The same media outlets that report with outrage Cardinal Bernard Law’s presence in Vatican City approach the equally disgraceful Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony with hushed attention. Among other staggering details of the abuse scandal under him is that Cardinal Mahony housed a pedophile priest in his own rectory, a move Law never even tried. Yet the mainstream media over the last few weeks have been treating Mahony as an unimpeachable source, using him as ecclesiastical cover for their now-rote liberal solutions to problems in the Church that he helped create.
Recall that Mahony, dipping into the faithful’s pockets, hired Sitrick and Company (a public relations firm Enron used) to help him spin his complicity in the scandal. Not fooled, former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating, who investigated the scandal until Mahony and other bishops blackballed him into resigning, likened Mahony’s conduct to “La Cosa Nostra.”
The con job goes on. Indeed, Mahony looked downright excited at the chance to reappear on the scene as a voice for “change.” Before the Pope had even died, Mahony rushed over to Rome on a first-class flight (it came out), so eager was he to wedge his finger into the Conclave pie as quickly as possible. Once in Vatican City, he immediately turned up on numerous talk shows to mourn a pope he never paid the slightest attention to on doctrinal matters. (Pope John Paul II would from time to time look over at Mahony and say “Hollywood,” not exactly a compliment, though Mahony tells the story as if it were.) At one televised mass last week I noticed Mahony checking his watch: Where did he have to go? What, had Hardball called?
What’s the difference between the fate of Cardinal Law and Cardinal Mahony? The Boston Globe. Mahony has Los Angeles Times religion reporter Larry Stammer in his pocket, as was revealed in 2002 by a leaked e-mail from the Los Angeles chancery in which Mahony promised a colleague that “Larry Stammer” would whip up a positive story for them (“he stands ready to help if we have a story we want to get out,” the e-mail said). Unlike Law who had serious reporters on his heels, Mahony has long benefited from the somnolent coverage of West Coast media liberals willing to excuse his protection of pedophiles in gratitude for his political and doctrinal liberalism.
On Monday TAS asked David Clohessy, executive director of the Survivor Network of Those Abused by Priests, if he has noticed the media’s coddling of Mahony. “You are right,” he said. “The word that comes to mind for me about Mahony is disingenuousness. He postures so shamelessly as a reformer.” Clohessy’s explanation for the media’s abetting of Mahony’s snow job: “He works harder at PR than most bishops. He’ll use any opportunity to look better.” And, says Clohessy, he’s more “liberal,” and the “press likes him for that reason.”
The Los Angeles Times, which is notorious for giving the Catholic Church unsolicited advice, all of which amounts to demanding that the Church ape the paper’s liberalism, has never called on it to sack Mahony, though it normally whines about unaccountable churchmen. Instead, the Times (with the exception of columnist Steve Lopez, who has a liberal axe to grind against the Church but is at least not blind to Mahony’s obvious scams) is helping Mahony position himself as a post-Conclave liberal reformer. Good old Larry Stammer was on the flight to Rome with Mahony, serving the cardinal once again as a stenographer.
“Mahony said there would be those, including him, who would call for changes in how the church is run,” reported Stammer. “For one thing, he favors discussion about allowing married priests in the Latin Rite of the church. For another, he believes that there will be a major push for a less centralized church that allows bishops more leeway in deciding local issues.”
The Los Angeles Times can at once criticize the Pope as a centralizer, then complain he didn’t centralize enough during the abuse scandal, then turn to a cardinal whose scandals were made possible by that decentralization to call through him for an even more “less centralized church.”
The media even as it huffs and puffs about Cardinal Law will provide a platform over the next few months to a liberal Los Angeles cardinal who populated his inner circle with pedophiles. The media will ask him his opinion on this or that phony issue, but it won’t ask him why he knowingly made a pedophile, Carl Sutphin, the associate pastor of his new cathedral; why he housed Sutphin in his old and new rectory; why he refused to turn in Michael Baker (a pedophile so disgusted with himself he begged Mahony to call the cops on him but Mahony refused) and even brought Baker into a circle that vacationed at Mahony’s Yosemite cabin.
No, this isn’t the accountability the media have in mind. For them the solution to problems created by liberal laxity in any institution is even more liberal laxity, and they’ll need to keep Mahony around to push it.