Steve Lopez: How can Mahony still be a priest ‘in good standing’?

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Just when you think things can’t get much worse for Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, along comes a stunning rebuke from his successor, Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez.

“I find these files to be brutal and painful reading,” Gomez said of the molestation files Mahony tried desperately to keep out of the hands of police, even as known pedophiles claimed more victims. “The behavior described in these files is terribly sad and evil.”


So far, so good. But in The Times story on the decision by Gomez to distance the Archdiocese from Mahony, church spokesman and Mahony loyalist Tod Tamberg said the cardinal’s life would be largely unchanged and that he would remain “a priest in good standing.”

Excuse me?

How could he still be in good standing?

[Updated at 12:11 p.m.: And why did it take until Thursday for the archdiocese to crack down on Mahony and announce that Santa Barbara Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Curry, Mahony’s go-to man in the 1980s on molestation, has stepped down? The church has known for years what Mahony and Curry’s roles were in the scandal, and Gomez has been at the helm since 2011.]

In the files released Thursday, Curry sent Mahony a 1988 memo about a priest accused of molesting 20 altar boys in nine months.

“The whole issue of our records is a very sensitive one, and I am reluctant to give any list to the police,” wrote Curry.

And Mahony responded:

“We cannot give such a list for no cause whatsoever.”

Certainly not. Why act in the interest of the victims, or in the interest of preventing more crimes?

I’ve sent a message to Tamberg asking him to explain how Mahony’s actions as head of the church could be so reprehensible that he’s shoved aside, yet he remains in good standing. I’ll let you know what he has to say, if anything.

With Mahony, even as more evidence of his misdeeds emerges, the chance of prosecution remains slim because of the lapsed statute of limitations.

You have to wonder, though, if there is a worse sentence for Mahony than to be kicked aside like this, his legacy tainted, his ambitions grounded, his good deeds forever in the dark shadows of his grotesque misdeeds.


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-- Steve Lopez

Photo: Protesters hold quilts bearing portraits of young abuse victims outside the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles on Friday. Credit: Frederic J. Brown / AFP Photo