Should Cardinal Mahony Stay Away From the Conclave?

Cardinal Mahony has a “right” to attend the Conclave to elect the next pope, but at least one other cardinal has broached the idea that he should stay home for the “good of the Church.”

“The common practice is to use persuasion. There is no more than can be done.” Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, told La Repubblica Daily. “Ultimately, it will be up to his conscience to decide whether to take part or not.”

Archbishop Gomez, of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and Cardinal Mahony’s successor, recently announced that he was ending Cardinal Mahony’s public work for the archdiocese. The announcement resulted from the release of years of files that were compiled during Cardinal Mahony’s term in office. According to Archbishop Gomez, the files related “brutal” mistreatment of the Archdiocese’ children.

In his statement, Archbishop Gomez said,

“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.”

Cardinal Mahony has responded to this with a series of blog posts in which he has characterized himself as a “martyr.”

Several Patheos bloggers have commented on Cardinal Mahony’s recent statements. You can find information on Cardinal Mahony’s latest comments at The Deacon’s Bench, or if you want powerful commentary, Egregious Twaddle, Why I Am Catholic and Catholic and Enjoying It have been serving it up with style.

As for me, I just wish Cardinal Mahony would give it a rest. I also wish that he would stay home from the Conclave. I wish that he would stop publishing bizarre blog posts and that he would find the humility to accept that he is not a martyr. He is a miscreant who has been caught in his own sins.

I wish he could have been a better Cardinal and a better priest. If he couldn’t muster that, I wish he had at least been able to be a better man and a better Christian.

In the final analysis, if he had been either a good man or a good Christian, that would have been enough. If he had just been following Jesus, he would never have enabled priests he knew were abusing children to keep on abusing more children. His conscience would not have allowed him to do it.

I am not saying that he doesn’t have many good qualities. I don’t know him, but people are almost always mixtures of good and bad. It’s hard for a man who has spent so many years basking in flattery and cozened by yes men to suddenly find himself “all alone to weep his outcast fate” as Shakespeare put it. It is hard for anyone, but especially so for someone who has been pandered to and pampered for decades to come face to face with the fact that the only lies he has left are the lies he tells himself because everyone else knows the humiliating truth of his dirtiest sins.

I believe Cardinal Mahony is at that place. The blog posts he keeps publishing sound like deep denial with an overcoating of bitterness. They do not sound like remorse or repentance. It seems that he simply will not accept that nothing he says can change what he’s done and that no good he ever did can undo or wash away the harm he’s inflicted.

It appears that he has committed unthinkable crimes against innocent children by enabling and allowing other men to continue abusing them when he knew what they were doing and had the power to easily stop them. No matter how he tries to explain that to himself and to spin his present disgrace as a martyrdom, the facts are the facts and his situation is what it is.

Odd as this sounds, I pray for Cardinal Mahony. His current disgrace is in reality an opportunity. He must face what he has done and repent of it from the heart. There was never a time for excuses. He was always wrong in what he did. Now that the whole world knows it, he needs to stop trying to hide the truth from the one person who still avoids it: He needs to stop trying to hide the truth from himself.

I am concerned where this self delusion will lead him. There is only one way out when you’ve done something this bad and that is the way of the cross. I worry what might become of the Cardinal if he continues down this path of self-deluding self-justification.

He needs to go to Jesus as a broken and sinful man. He needs to grieve the harm he has done, suffer the guilt and endure the shame of it. Only in that way can he find the peace of Christ.

My advice, if I could talk to Cardinal Mahony, would be simple. I would say, Accept that you have sinned, and be quiet.


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  • JJ

    Yes, he should have used the better part of discretion and said he was ill and could not attend.

    God Bless.

    • midwestlady

      He should just tell the truth and stay home. He makes the rest of us look bad in public, and people notice. It’s bad for the Church and he should have sense enough to know that.

  • pagansister

    I totally agree with you, Rebecca, that the good Cardinal should stay home. His attitude is, IMO, outrageous, as if he is the “victim” here and perhaps in total denial of his part in the coverups. He shows no remorse, or regret from what I have read. The man should just stay here and do a lot of praying!

  • Fabio P.Barbieri

    Given the run of Cardinals in history, there must have been worse men than Manoney who have taken part in Conclaves. Cardinal Richelieu was a political criminal of the most Machiavellian kind, and Cardinal Fesch had been Napoleon’s minister for religion when Napoleon had jailed two successive Popes (although he had made some effort to make the Emperor, who was his nephew, come to his senses). Cardinals were nominated for being the kin of ruling Popes or for being the agent of ruthless foreign powers, as often as for their piety. Heaven knows, it’s rare enough to have a College of Cardinals the majority of whose members may be assumed to be moderately honest.

