A blog by the magazine's editors and contributors


Mahony unbound.

Remember how in January, after nearly a decade of legal filibustering, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles finally made public the priest-personnel files it agreed to release as part of a 2007 settlement with abuse victims, except the files were heavily redacted, and remember how those files contained damning memos detailing the lengths to which archdiocesan officials -- including Cardinal Roger Mahony -- went to shield abuser-priests from civil authorities, and how soon after those memos made news, Archbishop Jose Gomez garnered praise for announcing that Mahony would "no longer have any administrative or public duties," and how several media outlets reported that Mahony had been "barred from public ministry," except he really hadn't, and then he took to his blog to dress down Gomez for "not once over these past years...[raising] any questions about our policies, practices, or procedures in dealing with the problem of clergy sexual misconduct involving minors," yet, as Mahony's then-spokesman explained, he had "cleared his calendar" of confirmation appointments this year? Well, he's doing them again. The Los Angeles Times reports:

Since Easter, he has officiated at eight services, including one last week in which he anointed more than 120 youths at a Wilmington parish. His presence has caused controversy, with some parents threatening to pull their children from the liturgies and at least one parish priest asking that Mahony not attend. It has also raised questions about why Gomez's rebuke of Mahony, an unprecedented move that won him praise from victims and their supporters around the world, had so little lasting effect.

You don't say. Gomez's letter did not include anything specific about the alleged change in Mahony's status. And, as an archbishop, Gomez does not have the authority to restrict the ministry of a cardinal. (Only a pope can do that.) But he does have the authority to say who presides over confirmations in the archdiocese. Have a look at the letter. Sorry, is that link broken? It seems the letter is no longer available on the website of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. (The L.A. Times cached a copy here.) Odd that the archdiocese's archive of press releases includes a January 22 apology from auxiliary Bishop Thomas Curry, who played a part in archdiocesan efforts to conceal accused priests from the law (and who really did cancel confirmations this spring), along with Gomez's statement on the release of the priest-personnel files, dated January 31 -- the same date on his statement on Mahony. Did that document disappear down the memory hole?

Perhaps amnesia is going around the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. When an L.A. Times reporter approached Mahony after a confirmation he presided over, the cardinal claimed he didn't know that his former spokesman had said he was done doing confirmations for the year: "'That's news to me.... I've been doing them every week and I'm going to be doing them every week,' he said, adding, 'So go home.'"

Strange that Mahony would be so confused, considering the pains he took to defend himself after Gomez published the letter promising that the cardinal would no longer have any public duties. Certainly the cardinal could not be surprised that some parents would not be pleased to have him confirm their children -- not after his series of blog posts cataloging his Lenten challenge to love his enemies, which, oddly, included a meditation on the virtue of remaining silent in the face of false accusations, and a promise to pray for God to forgive those who have expressed anger over his role in the sexual-abuse scandal.

Evidently the cardinal feels he's been unfairly treated by the media, but if his rehabilitation tour is to have any chance of success, he's going to have to start answering some tough questions. He might start with these: Why did you work so hard to block the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops-commissioned investigation of the sexual-abuse scandal, and why, long after the church knew of the dangers posed by abusive priests, did you attempt to hide accused priests from civil authorities? Was it about church resources? Money? If so, why was that more important than justice for victims of sexual abuse -- and the safety of children?



Commenting Guidelines

Jim, Rita, Todd - your questions highlight how *tired* the old liberal-conservative argument is when applied to Mahony. Would suggest that a different & more complex narrative can be written based upon this initial and very limited analysis:- Mahony made archbishop at the age of 49 bringing a social work degree and bilingual speaker. He quickly set out to focus on the Hispanic growth; new parishes, etc. overcoming the deadness of McIntyre and Manning (some interpreted this as progressive - or was it just common sense reality and what was best for the institutional church?)- Remade the seminaries at Camarillo removing the Vincentians from formation and ordination decisions. Given the explosive growth, needed increases priests esp. Hispanic. (some would say this was progressive - or was it just part of the total *institutional church* mentality?)- His Eucharist pastoral is often cited - yet, that would have died a simple death in the history closets if not for Mother at EWTN. Again, folks characterized this as liberal vs. conservative. (yet, in reality, what transpired was Mahony's push back via the Vatican in order to preserve his power/authority and, in his thinking, the institutional church; rather than any idea that this was progressive liturgy vs. pre-VII thinking)- his need for priestly ordinations has now revealed that his expansion focus justified ordination classes that, in some cases, have a more than 15% confirmed abuser rate. (again, the narrative appears to be his power/authority and the institutional church even over the safety of children, families, etc.)- and subsequent analysis, reveals patterns in which these abusers were overwhelmingly assigned to Hispanic or poor parishes over and over again. (this narrative suggests putting the institutional church above any and all gospel commitments)- again, he had an auxiliary Hispanic bishop who had fathered children (do you doubt he didn't know this) and yet, this was hidden to pursue his institutional church- his appointments as bishops and consultors were primarily priests who were *company men* and said yes to his power/authority- this narrative provides the explanation for a ten year battle to keep all abuser information secret and private even if it cost the archdiocese upwards of billion dollars (and, it appears, money and support from the Vatican)- the campaign to build the Taj Mahony (in light of the narrative, this makes sense but is in real tension with the initial focus on minorities and the poor - can that type of expense really be justified and/or called *mission*? Were other alternatives seriously considered?)Eventually, historians will write the history of Mahony and the archdiocese. Suggest that the *hubris* of personal power/authority over time refocused any initial impulse to serve the minorities and poor of the archdiocese. That hubris was intimately wrapped up in a clerical, institutional mindset that allowed for no outside voices. (think of his peers, classmates - bishops/styles such as - Levada, Rigali, etc.)This different narrative avoids the liberal vs. conservative paradigm and looks at his *style* as forcefully influenced by a clerical and institutional focus. During his 20+ years and within the thousands of decisions he made, the overwhelming theme was one of clerical power rather than the gospel message.

