Cardinal Roger Mahony, the retired archbishop of Los Angeles, is notorious for his role in the Church’s abuse scandal. In 2013, he was “removed from all public duties by his successor, Archbishop José H. Gomez, as the church complied with a court order to release thousands of pages of internal documents that show how the cardinal shielded priests who sexually abused children,” reported the New York Times. “The documents, released as part of a record $660 million settlement in 2007 with the victims of abuse, are the strongest evidence so far that top officials for years purposely tried to conceal abuse from law enforcement officials.”
Before the abuse scandal erupted, Mahony had been known for his loud lectures on “social justice,” which he equated with the agenda of the Democratic Party. But even many liberals stopped listening to them after his protection of abusive priests came to light.
A patron of Democrats like Xavier Becerra, now Biden’s Health and Human Services secretary, Mahony once found himself in the middle of a scandalous controversy over a pardon Bill Clinton had granted to the cocaine dealer Carlos Vignali. Mahony had written a letter on Vignali’s behalf urging Clinton to pardon him, but it turned out that Mahony didn’t even know Vignali. In a rare apology, Mahony said that he wrote the letter at the direction of ”leaders of our community whom I greatly respect, including Sheriff Lee Baca, Congressman Xavier Becerra, and Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa.” He added, ”I made a serious mistake in writing to the president, and I broke my decades-long practice of never sending a letter on behalf of any person whom I did not know personally.”
Mahony has clearly not gone into the quiet retirement that his successor envisioned for him. Last week, Mahony resurfaced, blasting the bishops (who are led by Gomez, the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) for even considering a rebuke of Joe Biden and other Catholic politicians who defy Church teaching. In a recent interview, Mahony excused these defiant politicians.
“First of all, we are a democratic republic. Our country’s path is one of separation of church and state,” he said. “And so, it’s a very difficult position for politicians, Catholics, who are pressured by some in the Church to make all of the decisions based on Catholic Church doctrine. That is very difficult, it’s almost impossible. If you would want to say that any elected Catholic, or any Catholic judge who at any time has ever voted for or issued a decree or a judgment in any way whatsoever that somehow allowed abortion in some form or another, you have got maybe hundreds of thousands of people right there. That is simply unworkable in a democratic republic.”
The bishops, he said, should recognize the “good faith of our Catholic legislators.” Referring to a letter written earlier this year by pro-abortion Catholic Democrats, Mahony gushed, “And I was thrilled on June 18th, 60 Catholic Members of Congress, issued a statement of principles. I read it through two to three times, and I said, ‘This is us! This is the Church!’”
In that letter, the Democrats in effect declared their autonomy from Catholic teaching while reserving the right to dictate sacramental requirements to the Church. Rep. Ted Lieu, who signed the letter, tweeted at the bishops, “Next time I go to Church, I dare you to deny me Communion.”
It turns out that these Democrats, not to mention Mahony himself, have been pushing on an open door. At their fall meeting last week in Baltimore, the bishops studiously avoided the topic of this political class of pro-abortion Catholic politicians. Even the National Catholic Reporter, the flagship publication for doctrinal progressives, described the bishops’ final document on the Eucharist as “tepid.” The publication reported that after “more than a year of intense debate on a controversial document originally intended to target pro-choice Catholic politicians like President Joe Biden, the U.S. bishops on Nov. 17 instead approved a milquetoast text summarizing Catholic teaching on Communion.”
So Mahony got his wish. The fecklessness that he favors — a policy of inaction that exempts bad Catholic politicians from canon law — remains in place. In the 1980s, the bishops could have crushed this serpent in its shell. But Mahony and other liberal prelates ran interference for the Mario Cuomos, saying that the Church should “dialogue” with them. (READ MORE: The Church Can’t Get Past McCarrick)
Even after decades of defiance from these politicians, Mahony and company still rely on that tired rhetoric, as if the root of the scandal is a lack of dialogue rather than disobedience. And what would even be the point of that dialogue given Mahony’s sympathy for the Democrats’ view of the separation of church and state? He implied in his recent comments that Catholic politicians aren’t obligated to follow Church teaching on the natural moral law in the secular sphere. After all these years, Mahony is still running a protection racket, except this time it covers Joe Biden.
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