  • David Sutton

    Cardinal Mahony must and should go to the Conclave. He’s a big boy and can take care of himself, thank you. He does not need the approbation of others to tell him what to, or not to do. He is as mature Christian who
    thru prayerful reflection made his decisions and carries on. The archdiocese of Los Angeles has in place a
    good program to prevent abuse. The catholic church does not have a greater degree of sexual abuse than other
    religious denominations, or for that matter, public institutions. It can, and will deal with the public outcry,
    justified or unjustified. You can throw your abuse at him as you will, but he carries on with his chin up,
    much to the chagrin of people who wish him to stumble. He stumbles at times, which is human, but he picks himself up and keeps on going. He is like Roger the ” energizer rabbit “, he keeps going, and going, and going, while the “Elmer Fudds of this world” and the “gang who can’t shoot straight (LA Times)” keep trying to bring him down .

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      I’m going to allow this because it reflects a viewpoint among some Catholics. If you want to discuss it, remember to be civil.

  • Bill S

    We had Cardinal Bernard Law who was just as bad if not worse. He ended up with a cushy post in Rome. It only goes to show that, for years, the Church looked after its own and chose to protect its reputation over its children.

    • Sus

      I don’t understand why the parish priests aren’t screaming for something to be done with these criminals.

      Last Halloween the congregants were asked for a married couple to chaperon while the priest gave out candy to the trick-or-treaters who came to the rectory. The priest “dressed up” by wearing a baseball jersey and put a hat on his dog. How does he feel having to be “chaperoned” while giving out candy to kids on Halloween?

      It’s outrageous.

  • Dave

    As for Cardinal Mahony, he should definitely stay home and be quiet. This is the way he’s always been, though. Believe it or not, he was considered a staunch conservative when appointed to L.A., only to act pretty liberal and loose with the reins after his appointment. Only God knows, but it sure looks like he was a “Yes” man whose true colors came out once he ran out of rungs on the ladder to climb. One of his letters on the Eucharist was borderline heretical enough that Mother Angelica publicly rebuked him, and his “religious education” conferences were quite strange. Obviously, we now know he was doing a lot worse.

    This seems like a good time to pull out one of my favorite quotes:

    “As a Catholic, my faith tells me that the Church has a divine origin,
    but my own experience tells me that it MUST be divine because no human
    institution run with such a mixture of ineptitude and wickedness would have
    lasted a fortnight.” ~ Hilaire Belloc

  • Art Chartier

    A little different perspective: Jesus allowed Judas to come to the Table, why not Mahony to the Conclave? Can you imagine how it would feel to be him – sitting in the Sistine Chapel under Michaelangelo’s ceiling and facing the fresco of “The Lord’s Supper”… with everyone in silent prayer? If the Holy Spirit can’t “bring him to Jesus” in that setting, what can? It may well be that the Conclave is Mahony’s last best chance for redemption.

  • David Sutton

    Cardinal Mahony should, will and must go to the Conclave. His vote will count as much as any other Cardinal’s
    vote. That is the reality of the situation. Ironically, the person most likely to know about sexual abuse within
    the catholic church and the way to deal with it is Cardinal Mahony himself. He has gone trough a learning
    curve, made mistakes, acknowledges his failings, apologized, tried to amend the situation and has moved on
    with new insights. The catholic church as an institution has no more abuse than any other religious denomination, and for that matter, any public institution. He has been humbled. Let’s see if God will raise him up.

    • Anne Parks

      The problem with Mahoney is he has indeed gone through it but he doesn’t admit his part in the abuse and he is not humbled by the knowledge that he is an enabler to the abuse of Catholic children who trusted their priest and will probably never trust a priest again or have any trust in the Catholic Church that allowed these terrible things to happen to them. Mahoney and the pedophile priests he enabled have worked for the cause of the devil, not for God and without repentance and admission of sin which he appears unable to do by his blogs, he should have no vote for the next Pope. He is not a martyr, he is a scoundrel!

    • Bill S

      “The catholic church as an institution has no more abuse than any other religious denomination, and for that matter, any public institution. He has been humbled. Let’s see if God will raise him up.”

