Cardinal Roger Mahony with Sens. Ted Kennedy and Harry Reid in 2006.

There was once a time when Catholic Cardinals in the US were champions of progressive causes, especially on immigration. One such icon was Los Angeles’ Cardinal Roger Mahony, who spent decades championing the rights of undocumented Latino immigrants in that city and across the US. In 2006, he campaigned with then Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts to try to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

But now, with startling revelations coming out of LA about Mahony’s attempts to protect known pedophile priests in his archdiocese while seemingly ignoring the victims, some are questioning his ability to fight for the undocumented. From the LA Times:

On a Sunday night at Dodger Stadium in 1986, Archbishop Roger M. Mahony celebrated Mass in flawless Spanish. In an era when immigrants in Los Angeles were routinely derided as parasites and criminals, the archbishop told the crowd of 55,000 that whether they were born in Puebla, San Salvador or Managua, they were part of his flock.

“The Catholic Church is your home and I am your pastor,” Mahony said.

But even as cheers of “Rogelio! Rogelio!” rained down from the upper decks, Mahony was covering up the sexual abuse of some of the most vulnerable in the church, including in his beloved Latino community, church records show.

The news from LA had been expected for quite some time, and there isn’t as much shock, sadly, as the details seem to mirror the evil brought to light in Boston just over a decade ago. The rage expressed then, rightly, at Boston’s Cardinal Bernard Law also seems absent in Mahony’s case. Is it because he retired in 2011 whereas Law still held his post as details were released via the Boston Globe? Or is the good will he cultivated with the Catholic Church’s fastest growing demographic, and liberals within the church, paying PR dividends?

Law is now over the age of 80 and thus ineligible to participate in the next papal conclave. Mahony, however, is just 76. Will Catholics demand that he remove himself from the process given these revelations? Will he be forgiven for past sins, or as the nation prepares for another contentious battle over immigration, has the cause lost one of its giants?

Categories: Institutions, Politics


Michael J. O'Loughlin

Michael J. O'Loughlin

Michael J. O’Loughlin writes about religion and politics from Washington, D.C., paying close attention to the role of the Catholic Church in public life. His writing has appeared in Religion & Politics, the Jesuit magazine America, on, and in Duke Divinity School’s Faith & Leadership.

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