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Despite criticism, Mahony should help select pope, says cardinal

February 25, 2013 |  2:14 pm

Cardinal Roger Mahony, shown in 2010, should be allowed to help select the pope Cardinal William Levada said Monday. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times

A top U.S. cardinal on Monday said Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony should help select a new pope despite new revelations about his handling of priest abuse cases.

Cardinal William Levada spoke about Mahony and the historic events at the Vatican during a talk at a Menlo Park seminary, according to the Associated Press. Levada is a former cardinal of San Francisco who also served as the pope's prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Critics have slammed Mahony for going to Rome after church files released last month showed he worked to prevent law enforcement officials from investigating priests who molested children. Mahony has apologized for his actions in the 1980s but said it was his duty to select a new pope.

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On Saturday, a Catholic organization delivered a petition with thousands of signatures asking that Mahony recuse himself from the conclave in Rome.

The group, Catholics United, collected nearly 10,000 signatures supporting making "a simple request" that the former archbishop of Los Angeles not participate in the process because of the priest abuse scandals that happened under his watch, said Chris Pumpelly, communications director for Catholics United.

The petition was delivered Saturday to St. Charles Borromeo in North Hollywood, where the cardinal resides. It was accepted by a church staff member.

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After delivering the petition, organizers attended Mass at the parish to pray for healing and for the future of the church.

Mahony wrote about his trip to the Vatican on Twitter and in blog posts.

"Anyone interested in loving your enemies, or doing good to those who persecute you? See my blog for today. Wow, Jesus is demanding," Mahony posted on Twitter Monday.

He expanded on the theme in a blog post.

"I can't recall a time such as now when people tend to be so judgmental and even self-righteous, so quick to accuse, judge and condemn," Mahony wrote on his personal blog. "And often with scant real facts and information.  Because of news broadcasts now 24/7 there is little or no fact checking; no in-depth analysis; no context or history given. Rather, everything gets reported as 'news' regardless of the basis for the item being reported — and passed on by countless other news outlets."

He concluded: "Jesus' message of love and forgiveness has flooded the world over the centuries, and this message has had the power to change hearts and minds.  May his challenge this Lent inspire us to do as he asks."

On Saturday, Mahony answered questions under oath for more than 3½ hours about his handling of clergy sex abuse cases, according to the lawyer who questioned the former archbishop.

"He remained calm and seemingly collected at all times," said attorney Anthony De Marco, who represents a man suing the Los Angeles Archdiocese over abuse he alleges he suffered at the hands of a priest who visited his parish in 1987.

Mahony has been deposed many times in the past, but Saturday's session was the first time he had been asked about recently released internal 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.

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.

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.


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Photo: Cardinal Roger Mahony, shown in 2010, should be allowed to help select the pope Cardinal William Levada said Monday. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times