Despite criticism, Cardinal Mahony will help select new pope
Cardinal Roger Mahony intends to help select a new pope in Rome despite calls from some critics that he withdraw from the process in the wake of revelations about his actions in the priest sex-abuse scandal.
The day Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation almost two weeks ago, Mahony wrote on his blog that he looked forward to participating in the conclave of cardinals in Rome to elect Benedict's successor.
That stance elicited some criticism given that last month the Los Angeles Archdiocese stripped Mahony, its former archbishop, of his public duties after it was revealed that he plotted to conceal child molestation by priests.
But Mahony indicated via Twitter on Friday that he still would be part of the sequestered papal selection process. He tweeted: "Just a few short hours before my departure for Rome. Will be tweeting often from Rome, except during the actual Conclave itself. Prayers!"
On Saturday, a group called Catholics United delivered a petition with nearly 10,000 signatures asking that Mahony not participate in the conclave because of the abuse scandals that happened under his watch, said Chris Pumpelly, spokesman for Catholics United.
The petition was delivered to St. Charles Borromeo in North Hollywood, where the cardinal resides. It was accepted by a church staff member.
Pumpelly said the conclave offers "an opportunity for healing in the church" and that having someone like Mahony, with his complicated history, runs counter to that.
"This is one thing that would cast a cloud of scandal and shame over the conclave," Pumpelly said of the participation of Mahony and others connected to priest abuse scandals.
Also Saturday, just before his planned departure for Rome, a "relatively unflappable" Mahony answered questions under oath for more than 3½ hours about his handling of abuse cases, according to the lawyer who questioned him.
“He remained calm and seemingly collected at all times,” said attorney Anthony De Marco, who represents a man suing the archdiocese over abuse he says he suffered at the hands of a priest who visited his parish in 1987.
Mahony has been deposed many times about abuse cases but Saturday’s session was the first time he has been asked about recently released church records that show he shielded abusers from law enforcement.
De Marco declined to detail the questions he asked or the answers the cardinal provided, citing a judge’s protective order.
Church officials did not respond to requests for comment.
The case, set for trial in April, concerns a Mexican priest, Nicholas Aguilar Rivera. Authorities believe he molested at least 26 children during a nine-month stay in Los Angeles.
The recently released church files show Aguilar Rivera fled to Mexico after a top Mahony aide, Thomas Curry, warned him that parents were likely to go the police and that he was in “a good deal of danger.” Aguilar Rivera remains a fugitive in Mexico.
The archdiocese had agreed Mahony could be questioned for four hours about Aguilar Rivera and 25 other priests accused in the same period. De Marco said he did not get to ask everything he wanted and would seek additional time after the cardinal returned from the Vatican.
Past depositions of Mahony have eventually become public, and De Marco said he would follow court procedures to seek the release of a transcript of Saturday’s deposition.
-- Rick Rojas and Harriet RyanPhoto: Cardinal Roger Mahony. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times