Action Alert!

Cardinal Mahony dodges again

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Apr 23, 2012

It’s a coincidence, no doubt, that the Stockton diocese settled a sex-abuse case just before Cardinal Roger Mahony, the former Bishop of Stockton, was scheduled to testify.

Actually Cardinal Mahony wasn’t ready to take questions. He had left for Rome, ignoring his date with the court, and the plaintiff’s lawyer was threatening to have the cardinal held in contempt. That threat went by the boards when the case was settled.

Stockton’s Bishop Stephen Blaire says that it was “in the best interest of everybody” to reach the mutually agreeable deal, in which the diocese paid $3.75 million to a single plaintiff. The bishop hopes that no one will think the settlement is an indication that the diocese admits culpability. And certainly we can all understand that sometimes it’s better to avoid a protracted legal dispute. But $3.75 million—payable to one alleged victim—is an awfully steep price to pay for avoiding the aggravation of a trial, especially when you consider that the trial was already underway.

The diocese was in an awkward position, of course, because another key witness in the case—beside Cardinal Mahony, I mean—had gone missing. Father Michael Kelly, the priest whose alleged misconduct had triggered the lawsuit, had also skipped town, flying home to his native Ireland just before he was supposed to testify. Bishop Blaire said that he was shocked by the priest’s flight.

What might Cardinal Mahony have said, if he had testified in this case? We’ll never know. But it doesn’t take much imagination to guess what sort of questions the plaintiff’s lawyers would have asked. They would surely have questioned the cardinal closely about something that came out in a previous abuse case, back in 2004:

Two decades go when he was bishop of Stockton, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony ordered two priests accused of child molestation to leave the country, according to a transcript of a deposition he gave last month. [emphasis added]

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: a son of Mary - Jan. 18, 2019 6:11 PM ET USA

    Thanks Jeff for this beautiful news on March for Life Day. God is speaking to us through these actions. May he be praised forever and ever.

  • Posted by: aclune9083 - Apr. 25, 2012 10:24 AM ET USA

    Cardinal Mahoney may evade Caesar's justice, but when he stands before the Just Judge, there will be no place to hide. From those to whom much has been given, the more will be expected. Pray for Cardinal Mahoney and all those touched by these scandals.

  • Posted by: koinonia - Apr. 24, 2012 7:38 PM ET USA

    We may choose to learn something from all this or we may continue to wage a pitched battle against the alleged malicious anti-Catholic bias so pervasive in the media. The mettle of these prelates ("men"), however, has proven to be remarkably flimsy when the prosecutorial pressure begins to hit the proverbial fan. It is reassuring that the percentage of priests who have abused children is so neglible and that the Church's abuse rates are no different than that of other secular institutions.

  • Posted by: dfp3234574 - Apr. 24, 2012 10:46 AM ET USA

    Cardinal Mahony made mistakes, but I think he is getting a raw deal here. 1. Mahony left Stockton in 1985. Fr. Kelly's first complaint was in the early 2000s. 2. I don't think Mahony "ignored" his court date. I believe his date to appear was originally another time, and he had no obligation to keep an "open calendar" for a publicity stunt for a contingency lawyer. 3. Removing two priests and forcing them to their home country actually shows an aggressive posture for its time (c. 1980)!

  • Posted by: - Apr. 24, 2012 10:13 AM ET USA

    In what way are the victim and the repentant Church served by the flight of these priests? Since when did flight from responsibility become acceptable behavior for anyone, let alone the clergy? How can either of these men ever again perform their priestly duties when they have refused to personally address these accusations? Why has Mahony been received by the Vatican at all? I pray that those in authority in the Church prevail upon these men the seriousness of their duty to justice.

  • Posted by: John J Plick - Apr. 24, 2012 10:06 AM ET USA

    This whole article reeks of an obvious contempt for American civil authority. The bishops as a whole like to present themselves as "caring" and "involved" in the American socio-political structure, as having "resolved" the feuds of the Middle Ages with individualistic protestants..., when in reality they still embrace an attitude of aloof superiority. The bishop should still be held in contempt, irregardless of any settlement.

  • Posted by: bkmajer3729 - Apr. 23, 2012 9:31 PM ET USA

    Well, they all ran away but we shouldn't think that the Archdiocese is culpable in any way. Right!