Cardinal Mahony: A shame to his faith

[Cheyne Ellet]

[Cheyne Ellett]

Archbishop Jose H. Gomez has done the right thing in taking disciplinary measures against Cardinal Roger Mahony in the aftermath of the sexual abuse by priests. The seemingly never-ending priest pedophile scandal has hurt all Catholics. We feel ashamed and saddened.

How are we supposed to defend our religion when our spiritual leaders break our trust? It’s unfortunate that it is no longer shocking to hear of priests molesting children, it has become stereotypical. Then, when cases like this actually happen, it only gives critics’ arguments more credit.

Mahony has been a significant leader in the Catholic Church and in the civic life of Los Angeles for eight years, involving himself in politics and immigration reforms during his career. Even after retiring in 2011, he remained in the public eye by staying involved in local politics. He is known for being one of the most powerful and admired men in the church.

But Gomez has relieved Mahony of all his public duties. Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Curry, who was the vicar for the clergy and one of the cardinal’s top deputies on the sexual abuse scandal, has stepped down as the regional bishop for Santa Barbara. The cardinal is now in the public view for something he has been trying to keep in the dark for many years.

The Los Angeles archdiocese website displays tens of thousands of pages of formerly secret files detailing accusations of child molestation against 124 priests from 1985. It includes many memos between Mahony and pedophile priests giving directions on how to protect the institution without alerting law enforcement. Mahony would send pedophile priests from parish to parish and out of state or country to therapists he trusted—but informed the therapists they should not be allowed into California, where state law requires therapists to report any evidence of child abuse.

The release of these documents is part of a $600 million settlement in 2007 between the church and 500 of the abuse victims. To help pay for the costly settlement, the church took $115 million from its cemeteries’ maintenance fund. While it is legal to do so because the cemetery is run by a religious organization, it was not announced and relatives of the dead were not told. The files date from the 1940s to the present, which the church fought hard to keep a secret. Mahony and Curry have both apologized publicly and stated they were naïve at the time about what a lasting impression the abuse would have on the victims.

Gomez wrote a letter to the three million Catholics in Los Angeles stating, “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.”

I commend Gomez for not making excuses. Catholics can only hope now that he is taking over Mahony’s position, we can restore faith in the priesthood. If anything like this were to happen again—God forbid—new leaders will take action to protect the children. Hopefully this will be a new era for the archdiocese.

Mahony wrote a letter back to Gomez claiming that he did the best he could to handle the abuse cases. He said that nothing in his own background or education equipped him to deal with this grave problem.

Mahony should just stop trying to save face because he’s only doing more harm to himself. No one should have to teach you basic human morals. By the own good will in our hearts, we know better than to let pedophiles get away with such horrific things.

To even say that he was naïve back then is ridiculous. Anyone can only imagine the damage it will do to a child for the rest of their lives. I have read the files, and it is sickening to see what these priests did to those children. It’s horrible that a cardinal, who was looked up to by many, actually helped keep these vile priests hidden.

Mahony should just own up and go away because these ignorant excuses are only making matters worse. Although he’s been relieved of all public duties, he is still allowed to vote for the pope.

Given Pope Benedict’s recent resignation announcement, he should abstain from voting as well. How can we trust someone who hides evil to judge the piety of a pope?