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Catholic Culture Dedication
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Cardinal Mahony: ‘nothing in my own background’ prepared me to deal with abuse of minors

February 04, 2013

A day after Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles announced that he had relieved his predecessor, Cardinal Roger Mahony, of all administrative and public duties, Cardinal Mahony described how he “responded to the evolving scandal of clergy sexual misconduct, especially involving minors.”

“Nothing in my own background or education equipped me to deal with this grave problem,” he said in his open letter to Archbishop Gomez. “In two years [1962—1964] spent in graduate school earning a Master’s Degree in Social Work, no textbook and no lecture ever referred to the sexual abuse of children. While there was some information dealing with child neglect, sexual abuse was never discussed.”

In the late 1980s, “all the advice was to remove priests from active ministry if there was reasonable suspicion that abuse had occurred, and then refer them to one of the several residential treatment centers across the country for evaluation and recommendation,” said Cardinal Mahony, who added that he consulted with Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago, Cardinal John O’Connor of New York, and Bishop Adam Maida, then of Green Bay but later the cardinal archbishop of Detroit. “This procedure was standard across the country for all Arch/Dioceses, for School Districts, for other Churches, and for all Youth Organizations that dealt with minors. We were never told that, in fact, following these procedures was not effective, and that perpetrators were incapable of being treated in such a way that they could safely pursue priestly ministry.”

Cardinal Mahony added:

When you were formally received as our Archbishop on May 26, 2010, you began to become aware of all that had been done here over the years for the protection of children and youth. You became our official Archbishop on March 1, 2011 and you were personally involved with the Compliance Audit of 2012—again, in which we were deemed to be in full compliance.

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.

I have stated time and time again that I made mistakes, especially in the mid-1980s. I apologized for those mistakes, and committed myself to make certain that the Archdiocese was safe for everyone.

Unfortunately, I cannot return now to the 1980s and reverse actions and decisions made then. But when I retired as the active Archbishop, I handed over to you an Archdiocese that was second to none in protecting children and youth.

Archbishop Gomez also announced that Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Curry, at one time Cardinal Mahony’s vicar for clergy, had resigned from his duties as a regional auxiliary bishop. Bishop Curry told the Los Angeles Times that “I do believe that it is a mistake for society to treat this as a 'Catholic Church' problem” rather than as a “society-wide issue.”

“I acted after consultation and consent of the Archbishop [Mahony],” Bishop Curry added. Today, he said he would “be sure to ascertain that the matter had been reported to the secular authorities.”

Archbishop Gomez clarified that both Cardinal Mahony and Bishop Curry are able to celebrate the sacraments.

“Cardinal Mahony, as Archbishop Emeritus, and Bishop Curry, as Auxiliary Bishop, remain bishops in good standing in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, with full rights to celebrate the Holy Sacraments of the Church and to minister to the faithful without restriction,” he said in a brief statement.


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  • Posted by: - Feb. 04, 2013 9:57 PM ET USA

    Anyone in his 70s was prepared by the Baltimore Catechism to know that sexual sins are mortal sins. He had to know. Yet he hung on to evil priests and let them spread their poison.

  • Posted by: Gentillylace - Feb. 04, 2013 9:34 PM ET USA

    As a parishioner in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, I'm deeply disappointed with Cdl. Mahony. Perhaps the Pope shouldn't allow Cdl. Mahony to minister to the faithful any longer. Perhaps Cdl. Mahony (& other bishops who covered up such crimes) should be sent to a monastery to think about his sins & only say Mass in private. Priests are priests forever & Cdl. Mahony shouldn't be laicized for his sins--but perhaps he shouldn't ever minister publicly. The world would like the Church's seriousness.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 04, 2013 9:25 PM ET USA

    Incredible demonstration of chutzpah by Mahony. If he had any contriteness or decency, he would quietly retire to a monastery in New Zealand. Can it really be said, Cornelius, that the Church, with 2000 years experience with sin and recidivism, was ambushed by some sort of newfound "therapeutic mentality" ?

  • Posted by: mikezart6808 - Feb. 04, 2013 8:20 PM ET USA

    I am amazed at the arrogance and lack of humility concerning Cardinal Mahony's comments concerning his culpability concerning the homosexual scandal of priests. He claims that his Master’s Degree in Social Work did not prepare him. What about his DD degree (Doctor of Divinity) Sin is sin! Homosexuality in our culture and in our church is just beginning to rear its ugly head. Help us & our priests Jesus!

  • Posted by: seewig - Feb. 04, 2013 7:08 PM ET USA

    There may have been nothing specific that would have been preparing him to deal with homosexuals among his Catholic priest brethren. Maybe. But no leader can ever use this line, if he was a true leader. It sound like an excuse. Why? Because his moral education should have rung an alarm bell, > Homosexuality. Which is a "disordered" self-inflicted condition. True,science bailed its duty to study homosexalty. Only the political arm of the gay lobby exists now. So, Crdl Mahony: You have no excuse

  • Posted by: michaelwilmes - Feb. 04, 2013 4:30 PM ET USA

    You are correct Cornelius, regarding the incorrect assertion of the day that counseling would either cure or fix the problem. That however, is NOT what Mahoney is guilty of. He was all too helpful in throwing Cdl. Law under the bus for his transgressions, while hiding the skeletons in his own closet. I have no respect for Mahoney because he played a shell game with the authorities, while dragging his archdiocese through a cesspool of dissent and immorality. He knew EXACTLY what he was doing.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 04, 2013 2:39 PM ET USA

    But the Cardinal accurately captures the therapeutic mentality of the time. The deep recidivism of child/youth molesters was not fully grasped at that time. It was thought that this sinful propensity could be eradicated by mental health professionals. The Cardinal's failure was not so much in this as it was in his attempts to shield molesters from justice. At least I think so. Maybe I'm wrong.

  • Posted by: michaelwilmes - Feb. 04, 2013 1:35 PM ET USA

    Frodo, you took the words right out of my mouth! While Mahoney can attempt to hide behind the "I didn't have enough training" curtain; it cannot be said that he didn't receive training on harassing elderly prioresses of monasteries in Alabama. The wheels of justice do indeed grind exceeding small.

  • Posted by: Frodo1945 - Feb. 04, 2013 12:29 PM ET USA

    Sorry cardinal Mahony, it does not take a class in theology or psychology to know that sexual abuse of a minor is wrong. And when a priest does it twice, that should be strong hint that it will repeat. To claim that you were unprepared to deal with sin is a very telling statement about who you are.

  • Posted by: koinonia - Feb. 04, 2013 7:06 AM ET USA

    Perhaps his priestly formation was lacking. "Our Lord commands you to love His sheep, to love Him first, and then all the souls belonging to Him. There is no exception. There is no limit. All those for whom He gave His Blood. He died for all, for all souls, and He asks you to embrace that concern...You bear the priestly character, the mark of the priest, and all men, secretly in their souls, know that you are a priest for them all." -Fellay. Thus we suffer these scandals more acutely.