Thanks, Todd. Many on the right treat Mahony as a progressive, complaining bitterly about the religious ed congress, "Gather Faithfully Together," the modern style of the cathedral and the like, but of course these are only a few issues. Agreed. Thanks too for the update on Bishop Finn. I was hoping someone would be able to say what's going on in Kansas City and/or Newark, and it's interesting that a deacon candidate protested being ordained by him. I don't understand why you say there's "no alternative" when there's no auxiliary. A priest can confirm. In certain circumstances permission is given by the law, in other instances it's delegated, but certainly a priest *can* do it. There's an alternative, but the issue is who decides. When it's the Ordinary, and Rome does nothing, he stays on. But if he's not the Ordinary, the buck passes to the Ordinary to decide how much of a public role the retired bishop will have in the diocese. Archbishop Gomez, after all he said earlier, really does owe his people an explanation of his about-face.

Bill deHaas,Thanks for the analysis, and for the additional details concerning seminary etc. Very helpful. The full story is complex but the themes you identify come up repeatedly.

Rita,You and I accept that theologically, there is an alternative. But practically, no parish pastor is going to tell the chancery, "No thanks" when the bishop's secretary is setting up next year's Confirmation schedule. Archbishop Gomez may well have been told to cool it with his cardinal after his initial outburst. Reinforces the notion that Rome rules and that bishops are vicars of the Curia. Pope Francis: your serve, dude.

Three things.1. Kudos to Grant for a spot on post.2. Cathedrals are definitive marks of Empire. To those donors with their names inscribed, Jesus may well say: "You have had your reward. Let's not compare Cathedrals with anointing Jesus' hair. While middle class families struggle for food....Ditto for the 187 million repair for St. Patrick. 3. Confirmation is what it states: a ratification of baptism which should really occur at the confirmation age. Further you can best that most of those "confirmed" will make annual visits afterwards.

I work within a diocese-system---and priests can Confirm---but only during the Easter season. So they can confirm on the Vigil of Easter and can confirm up to Trinity Sunday (but not after that). I used to tease some of the parish priests that their "faculties" disintergate on Trinity Sunday. Only a bishop can confirm outside of the Easter Season.But back to Mahony confirming kids, Jim Dunn was quite correct in stating how pastors, DREs, families and kids find out the date of their Confirmation. In my diocese---we know that the bishop will be in a certain section of the diocese during either fall or spring. But that's about it. The validity of Confirmation (or any sacrament) does not, thank God, depend upon the 'holiness' of the one administrating the sacrament. Mahony, as a person, has not been accused of sexual abuse. He is an Enabler, however.

I think the bottom line in all this is that Archbishop Gomez needs to be the one who steps forward and implements his original "ban" on Mahony, or he needs to come forward and explain why he's not willing to do that. Failing that, a few pastors could step up and make a public or private stink. But asking parents or certainly kids being confirmed to make a decision is not appropriate in my estimation.

Joseph Jaglowicz mentions above about "Opus Dei" bishop appointments. I wonder if Jesuit Papa Francesco will continue that trend?The new bishop of Oakland Michael Barber SJ, while certainly conservative to even be considered for the appointment, doesn't seem to have the same reactionary scent that the ODers have. Maybe Barber represents a new standard for F1 bishops?

Thank you Jim for keeping us updated.

If folks will forgive the digression, or the expansion of the topic to a more general Church Officials Behaving Badly - Fr. Fugee is back in the news in New Jersey. He has been arrested and charged with violating his agreement with the district attorney. He was arraigned in court today. article doesn't state that the archdiocese of Newark, another party to the agreement that Fugee allegedly violated, is being charged with violations.It also states that Fugee was arrested at St. Antoninus Parish in Newark on Monday. I find it a bit of a headscratcher that he was living in a parish after all the publicity of the last month.

The Star-Ledger has a strong editorial on Fugee, Myers and the Newark Archdiocese today. In my view, it hits the right notes and asks the right questions. also references a new group called Catholic Whistleblowers, made up of priests and religious sisters who are determined to hold church officials accountable. Here is a Rod Dreher article on Catholic Whistleblowers: