In other cardinals-in-the-news news: as Francis X. Rocca reports in National Catholic Reporter, Cardinal Roger Mahony told Catholic News Service last week that he has been amazed at calls for him not to attend the papal conclave because of what the public now knows about his track record in dealing with priests abusing minors in the Los Angeles archdiocese. Mahony states that the Vatican, through its ambassador to the U.S., instructed him to attend the conclave--despite the pressure from lay Catholics for him to stay at home.
As Rocca notes, Mahony was also "amazed" at the public furor over what was contained in the church files opened to the public regarding abuse cases in his archdiocese. Mahony arrived in Rome a day after Cardinal O'Brien said he wouldn't attend the papal conclave after allegations of his "inappropriate conduct" with several priests and a former priest became public.
I think it's instructive to read Rocca's story about Mahony and his "amazement" (and his determination to attend the papal conclave--or is that the Vatican's determination to have him attend despite what many Catholics want?) side by side with Father Tom Doyle's recent NCR article asking who paid for Mahony's red hat. Doyle says that in 2004, a lawyer representing victims in the costly, years'-long battle to obtain a hearing in abuse cases in Los Angeles told him, "By the time this is over we are going to find out just how much Roger Mahony's cardinal hat is worth."
And what the attorney meant by this observation, Doyle explains, is that reaching the point at which many files were opened to public scrutiny in the Los Angeles archdiocese has taken a "massive toll" on many people. Doyle states,
The media could not possibly recount the massive toll this took on so many people. The price of Mahony's red hat is certainly steep in dollars. He retained an army of expensive lawyers to defend his intentional mishandling of reports of sexual abuse, and then to create legal roadblocks to the disclosure of the culprits' files. The real cost of his hat was in people.
The archdiocese hired "an army of expensive lawyers" to fight victims at every turn. The money to pay those lawyers came from the pockets of the Catholic people of the Los Angeles archdiocese. Those high-powered lawyers employed every diversionary strategy in the books to keep the Los Angeles filed sealed and to delay justice. Doyle's conclusion:
The saga is not over and probably never will be. The damage extends beyond the victims, their families and the key players in the legal debacle, to the church itself. The cardinal, in his self-serving obsession to first shortchange the victims and then to protect himself and the archdiocesan administration from the exposure of their despicable actions in sacrificing the innocence of children for the clerical image, has severely damaged any possibility of healing. This nearly decade-long nightmare has plunged the hierarchy's barely existing credibility into a tailspin.
From the papacy on down, the Los Angeles abuse history is marked only by narcissistic efforts to save a terminally shattered image. There is little doubt that Pope Benedict XVI and his predecessor knew the score in the archdiocese. Unconfirmed reports say Vatican representatives were in on the settlement negotiations. After all, $660 million is not small potatoes even to the Vatican.
How much is the cardinal's hat worth and who paid the bill? In the end the dollar costs are astronomical but pale by comparison to the costs incurred by the people of God who have paid the price of this colossal betrayal with their faith.
And yet, there Mahony is, taking part in the gathering to elect a new pope. And telling the media that the Vatican ordered him to attend the conclave.