Mahony Sees Church as 'Voice' for Rights

Times Religion Writer

Archbishop Roger M. Mahony, the newly appointed leader for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, said Wednesday that he favors involving women "in new, creative and decision-making ways," short of priestly ordination, and aiding illegal aliens, short of formal entry into the church sanctuary movement.

Addressing his first news conference in Los Angeles, Mahony said the church "is a voice for those whose rights are in any way infringed upon or need to be developed."

Mahony, who at 49 becomes the youngest of three dozen archbishops in the U.S. Catholic Church, was appointed by Pope John Paul II on Tuesday to succeed Cardinal Timothy Manning, who reached the mandatory retirement age of 75 last fall.

A Los Angeles native who grew up in North Hollywood, Mahony praised Manning on Wednesday as a "truly holy archbishop," a "man of prayer" who sparked widespread spiritual renewal efforts among the 2.5 million Catholics in Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties in the last 15 years.

Manning, who also participated in the news conference, lauded Mahony's qualities and said the largest American archdiocese "is ripe for new leadership . . . to have its voice heard in all the issues facing the church today."

Although Mahony has been described as an activist who often takes liberal positions on social issues, the slender, 6-foot, 2-inch prelate shied away from labels that he said are not helpful. He said instead that his positions on peace and justice result from being "faithful to Jesus Christ and the tradition of the church."

When asked about plans for Los Angeles, Mahony said he would need consultations first and could only refer to his policies in the Stockton diocese.

Mahony recently appointed a nun, Dominican Sister Lorraine Pagendarm, to be his chancellor, an administrative and liaison post usually held by a priest of monsignor rank. Pagendarm is one of six women recently named chancellors in U.S. dioceses, three of them in Northern California.

"My own chancellor was able to bring a woman's point of view into discussions without jumping up and down and saying, 'Oh, no, we've got to look at the woman's point of view,' " he said.

Ordination of women as priests, however, is something "which the Holy Father has said is not to be, and I support the Holy Father's position. What happens 100 or 200 years from now, I have no comment on," he said, adding that as a faithful member of the church, he does not have "private opinions" different from those of the church.

Asked about the sanctuary movement, in which some churches and colleges have declared that they will risk federal arrest in order to harbor refugees seeking asylum, Mahony said:

"People who come to us seeking shelter, clothing and food we will welcome and take care of regardless of their residency status. The Gospel does not require us to ask for documentation."

He added that he did not publicly designate certain centers or churches in Stockton as sanctuaries for Central American refugees, as some church leaders have done. "I have serious questions about the advisability of that, personally," he said.

The new archbishop, who is expected to be formally installed in a ceremony in September, said he will live in the St. Vibiana Cathedral rectory, on the edge of Los Angeles' Skid Row. Manning, who has lived there, plans to move to Holy Family Parish in South Pasadena, where his longtime secretary, Msgr. Clement Connolly, is pastor.

Mahony, an amateur radio operator, joked after the news conference about the difficulty he will have finding a good place for his antenna amid the downtown skyscrapers.

Before flying back to Stockton in the evening, Mahony visited Calvary Cemetery in East Los Angeles, where all the deceased bishops and archbishops of Los Angeles are buried.

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