In an article last week in TAP, I described Los Angeles Times religion reporter Larry Stammer as a lapdog to Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony. If anyone doubts this description, they should read Mahony's recently-leaked e-mail correspondence. Mahony writes in one e-mail that Stammer "stands ready to help if we have a story we want to get out."
Mahony expressed his joy that last week's interview with the Los Angeles Times -- which the cardinal initiated with a call to Stammer - "did not turn out as negative as I feared."
He added, "They were able to get in some positive things for a change. As always, they got a few factual things wrong or inaccurate. But now I am freed from the accusation that I am hiding from the press and unwilling to discuss these issues publicly."
"Larry Stammer said that a lot of good has been done with the press and media by doing the interview," Mahony continued. "Larry is going to do a story on our Seminaries soon -- that will be helpful."
So is the Los Angeles Times going to take Stammer off the Mahony beat now that his coziness with the cardinal is exposed? Don't hold your breath. Stammer is a liberal with all the right biases, so his beat looks secure.
But if the Los Angeles Times worried about its objectivity and credibility, it would replace Stammer with a hard-nosed reporter who didn't stand "ready to help if we have a story we want to get out." That Mahony says Larry Stammer "will be helpful" with an upcoming "story on our Seminaries" is outrageous, given that those very seminaries pumped molesters into the church.
Has it occurred to any of the editors at the Los Angeles Times to do a full-blown investigative piece on the recent history of St. John's seminary, the Mahony-run factory of libertine Catholicism in Camarillo? Does it pique any of the editors' interest at the Times that the seminary was named as a site of sex abuse in a recent lawsuit (or that some of its more famous graduates, such as Patrick Ziemann, an auxiliary bishop under Mahony and later a bishop in Santa Rosa, got caught out in sex scandals)?
The recent abuse charge against Mahony may actually help the cardinal gut the scandal out. If the Fresno woman's charge is false (at present it is irresponsibly sketchy), Mahony will receive many pity points from friends in the press. These will come in handy on other matters where his guilt is clear, such as keeping molesters on the archdiocesan payroll when they should have been behind bars.
Expect Mahony's "martyrdom" to be used as a form of absolution over his scandalous administration. (A brief glimpse of this script appeared in Larry Stammer's Sunday article: "If Mahony is eventually cleared, the church would be able to claim some vindication at a time when it faces what many believe is its greatest crisis in modern times.")
But one crackpot allegation should not derail discussion of the many real ones. There is no credible evidence that Mahony is an abuser. But there is plenty of evidence that he protected abusers, only cutting them loose after he saw the press and police closing in.
Mahony's e-mail to his nun-attorney is a gem of Watergate-style dissembling:
"As the drum beats continue from every side for us to release the 'names,' I must still point to what I consider our greatest tactical mistake of the past few weeks.
"If I recall, of the 8 priests involved, 5 had already been reported to local law enforcement agencies. That leaves 3.
"Recall also that I pressed for you to meet with Det. Barraclough and 'consult' him about the other 3 so that we could state without hesitation that all priests no longer in service had been reported to various law enforcement agencies.
"You resisted quite strongly that suggestion.
"I hope you have changed your mind by now! By doing it back then, we would not appear to be crumbling under public pressure. It was a huge mistake on our part."
Notice what constitutes a "mistake" here for the cardinal: It is not that the archdiocese failed to report these molesters at the time the molestation occurred, but that it failed to report them before the local press woke up to the scandal.
Winning the PR "battle" and not getting "hauled into a Grand Jury proceeding" are his chief concerns in the e-mails. The Clintonian cardinal just wants to make sure the sepulcher is white -- never mind the corpses rotting within it.
Los Angeles Catholics, meanwhile, wonder what it would take to get the Vatican's attention. Exactly how much scandal and confusion would Cardinal Mahony need to generate before the Vatican asked for his resignation?
Were Mahony the head of a business, he would have had to resign a long time ago. But somehow the standards of accountability are lower for the heads of a divine institution in the business of saving souls.