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Mahony Unbound


By Charles A. Coulombe | May 2013
Charles A. Coulombe, who writes from Los Angeles, is the author, most recently, of The Pope's Legion: The Mul­ti­national Fighting Force that Defended the Vatican and the newly released e-book, The Legacy of Pope Benedict XVI (Diversion Books).

All the world, Catholic and otherwise, was agog at the abdication of Pope Benedict XVI and is keen to find out where Pope Francis is going to lead us. His record as a Jesuit and Archbishop of Buenos Aires is being scoured, his every action carefully examined for clues. No doubt the forthcoming months and years will reveal all. But against the background music of that cosmic orchestra is heard the codetta of a tinny kazoo: the implicit criticisms of Benedict XVI made on Twitter by Roger Cardinal Mahony, Dowager Archbishop of Los Angeles. Here is a sampling from the cardinalatial bouquet:

“So long, Papal ermine and fancy lace! Welcome, simple cassock, and hopefully, ordinary black shoes! St. Francis must be overjoyed!”

“Mass with Pope Francis: moving from HIGH Church to LOW and humble Church! What a blessing that we are encountering Jesus without trappings!”

Now, His Eminence — as his cathedral shows — has never had an aesthetic bone in his body, nor ought he to be charged with an appreciation for the true, the good, or the beautiful. But his implied criticism of Bene­dict XVI is of a piece with everything else about him. Thanks to the Cardinal Archbishop’s policies of cover-up, the Archdiocese of L.A. had to lay out $660 million in 2007, to be followed this year by another $10 million. This past January 31 his successor, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, released under court order personnel files revealing that in the late 1980s Mahony and his then-Vicar for Clergy (and later Auxiliary Bishop) Thomas Curry had engaged in a systematic cover-up of clerical molestation cases. They make for gruesome reading, and Archbishop Gomez’s reaction would doubtless be anyone’s:

I find these files to be brutal and painful reading…. We need to acknowledge that terrible failure today. We need to pray for everyone who has ever been hurt by members of the Church…. 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.

Now, since Mahony is also the Cardinal Priest of Santi Quattro Coronati, an ancient Roman basilica adjacent to the Colosseum, all this could really mean is that His Eminence can no longer perform confirmations here in SoCal (as the locals refer to it affectionately). But rather than accept the rebuke — mild as it was to him personally — he whined on his blog that he had been unprepared to deal with deviant priests, and shot back a rebuke to his successor: “Not once over these past years did you ever raise any questions about our policies, practices, or procedures in dealing with the problem of clergy sexual misconduct involving minors.” Those who tend toward the unkind might shoot back — given Gomez’s inability to affect anything until he took over in 2011, having come here from San Antonio, Texas — that the Cardinal was fortunate that he was succeeded in office by a gentleman, rather than someone cut from his own cloth.

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