Cardinal Roger M. Mahony told a recent gathering of priests that he was assaulted last summer by a man enraged about the Roman Catholic Church’s clergy abuse scandal, according to several sources familiar with the discussion.
Mahony, 71, told priests attending the Los Angeles Archdiocese’s annual pastoral meeting in October that he had been knocked down and badly bruised in July, near the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown L.A.
No assault was reported to police, and Mahony’s statements stunned those in attendance at the Oct. 1 conference, one participant said Tuesday.
“Everyone was just shocked,” said the priest, who asked that his name not be used because the cardinal had asked participants to keep the discussions private.
The priest said Mahony offered the story almost in passing, as a way of illustrating the personal toll that the sexual abuse scandal had exacted on everyone in the church, but especially its hundreds of victims.
“He said he was walking to the post office or the store and that a man recognized him and started shouting obscenities about the abuse,” the priest said. “Then the man came up and punched him and he fell to the ground. We were all shocked. Nobody had heard anything about it.”
Through a spokeswoman, Mahony declined to comment. The cardinal’s comments to the priests were first reported in Tuesday’s Daily News.
“This was a private meeting, the annual meeting of the priests of the archdiocese,” spokeswoman Carolina Guevara said Tuesday. “Whatever conversation might have taken place was between the priests and their bishop and was not meant to be public.”
Another priest who attended the conference said Mahony was struck in the face during the assault. The priest, along with a third source familiar with the meeting, confirmed the details of Mahony’s statements, but both also asked not to be named.
The sources said they had been told that the incident occurred in late July, after the archdiocese’s July 14 announcement that it had reached a $660-million settlement in the abuse cases. They also said Mahony told conference participants that he had feared he might be attacked several years earlier, when anger at church officials over the scandal was running especially high.
Mahony “said it was always in the back of his mind,” one priest said.
On Tuesday, Los Angeles Police Department officials said they had not been informed of such an incident and no police report had been filed.
David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, a support group for victims, said attacks on church officials were extremely rare, by abuse victims or others.
“But obviously, any violence like this is inexcusable, any time, anywhere, against anyone,” he said.