The sex abuse scandal is lapping awfully close to the feet of Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony. The Los Angeles Times reported Monday that an accused molester of four boys lived in Mahony’s residence at St. Vibiana’s cathedral and that Mahony recently assigned the molester to serve at his new cathedral in downtown Los Angeles as an associate pastor. For how long had Mahony known his housemate and would-be associate pastor was a molester? For at least a decade.
“It was one of those cases where I felt he had followed the treatment successfully, honestly, and was rehabilitated to the extent anyone can be rehabilitated,” said Mahony, who just days ago was posturing about his “zero-tolerance” for “past, present and future” abusers and boasting of his early awareness of the problem. “I feel very good about what we’ve been doing over the years,” he said.
That Mahony brought a molester into his residence and then tapped him to be the associate pastor at his new cathedral reveals his recent comments as an almost unbelievable sham. What a fitting image of the American bishops’ complicity in the scandal: a priest-molester who should have been behind bars was instead sleeping comfortably behind the walls of the cardinal’s home.
Mahony is a fraud, says the lawyer for the victims’ family, Jeffrey R. Anderson: “Cardinal Mahony talks about zero tolerance for priests who abuse now. Well, where was zero tolerance when this mother went to the Church? For years he did nothing.” Anderson on Monday brought two suits against Mahony under federal racketeering laws for the cardinal’s alleged “protection of pedophile priests.”
Mahony told the Times that Fr. Carl Sutphin did not pose a threat to anyone because he was living with him. “He was probably in the safest supervised situation,” Mahony said. “In some ways you couldn’t have a safer place.”
Sound familiar? Father Thomas Smolich, the head of the California Province of Jesuits, also subscribes to the have-the-molester-live-with-me school of oversight. Fr. Tony Mariano, a registered sex offender, lives at Smolich’s “residence near Santa Clara University,” the Los Angeles Times reported last month. Mariano had been nabbed for a sex offense after he “arranged to meet two teenagers by posing as a 25-year-old woman on an Internet chat room. He wore lipstick and rouge when he met the boys.”
And who can forget the rehabilitation regime Patrick Ziemann, a former Los Angeles auxiliary bishop under Mahony, had in mind for Fr. Jorge Hume, an accused embezzler and abuser? As bishop of Santa Rosa, Ziemann told the police not to prosecute Hume because he had him under close supervision. It turned out that Ziemann was having an affair with Hume.
The explanation for Mahony’s refusal to name the priest-molesters he hastily dumped in the wake of the Boston scandal is coming into clearer focus. Mahony said he was withholding information about cases involving accused molesters retired or released so as not to embarrass or inconvenience their victims. But the truth is that he didn’t want to embarrass or inconvenience himself. He knew that reporters would see Sutphin’s name on the list and say, “Didn’t he live at your residence? Didn’t you assign him to be the associate pastor at your new cathedral?”
But the lid has popped off. So now Mahony is speaking out of both sides of his mouth about his “pain” for the victims and his pain for the victimizers. “I felt badly for all of [the priests forced to retire early], but particularly for him, because if this had been a few months from now, he would have been gone anyway,” Mahony said to the Times. Mahony praised Sutphin for being “very good” with the homeless.
John Durham, a member of the Stockton jury that found Mahony negligent in reassigning a molester, told the New Times, an alternative L.A. weekly, that he “found Mahony to be utterly unbelievable.”
But Mahony is certain that he can salvage his credibility through spin, spin, spin. “Two weeks ago he went to a major public relations firm, Weber Shandwick, to craft the message that would serve him in the weeks ahead,” reported the Times.
The flacks at Weber Shandwick have their work cut out for them. They may find it hard to protect the image of an apostolic successor whose idea of “zero tolerance” toward molesters is to bring them into his house.
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