionysius

    My rant last night is here.

  11. Pseudodionysius

    The cynical policy that Mahony followed in dealing with priestly predators was the policy that he, Bernadin, and others thrashed out in the wake of a scandal that broke out in Louisiana in the 1980s; and it was of a piece with their decision in the mid-1970s to subordinate the American church’s handling of the abortion question to sustaining its alliance with the proponents within the Democratic Party of a massive expansion in the size and scope of the administrative state.

    The best book on the topic remains Phil Lawler’s Faithful Departed and documents the situation in Boston. The first signs began to appear in the 1950′s of episcopal rot, right when Catholicism was starting to shed its image as a ghetto religion of non English speaking immigrants and backward members of the British Isles.

    For the record, his reaction is Finally!

  12. danys

    @twvolck

    Since the scandal in LA broke in early 2000s, everyone, myself included, who works w/ children w/in the Archdiocese has undergone training to become more alert to child abusers’ tactics & to signs of abused children. There are also clear guidelines for reporting abuse. I have never heard anyone discourage complaints. Among the faculties I’ve worked with, there has been shock, disgust, and anger that the hierarchy acted to protect the ordained and not the children.

    The cowards in the chancery office harmed our children, our students, and our Church. I know too many good people who’ve dedicated their lives to serving God & His people. I’ve heard too many slurs against my Church, and Mahoney and his ilk have played into those slurs.

    Re: the chart Pseudo posted. I was confirmed by Cardinal Manning.

    Some days it is difficult not to be bitter and cynical.

    I need to pray.

  13. Pseudodionysius
    Skyler: The catholic clergy seems to forget the Christ gave them the power to forgive sins and also gave them the power to hold sinners damned. Personally, I’d be on board for a lot more damnation than I’m seeing. · 1 hour ago

    Divine Providence has a way of reminding all but the most unrepentant sinner of who holds the keys to eternal life.

  14. Aaron Miller
    You have to wonder, though, if there is a worse sentence for Mahony than to be kicked aside like this, his legacy tainted, his ambitions grounded, his good deeds forever in the dark shadows of his grotesque misdeeds.

    If a bishop worries about his legacy, he is in the wrong profession.

  15. Pseudodionysius

    When the world does not like you it takes its revenge on you; if it happens to like you, it takes its revenge still by corrupting you.

    - A.G. Sertillanges, The Intellectual Life.

  16. Lucy Pevensie
    Casey Taylor

    Pseudodionysius

    What about the rest of the world, though?  The Church is global, and most Catholics live in the “developing” world, where trust is maximized and accountability minimal.  We catch predators here because people are now on the lookout and, in general, skeptical of religious authority.  How much of this sort of thing is going on unpunished in SE Asia, South and Central America, in Africa, where those preyed upon have no voice?  It’s heartbreaking. · 10 hours ago

    I don’t know if there is any way of knowing for sure, but I suspect that this kind of thing is a problem of the decadent West much more than of the developing world.  Does anyone else know?

  17. Pilli

    Pseud,  Thank you for your comments here and in other posts.  Your knowledge and opinions are highly regarded, at least by me.  Your humor is pretty wicked too.

  18. Casey Taylor

    So the questions remain:  Why is Mahoney not already in prison?  When, if ever, can we expect a trial?  Why is he still a priest?

  19. Scott Wilmot

    I would interpret Archbishop Gomez’s comments to mean that Cardinal Mahoney remains a “priest in good standing” in that he has not lost the clerical state.

    And yet Archbishop Gomez has removed Cardinal Mahoney’s faculties to celebrate mass publicly, hear confessions, celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation, etc.

    As for celebrating mass, I suspect Cardinal Mahoney will only celebrate mass privately at his parish as is his duty as a priest.

    The “priest in good standing” is an unfortunate choice of words. He retains the indelible mark of Holy Orders (just as Baptism and Confirmation impart indelible marks – once baptized and confirmed a Catholic, one always remains a Catholic, regardless of spiritual state or confession else wise).

    Let us pray he lives a life of penance and prayer, and through God’s mercy may accomplish some good out of this horrible mess.

    But above all we should join Archbishop Gomez in prayer entrust all the victims and children and families to the tender care and protection of our Blessed Mother Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe and Our Lady of the Angels.

  20. Pseudodionysius
    Casey Taylor: So the questions remain:  Why is Mahoney not already in prison?  When, if ever, can we expect a trial?  Why is he still a priest? · 27 minutes ago

    Its a common misconception that laicization is a kind of clerical magic wand. In fact, for serious malfeasance — since the Church has to be concerned for the eternal salvation of all of its shepherds, no matter how wayward — laicization makes it impossible for the Church to administer tough medicine.

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