Catholic Culture Liturgical Living
Catholic Culture Liturgical Living

Why Cardinal Mahony should have resigned 10 years ago

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Jan 23, 2013

In 2002, when Pope John Paul II called the leaders of the US bishops’ conference to Rome for a discussion of the sex-abuse crisis, one cardinal, speaking to the Los Angeles Times under cover of anonymity, said that the prelates would push for the resignation of Boston’s Cardinal Bernard Law.

Cardinal Law was in trouble, of course, because of the revelations that he had covered up evidence of sexual abuse by priests, and shuffled abusive priests from one parish to another without informing parishioners.

The anonymous prelate who called for Law’s scalp was never identified, but most informed observers believe that it was Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles.

That was back in 2002. Now, after a decade of legal resistance, the Los Angeles archdiocese has released files that show how Cardinal Mahony had handled sex-abuse complaints: roughly the same way Cardinal Law did. Thanks to the dogged efforts of lawyers for the LA archdiocese, this evidence became public only after Cardinal Mahony’s retirement. But if it was indeed Cardinal Mahony who wanted Cardinal Law to step down in 2002, it seems quite clear that he should have followed his own advice.

To tell the truth, the evidence that has emerged this week only confirms what you already knew, if you've read my book, The Faithful Departed. (See pp. 242-246 for a comparison of the Law and Mahony cases.) More to the point, what we all know now, Cardinal Mahony himself knew in 2002.

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: jg23753479 - Jan. 29, 2013 7:27 PM ET USA

    And while the pope is demanding Mahony's red hat, how about Law's? He's just down the street from where the pope lives.

  • Posted by: koinonia - Jan. 24, 2013 8:06 AM ET USA

    Gov. Keating in resignation to USCCB: "My remarks, which some bishops found offensive, were deadly accurate. I make no apology. To resist grand jury subpoenas, to suppress the names of offending clerics, to deny, to obfuscate, to explain away; that is the model of a criminal organization, not my church. The humiliation, the horrors of the sex scandal must be a poisonous aberration, a black page in our history that cannot ever recur. It has been disastrous to the Church in America." Amen.

  • Posted by: opraem - Jan. 24, 2013 3:06 AM ET USA

    cardinal mahony still holds his vatican posts. the pope should ask for his red hat back.

  • Posted by: Defender - Jan. 23, 2013 5:59 PM ET USA

    Don't forget his co-conspirator, Auxiliary Bishop Curry who was the vicar of priests for the archdiocese. The cardinal retires and the monsignor becomes a bishop (no wonder, too, that the bishop's conference took 10 years to study Catholic colleges and nothing happened! And the schools are still a mess). If all this had happened to almost anyone else, they'd both be in jail.