The drip-drip of scandal continues in Roger Mahony’s archdiocese. Will the dam soon break over the Cardinal Law of California? Mahony’s survive-through-spinning strategy clearly isn’t working. Take a look at Thursday’s Los Angeles Times. Above the fold on the front page, the Times headline reads, “Mahony Resisted Abuse Inquiry, Panelist Says.” Inside the front section, the Times reports that “prosecutors consider whether to charge church officials with conspiracy.”
Mahony is not just stonewalling prosecutors; he is even stonewalling the American bishops’ abuse panel. The head of it, former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating, tells the Times that certain bishops have behaved “like La Cosa Nostra.” Keating didn’t name these bishops, but one can reasonably assume that Mahony makes his list. After all, in the same interview Keating told the Times that Mahony’s resistance to his inquiries has been “stunning, startling.”
“I think there are a number of bishops — and I put Cardinal Mahony in that category — who listen too much to his lawyer and not enough to his heart,” said Keating. “To act like La Cosa Nostra and hide and suppress, I think, is very unhealthy….Eventually it will all come out.”
Tod Tamberg, Mahony’s artless spokesman, dismissed Keating’s criticism as “extra zeal.” Keating, said Tamberg, is “not an authority on California law or the pastoral concerns of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.”
One of those pristine pastoral concerns was to short-circuit Keating’s survey seeking a definitive number of American priests accused of abuse. Even as he twirled before the cameras as a “reformer,” Mahony was quietly telling his brother bishops not to cooperate with the survey, lest it provide more fodder for the media and the courts.
“In April, Mahony wrote to all U.S. cardinals and major archbishops calling for the review board to terminate its contract with the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, which the panel had hired to conduct the study,” reports the Times. “In May, California’s bishops followed Mahony’s lead and passed a resolution — previously unpublicized — declaring that they would not participate in the survey.”
His gambit foiled, Mahony says that he will now cooperate with the survey.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles prosecutors are waiting for a judge’s ruling on Mahony’s refusal to turn over to them 2,000 pages of “church communications that lawyers for Mahony insist must remain secret under the Constitution,” reports the Times.
“When we’ve finished charging all the priests, we will take the steps necessary regarding hierarchy,” Los Angeles prosecutor William Hodgman said to the Times. “We will go wherever the evidence takes us.”
The Times reports that “prosecutors are considering whether there is sufficient evidence to charge officials in the church hierarchy with conspiracy to commit felony child endangerment or to obstruct justice,” and Hodgman “is not considering a deal like that struck in Arizona, where prosecutors agreed not to charge Bishop Thomas O’Brien in exchange for his appointment of three outsiders to handle allegations that priests had abused minors.”
How many prosecutions and pay-outs — the Los Angeles archdiocese is in settlement negotiations with lawyers over “400 claims against 120 defendants,” reports the Times — will have to dribble out before Mahony resigns? When will “pastoral concerns” extend to the bewildered flock before failed pastors?
When the bishops’ own watchdog is likening Mahony’s conduct to “La Cosa Nostra,” it is not unreasonable for the faithful to ask that this sham reformer be put out to pasture.
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