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Is Cardinal Mahony barred from public ministry? (UPDATED)

Following the release of decades-old memos detailing Archdiocese of Los Angeles officials' efforts to conceal sexual-abuse cases, the new archbishop of L.A., Jose Gomez, has relieved Cardinal Roger Mahony of public duties and relieved auxiliary bishop Thomas Curry of his episcopal duties(.pdf). The archbishop's statement comes with the release of twelve thousand pages of diocesan personnel files related to the scandal. Gomez writes:

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 Ive 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.

Most reporting on this letter has characterized Gomez's decision as a suspension: Mahony is "barred from ministry," Jerry Filtau writes. Michael Sean Winters hails Gomez as morally courageous: "If you want to see what leadership looks like, re-read Archbishop Gomezs bold, succinct, unaffected, rigorous letter." Yet, according to diocesan spokesman Tod Tamberg, Mahony's daily routine will remain largely unchanged.

Mahony retired in March 2011. As Tamberg told me, since that time Mahony "has had no administrative duties." Tamberg explained that in response to Gomez's letter, the cardinal "is reducing his public profile," which included many speaking engagements, and that the cardinal "has cleared his calendar of confirmation appointments this year." Yet Mahony "remains a priest in good standing, and a cardinal of the church," Tamberg said. "He can celebrate the sacraments with no restrictions." (UPDATE 1: The Archdiocese of Los Angeles just released a statement clarifying that both Mahony and Curry remain bishops in good standing, "with full rights to celebrate the Holy Sacraments of the Church and to minister to the faithful without restriction." It's not clear why Mahony has canceled his confirmation appointments.)

So apparently the effect of this "suspension" will be limited to canceled speaking engagements and no more confirmations. Cardinal Mahony will have public duties, but they will be limited to celebrating the sacraments.

This is not to say Gomez's decision is insignificant. Indeed, as David Gibson has noted, it seems unprecedented. He links to Jerry Filtau's story citing Canon 357: "in those matters which pertain to their own person, cardinals living outside of Rome and outside their own diocese are exempt from the power of governance of the bishop of the diocese in which they are residing." David also points out that, given Mahony's status as a cardinal, Gomez must have had approval from Rome. Perhaps that status prevented Gomez from issuing an actual suspension. Whatever the case, Cardinal Roger Mahony may have been publicly fraternally corrected, but it's inaccurate to claim he's been barred from public ministry.

UPDATE 2: Cardinal Mahony has released his response to Archbishop Gomez, in which he defends himself by listing steps he took to address the sexual-abuse scandal, and calls out Gomez because "not once over these past years [since Gomez became archbishop of Los Angeles] did you ever raise any questions about our policies, practices, or procedures in dealing with the problem of clergy sexual misconduct involving minors." The cardinal is not wrong to point out that Gomez had plenty of time to review the files he now finds so scandalizing. But Mahony seems not to grasp what troubles people most about his role in the scandal. It's not that he just didn't do enough to protect minors from abuser-priests. It's that he worked to conceal abusers from civil authorities.



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Jim P - yet, that doesn't always hold true. Link to just named bishop in Oregon: indicate that as bishop in Michigan, he did no more than Mahoney and now he has been promoted. Some of the ROTR hope that Sample will take on OCP - what some see as a liberal hymn making organization.What is of more concern given your comment are Sample's replies to certain questions:- "It's a very tricky minefield I have to navigate. There are competing interests at stake. First and foremost are the interests of those who have been victimized. But there are also the interests of the accused. We live in a system, in a church, where the accused has a right to defense. And, in civil cases, we have to be concerned for the patrimony of the diocese and the interests of the folks in the pews. Sometimes the bishop is in the middle. People are angry because he hasn't done enough for the victims or hasn't been just to the priest. Parishioners are mad because we've removed their beloved pastor and the charges couldn't possibly be true and why are they bringing it up 25 years later. And the issues of confidentiality and the right to privacy apply to victims as well."Sorry, does not appear that the victims will be his first priority; at best, he will balance; at worst, victims will get short shift.- "I've visited parishes where a priest has been removed and parishioners are all over the board. They're angry, confused. We need to explain the process to them and we can't afford to forget about the victims, they need to be informed and brought along through the process."Sorry, again, he appears to be caught in time warp - this is the response of a bishop in the 1990s. (BTW - Sample is a big advocate of the TLM and goes out of his way to support any and all TLM activities.)So, agree with your last statement but Sample is an example of someone who connects ROTR with a less than adequate response to sexual abuse. Also, keep in mind that Neuhaus publicly supported Maciel even when overwhelming evidence was present.

