Despite previously being forced to step down as Archbishop of Los Angeles for allegedly covering up sex abuse by Catholic priests, Cardinal Roger Mahony is headed to the Vatican to select the next pope. Mahony noted on his Twitter that he will be tweeting from Rome and asked for “prayers” from his followers.
Mahony, who served as archbishop of the largest diocese in the country from 1985 to 2011, has been dogged by scandal for the better part of the last decade. His successor, Archbishop Jose Gomez, relieved him of all “administrative or public duties” in January of 2013 following the release of internal church records that suggest Mahony went to great lengths to cover up sexual abuse within his archdiocese.
The documents–totaling over 12,000 pages–were released by court order, despite the pleas of the church. The documents’ findings include the revelation that Mahony and other Catholic authorities sent priests accused of abuse to other parishes and even out of the country in order to avoid investigations and prosecution. In at least one instance, according to the documents, Mahony interfered with a police investigation by advising subordinates not to grant law enforcement a list of altar boys. Gomez noted that he found the files to be “brutal and painful reading,” and “the behavior described in these files is terribly sad and evil.”
The Hollywood native still enjoys some popularity because of his advocacy for progressive policies toward illegal immigrants and immigration reform.
Mahony is allowed to leave the country on the condition that he is deposed for a lawsuit that claims the church protected a priest accused of molesting children. Several Catholic publications and groups have expressed outrage that Mahony plans to participate in the conclave at the end of the month. Yet, as of now, Mahony fits all the necessary qualifications to choose the next pope, and his vote is one of only 117.
Similarly, before the 2005 papal conclave, which culminated in the election of Joseph Ratzinger, controversy swirled around the participation of Cardinal Bernard Law. Law had resigned as archbishop of Boston after sixty-five boston parishes were shuttered due to serial sexual abuse by priests. Law participated in the conclave anyway.
As Mahony heads to the Vatican, he brings the air of scandal with him. His insistence on participating in the papal conclave inspired the New York Times to published the headline “Scandals and Intrigue Heat Up at Vatican Ahead of Papal Conclave” earlier Saturday. Scandals and intrigue have undermined the Catholic church for years, and so long as disgraced clergy are allowed to retain so much power, Catholics will only have themselves to blame.