The following comes from a Dec. 1 story which appeared in the Los Angeles Times.
A year after arriving in Los Angeles, the youngest archbishop in the U.S. Catholic Church had a schedule and an agenda befitting a presidential candidate.
Roger Mahony raced around the city in a chauffeured sedan, exhorting labor leaders to support immigrant rights and rallying hundreds against a proposed prison in Boyle Heights.
Where his predecessors had talked up praying the rosary, Mahony touted his positions on nuclear disarmament and Middle East peace, porn on cable TV and AIDS prevention. No issue seemed outside his purview: When an earthquake struck El Salvador, he cut a $100,000 check. When a 7-year-old went missing in South Pasadena, he wrote her Protestant parents a consoling letter.
Reporters took notes and the influential took heed. The mayor, the governor, business executives and millionaires recognized a rising star and sought his company.
Among the thousands of papers that crossed his desk in September 1986 was a handwritten letter.
“During priests’ retreat … you provided us with an invitation to talk to you about a shadow that some of us might have,” Father Michael Baker wrote. “I would like to take you up on that invitation.”
The note would come to define Mahony’s legacy more than any public stance he took or powerful friend he made.
In the child sex abuse scandal that has shaken the Catholic Church, Mahony is a singular figure.
He became the leader of America’s largest archdiocese at the very moment the church was being forced to confront clergy molestation. Because he was just 49 when he took office, he was in power for the entire arc of the abuse crisis. Long after peers had retired or died, Mahony was around to face the public’s wrath. Because of the unique way abuse lawsuits played out in California, his files on molesters became public while in most other corners of the church, they remain under lock and key.
The archdiocese’s confidential personnel files, released this year as part of a massive settlement of civil lawsuits, provide the most detailed accounting yet of how clergy abuse was handled in a U.S. diocese. Along with sworn testimony by Mahony and his advisors and interviews with church officials, victims’ families and others, the nearly 23,000 pages maintained by the archdiocese and various religious orders suggest a man who was troubled over abuse but more worried about scandal — and how it might derail the agenda he had for himself and his church….
On a winter evening in 2008, Mahony welcomed a group of parishioners from La Cañada Flintridge into a conference room at the cathedral.
He had settled the bulk of the abuse litigation for $720 million, far greater than any previous settlements in the U.S. Catholic Church and far more than the archdiocese could afford. Mahony was now forced to beg wealthy parishes for contributions.
St. Bede’s had more than $100,000 to spare. He showed the parishioners accountants’ reports, charts and timelines, two people who attended the meeting said in interviews. He told them how an East L.A. parish had held a tamale sale and brought him a check for a couple hundred dollars.
What about Michael Baker? a man interrupted.
A lot of us come from business backgrounds, a woman further down the table said, and you are a CEO who just paid out a three-quarter-billion-dollar settlement. We think you should resign.
Don’t you think I want to retire? Mahony said, his voice rising. I could be at my cabin in the Sierra. I’m staying because I’m the best person to fix this.
It’s about accountability, another woman said.
Mahony slammed his hand on the table, scattering his charts. You self-righteous… he began. Keep your money, he told them….
To read the entire story, click here.