      Attitudes like this just turn people more against the Catholic Church which is far too tolerant of abuse by priests than it should be. I just listened to an NPR broadcast on Cardinal Mahoney’s actions to cover up the crimes and protect the priests from prosecution. If our Archbishop Cardinal Sean O’Malley were ever to be elected Pope, stuff like this would be handled with much more severity than it has been under Benedict. O’Malley is an enforcer. Benedict is not.

  • Nathaniel

    Why is this man not in jail? Why has the Catholic church not told him to turn himself in if he wishes to remain a Catholic in good standing?

  • Sus

    Why wouldn’t he go? The “public” is outraged. For reasons we don’t know, the powers that be in the Church aren’t outraged.

    I deleted everything else I typed because it was disgusting and mean. There’s no reason for me to go to Cardinal Mahony’s level of disgusting.

  • Edward

    I find it absolutely reprehensible that Mahony has the audacity to insist on his participation in this forthcoming conclave. It continues to display his arrogance and lack of caring for the victims and reinforces our late Holy Father’s nickname for Mahony – Mr Hollywood – no depth, all show!!!!

    He does not deserve the respect due the position as a prince of the church and may he experience a living “hell” for the rest of his earthly life. Why doesn’t he resign as a cardinal and retire to a monastery never to be seen or heard from again. May he never find a moments peace for his role and participation and the harm that came to so many young, innocent children.

  • Peg

    The only conclave this man belongs in is a cell block. I’m sorry if this offends some like Mr. Sutton but check the facts — there is a multitude out there. He didn’t just look the other way, he was actively bribing priests and covering up. Ask his insurance company how repentant he was. In trying to preserve his reputation only, he costs the archdiocese millions and damaged lives, people lost faith — it’s evil.

    I never understood why Pope Benedict did not immediately remove him. I don’t want to judge our holy father who has served Christ and church so well. I know Christ does not want us to attack priests but we have a right to speak out against abuse. Christ himself has the sternest warnings for those who harm his little ones. Perhaps he could memorize sonnet 29, take the scriptures and live a life of poverty and repentance–otherwise it could be quite fiery. I will try and pray for his soul.

  • Bill S

    I know, Peg, that I am probably the last person you want a response from but you said: ” I know Christ does not want us to attack priests but we have a right to speak out against abuse.”

    I think you are correct in saying that Catholics have a right to speak out against abuse. I also think it is unfortunate that people like you, who are good Catholics, would think that Christ would not want you to do that. Any decent loving person would want you to do that.

  • Yae

    For a man who has long basked in the limelight, who adored the applause of his well wishers, who had the Catholic Worker kicked out on the day they were breaking ground in Los Angeles, CA to build the ugly TajMahoney, that poor man has no one to turn to but himself. But wait! There is one greater than he, more benevolent, more forgiving, more humble and much, so much more trustworthy! The Lord of Life and of truth, Jesus Christ himself!
    Cardinal Mahoney, do you remember the passage where our Lord invites us to “come away a while and rest our weary souls?” I am paraphrasing the passage but it is found in Matthew 11:28. Anyway, what I want to say is perhaps, instead of spending your time blogging and repeating yourself to the point that no one even cares anymore, why not take up the Lord’s offer and retire with him to an oasis of solitude and prayer? Why not allow the Lord Jesus to speak a word to you and for you to listen rather than to resort to clamor and noise?
    Why not follow the example of our beloved Holy Father Pope Benedict’s humility and gentleness?
    If it is time for you to carry your cross in such a way that you feel humiliated by it because your sin has been laid bare then give that glory to the Lord for he has shown you mercy! Stop with the incessant complaints! Allow room for the Lord to lead you down the way of Calvary not according to your “way of doing it” but by his example…our Lord Jesus never complained ONCE when he was beaten and tortured. NOT ONCE!
    He bore it all for the sake of the glory that awaited him…IT WAS NOT ABOUT HIM EITHER. He offered it up to the Father in complete trust.
    Now think…just think of all the wonderful graces that would come from your sacrifice of silence and prayer and retreat. Think of how the poor children who were entrusted to your care (only to be betrayed) would benefit from those same graces. How the deeply wounded who lost trust in God and in their faith, because you looked the other way, could be healed by your prayer and humility.
    While one lives, it is never too late to call upon the name of the Lord…but if one loves reputation and the cult of fame and “look at all the good I have done” well, I have to say from my own experience it is very difficult and very addicting and it makes one’s call to conversion all the hard to look at.
    In the end, the truth stands and no matter how many times you say it, your time in the spotlight is done.
    I, a puny observer of what has happened to you can only hope to pray for the grace to pray for you as we are all in need of prayer and of conversion.
    May God have mercy on us all.