Carolyn Disco:Re: Terry McKiernan of citing PR motives for Gomezs move:His statement could be interpreted as Gomez is trying to protect Mahony (whose name I have been misspelling as Mahoney)? Nah! I doubt it.I have reread Cardinal Mahony's statement which some bloggers think is whining and not appropriate. My take, for what it is worth, is that he is expressing true remorse, even though it is quite late.As a native of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, I note that Cardinal Bevilacqua went to his grave without one statement of remorse, nada, zilch. Dante would have a special place in the first third of his Divine Comedy for him.

When Mahony keeps seeing the conservative bus keep coming around and around in the next couple of weeks to run him over and over [see above] we may get to some real revelations and confrontations. .

Digression?????LaStampa reports today that the bishop of Lausannes, Geneva and Freiburg, Switzerland, who is also Rector of the Angelicum, has decreed that the SSPXers may not use Catholic churches and chapels to say Mass, etc. What I find most interesting is that this is the second instance in just one week of a highly placed bishop taking major action that one would have expected to come from the Vatican. In other words, it looks like the Vatican is instituting a change of policy: It is letting bishops (or at least the ones who agree with the Vatican) make their own decisions. Is the manner of this condemnation (a local act) inspired by a new reliance on PR to deflect criticism from the Pope and Vatican? Has the Vatican discovered that a negative decision taken by an underling might cause less of a ripple than one taken by the CDF or the Pope? If so, such a new policy might help to explain Apb. Gomez' actions.Or, miracle of miracles, has the Pope started to recognize the proper authority of the bishops and is letting them make decisions about their own dioceses?

Or maybe they are implementing the Decree Concerning the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church after 48 years.6. To bishops, as successors of the Apostles, in the dioceses entrusted to them, there belongs per se all the ordinary, proper, and immediate authority which is required for the exercise of their pastoral office.

Ann Olivier, Here is the complete text of the decree by Bishop Morerod (French only, sorry) is presented as being more generally about who can be allowed to use Catholic Churches and Chapels rather than specifically about the SSPX (athough that may be the behind the scenes reason for it)The introduction says the bishops and terriorial abbots of Switzerland enact by this decree particular norms applicable to their dioceses or territorial abbeysWhich sounds as if it may be a joint action which each Swiss Bishop and Abbot is publishing separately to make it applicable throughout the whole of Switzerland, not just in Bishop Morerods diocese.

Ann ....IF you think there is a 'new' Vatican policy to let the next level make decisions ,what do you make of the new German A/B of the CDF saying "Vatican archbishop compares attacks on Catholic Church to pogroms against Jews' I guess we should be thankful his rhetoric didn't include Holocaust.

Ed,That remark is positively disgusting. I think the new prelate is Gerhard Mueller, formerly of Regensburg (or was it Munich?)Do you have a link? Will no one make clear that his remark must be withdrawn and an apology made? You don't have to scratch the surface too far, do you?

Ed --I don't see much similarity between bishops making up their own minds and the head of a dicastery saying something paranoid, but you might be right. Archbishop Muller does seem quite headstrong to me, and perhaps he's much inclined to sound off. And maybe that's why he got he job.I dunno. AB Gomez' action startled even Mahony. One explanation for the mini=turmoil I haven't yet seen floated is that the Pope might be losing his grip. If that's so, there could be all sorts of currents ad counter-currents roiling in the Vatican and the hierarchy as efforts are made to consolidate power before he leaves us. Who knows. And isn't it sad how the secrecy of the Vatican inspires all sorts of conspiracy theories, like the one I just articulated. Sigh.

