Cardinal Mahony controversy


by Jay Crandall

Posted on February 26, 2013 at 10:10 PM

Updated Tuesday, Feb 26 at 10:13 PM

Should Cardinal Roger Mahony attend the Papal Conclave?

It is a week when the Catholic Church hoped to look forward, as the College of Cardinals prepares to elect a new pope.

But, instead the church finds itself confronting ghosts of the past.

A British cardinal has resigned amid allegations of inappropriate relationships with priests.

Italian papers are filled with reports of sexual escapades inside the Vatican itself.

And now word that a U.S. cardinal accused of hiding sexual abuse by priests will be among those choosing the new pope, which has many wondering if the Catholic Church is once again turning a blind eye to its own failings.

"It seems as if the church hasn't learned anything from the lessons of the past," said former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley, but he said they need to pay attention now. "I want to see the actions of the Vatican and the church itself, they need to say, 'Cardinal Mahony, do not come to the conclave.'"

Romley, who prosecuted a number of high-profile sexual abuse cases by priests, and the subsequent cover up, is talking about Cardinal Roger Mahony, of Los Angeles, who will be taking part in the conclave that elects  the next pope.

But as James Salt, executive director of Catholics United, explains, Mahony comes with some unpleasant history,. "Recent court documents demonstrate that Cardinal Roger Mahony was part of a systematic cover-up of sexual abuse crimes in his diocese."

Salt said his group has launched an online petition urging Mahony to stay home.

"One can argue that Cardinal Mahony has the right to attend, but it is not for the good of the church," he said.

As a cardinal, Mahoney asserts it is his right and duty to attend. His predecessor, Archbishop Gomez of Los Angeles, released a statement saying in part, "Having been promoted to the dignity of Cardinal, Cardinal Mahony has all of  the prerogatives and privileges of his standing as a cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church."

Romley said the church made similar arguments in the past, often obstructing his investigations.

"It is interesting that the Vatican will still argue that cannon law trumps our laws in our country, almost implying that sexual abuse is OK, he said.

Despite that, Romley said he truly believes most members of the congregation wanted him to proceed with his investigation.

“To conclude with some type of resolution so the church would no longer sanction implicitly the abuse of little children."

Salt said that argument is borne out in the more than 6,000 signatures his group has collected.

"It Is hard to express the extent of the shame and anger within the Catholic community over this issue," he said.

The Vatican itself has not commented, although in the Italian paper La Repubblica, Cardinal Velasio de Paolis, an influential voice in the Vatican, called Mahony's attendance "troubling."

A stance Salt and Romley call encouraging, but not enough.

"Instead with Mahony's participation we will be reminded of the sins of our leaders, and their general lack of accountability," Salt said.

Romley adds, "They need to make a very strong moral stance that this is not acceptable and if that means one of their own must be put aside the so be it."

Both Salt and Romley say they do not want to take away from the good the church does, but they do feel the Vatican needs to take a strong moral stance.

Mahony is already in Rome, tweeting regular updates.

And we want to know what you think, should Mahony take part in the conclave and have a voice in electing the next pope? Cast your vote in the poll above.