It seems to me that there is a possibility for substantial common ground between church conservatives and church liberals on this issue of the sex abuse crisis and what must be done.I agree.

Claire--I would like to think that, but you can't find the attacks on Archbishop Gomez in here, as a member of Opus Dei, very encouraging, can you?

Nicholas Clifford's conjecture at 5:11pm strikes me as the most likely, because it's the most cynical, but it doesn't matter: Abp Gomez is now on people's radar as a potential "good guy", so to speak. It all depends on what he does in the future. Even if he's playing a role, as long as playing a role means bowing to the will of the people who are scandalized by sexual abuse, then I say, good for him. In the first order I don't care about whether leaders have integrity (they're all suspect anyway), but about whether they do the right thing; their motivation doesn't matter. "Doing the right thing", at this time, means confronting the sexual abuse cover-ups.

Claire ==Yes, doing the right this is most important as far as the Church is concerned. The motives of the bishops are between them and God. As to AB Gomez being a member of OD, I think it's not fair to assume that they're all dishonorable people. Some I have read of sound quite idealistic, if naive. But then, there was Maciel ...

Oops: doing the right THING

Double oops -- Maciel was the founder of the Legionaires. But Escriva weren't no lily, in spite of his canonization.

"Its not that he just didnt do enough to protect minors from abuser-priests. Its that he worked to conceal abusers from civil authorities."Grant --You've hit the nail on its head. It's the active concealment that is so reprehensible. It's the worst sort of lying=by-doing.By the way, Mayor Koch's demise and all the talk of his friendship with Cardinal O'Connor, who was so respected, made me check out Cardinal O'Connor at bishopsaccountability. It seems that he, back in the 80s was well aware of the seriousness of sexual abuse of minors and tried to stop it in New York. So it just isn't true that nobody was aware of the seriousness of at least some of the crimes.

Ann Olivier:I cannot find on bishopsaccountability information about Cardinal OConnor' awareness of the sexual abuse of minors and his attempts to stop it in New York. I am not refuting it. In fact, I am more than curious since he is a Philadelphian and I know members of his family, next generation after him, of course. I hope your information is correct, since I do not like to think ill of the dead, except for Cardinal Devilacqua (oops typo).

I too can't find anything on about O'Connor's good record. The search function can be problematic though.O'Connor was an auxiliary bishop in the military vicariate; 27 years in the Navy, up to admiral. Here is what I could find on about a preliminary list of 95 priest chaplains in the military accused of abuse: believe I read somewhere there are about 850 to 900 Catholic chaplains in a chaplaincy corps of about 5,500.Yes, it would be nice to have good news about a no-nonsense bishop who took decisive action.

I note that there have been about 80 changes to the wikipedia web page in the past 3 days.

Mr. Gleason - think about this. Mahony had a Masters in Social Work and, supposedly, a state certification in CA. If that is true, then he was required by his professional certification to report abuse to law enforcement. Can't find this out completely but it appears that he let his MSW certification lapse in 1980 before taking over LA. But, it adds another layer to this discussion.

Lockley: you really need to stop wasting your/our time on this site and should be posting here ....

Bill deHaasI am not so sure that Mahony is not correct when he says that his MS in Social Work did not address the issue of the sexual abuse of children by adults. Freud thought that it was impossible for adults to be totally responsible since children at early ages were sexually provocative (e.g., Oedipus Complex.) More recent research indicates that Freud could not believe that an adult would do such things.Also, mandatory reporting of abuse by those in teacher and counseling situations is quite recent. I would guess only the past 20 or so years. I have an M.A. in Pastoral Counseling (1984) and the issue of mandatory reporting was not addressed in my program.

Bill deHaas,Interesting similarity to John McCormack, re: social work license. You see, people were approaching him as a priest, not a social worker.I'd have to search old files to refresh details, but I believe McCormack helped a foreign priest abuser get out of dodge and kept him apprised of any investigation efforts whether it was safe or not to return. Eric MacLeish's office gave me records and mentioned obstruction of justice in the Globe. Police were looking for the priest.Just found material under Barry Robinson in's database."The Boston Globe reported that church officials would not identify the youth to authorities and made no attempt to stop Robinson from leaving the country." See database of fugitives from justice - has plenty of company.

Helen,Mandatory reporting was fought by bishops in state legislatures for years. After 2002 such efforts were less successful.The Dallas Charter started out requiring all cases to be reported to authorities but the post-recognitio Vatican-approved version specified only where mandatory reporting laws exist. But even where such laws existed, various independent investigations (Cincinnati, NH, KC, Chicago) showed lack of compliance. I think bishops pay much closer attention now that violations are more likely to be prosecuted. Forced virtue, IOW.

Helen - California was an early state adopter of mandatory reporting laws. In fact, the state legislature looked at data in 1978-79 and saw that only 10% of reported cases were sexual abuse and so, in 1980 passed one of the most comprehensive mandated reporter laws. Federal statutes were already encoded on this.Brief CA history:In 1980, in response to this under-reporting and with the desire to comply with federal guidelines, the California Legislature repealed sections of existing law and replaced it with the Child Abuse Reporting Law. The new law included the crucial component of knowledge in the statute, thus specified individuals no longer needed to observe the abuse, but only needed to have information about the offense. The law was rewritten several times in the 1980s to address certain deficiencies and in 1987 the Legislature amended the law once again and renamed it the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act.

Helen ==About Cdl. O'Connor trying to help the abused. I read an article by someone named Likoudis at bishopsaccountability concerning a big scandal in Albany, New York, involving, according to Likoudis, the bishop of that city. (J gather that the writer is an extreme conservative. I don't know if that is relevant here.) The article was from a local Albany paper called "The Wanderer" (as I remember -- it wasn't the well known Wanderer). When I tried to find the article again, all that came up was a second article by the same writer at the same paper about some of the same matters, but it doesn't talk about the Cardinal trying to help the abused. Here's the second article::// first article, as I remember it, said that Cdl. O'Connor had gathered information about purported abuse by a number of priests and had appealed to Pope John Paul II for help, but JP II replied "I can do nothing about it".The story revolved around an Albany priest, Fr. John Winkler who was trying to do something about purported widespread abuse, and who apparently committed suicide when the police were asking for his help to finger the guilty. The story is a particularly ugly one, and one wonders what the whole truth was, but I see no reason to doubt that Cdl. O'Connor was in fact trying to help the abused.

Here's a report from the NYT about a report which the bishop commissioned. :// report clears the bishop himself, but it has been contested by a lawyer for some claimants of abuse. Ugly, ugly story no matter which way you look at it.

Ed ==One of my my room-mates when in grad school at Catholic U., got her M. A. in Social Work at the same time as C. Mahony. I assure you that she learned Freud. I can't understand how Mahoney could have escaped learning about the awful consequences of such abuse.

Helen --The interpretations of Freud you allude to might have been wrong, but the relevant question here, I think, is what version of Freud was being taught at C.U. in the School of Social Work.

Here's an interesting article in the NY Review of books by psychologist Oliver Sacks about how memory plays tricks on us all. Discouraging. Michael D'Arcy, 18 August 1932 -- 3 February 2013, Bishop Emeritus of Fort-Wayne-South BendWhere Lazarus is poor no longer, may he have eternal life.

@John Page,, yes... There are and always will be stand uo bishops.

At 9:00 Eastern tonight, HBO will show a two-hour documentary "Mea Maxima Culpa - Silence in the House of God" on child abuse in the Catholic Church.I haven't seen it, so I just pass on this information.

Now that the Super Bowl is over, I should get back to "unreality":My guess is that Gomez is trying to put some legal-exposure distance between himself [read: the LA archdiocese] and Mahony. Perhaps by taking this action Gomez gets to claim that Mahony has been cut free and what Mahony says and does is his sole responsibility, and not reflective of the LA archdiocese. I guess that would be more Gomez's prayer!!!Mahony's public response to Gomez is perhaps the most revealing aspect of the release of these LA archdiocesan personnel files to become public knowledge. Mahony had [has] a reputation even among clergy here in CA for being a very tough political infighter, with a real skill for close-in use of the stiletto right between the ribs when someone opposes him - and since he is a Cardinal we can assume that he won most of those confrontations. One of the most remarkable stunts Mahony was able to pull-off was the forced resignation of former Oklahoma Republican Gov. Thomas Keating [also former Deputy US Attorney General in the 1st Bush administration] from the National Review Board after Keating wrote an opinion piece in the NY Times depicting the operations of the Catholic hierarchy "more akin to the Mafia." [Rumor had it that Keating wanted to investigate Mahony's time in both the Stockton and LA dioceses.] Keating complained about the code of silence, protection of criminal sexual predators, and obstruction of justice, especially through the payment of hush money. Mahony challenged Keating publicly and called for his resignation - and apparently won since Keating left the National Review Board immediately!Mahony's power has to be sourced to the literally $billions that the LA archdiocese controls. Mahony was able to manipulate not only other American hierarchs but also the Vatican. [Mahony was a real prominent player in the last conclave that elected B16 - I will always believe that Mahony was able to place his all-time BFF William Levada at the head of the Inquisition which runs the world wide protections racket for bishops in exchange for his (Mahony's) support in the conclave voting.] Mahony was also a force to be reckoned with in California politics because of the near adulation for him from Latinos, especially immigrants [which number in the millions in LA] and the fact that he could throw a lot of "street money" around come election time. CA politicians feared him - still do.I hope that today's HBO release of the movie Mea Maxima Culpa keeps the sunlight on Mahony's record. Perhaps some brave CA district attorney will get a grand jury to indict him someday??? If Mahony can be taken down, hopefully he will take a few others with him under the principle that misery loves company. At least, given Mahony's public castigation of Gomez, it seems that Mahony is still up for a fight!

The French Catholic magazine La Vie draps a flattering portrait of Gomez: "De cette lessiveuse morale, financire et mdiatique, est sortie une volont sans faille de transparence et une "tolrance zro" exemplaire: c'est ainsi qu'il faut comprendre non seulement la phrase de Mgr Gomez, mais galement la mise en ligne sur le site du diocse de milliers de pages tires des archives de l'Eglise Los Angeles"In other words, bravo to Abp Gomez for criticizing the cardinal, but also for putting the files online. As if that had happened entirely because of his integrity and desire for transparency. I feel like I'm getting a glimpse of how history might get rewritten.

draps -> draws

John Hayes,Thank you for mentioning the HBO film. It is a powerful story of the victims' struggle for justice. HBO gave an advance screening at the VOTF conference last September. At least we got to see it without commercial interruptions.The case became a marker for the liberal/conservative divide in the church with 2010 NYT coverage. Ratzinger supporters absolve him of any culpability. The opposite view naturally holds otherwise. Remembering the Vatican's use of indirect language, plausible deniability, with yes, no, maybe, always and never simultaneously at hand depending on circumstances, it becomes a fascinating study in spin.Read some original documents in the Murphy case: (p. 54 is Murphy's dishonest letter to Ratzinger pleading mercy).Murphy lied about being repentant, and Milwaukee officials made that clear in Rome a few months later. No answer ever from Ratzinger; but his chief aide Bertone handled the matter. After that Roman meeting, a canonical trial was abated, much to the consternation of Weakland, who basically wanted to proceed no matter how close to death Murphy was --- to avoid a "priest in good standing" funeral with all the honorifics. Whether Weakland had to follow Bertone's "suggestions" or had the authority to continue a trial (technically he did) depends on one's understanding of how power is in fact exercised. When a cardinal asks a bishop or a bishop a priest to consider such and such, is it a friendly suggestion or in fact much more? A timeline of Murphy's assignments with links to original documents is here (see therapist's notes in 1993 especially) beat goes on. I believe Jim Jenkins sees the money/power dynamics straight up. Gomez' likely desire for legal-exposure distance from Mahony rings true.

HBO is running the film each night this week (Monday hrough Saturday) and then Monday and Friday next week. Hours and channels vary.