Tue, Jun

Eruptions in the Catholic Church: Not about Religion, It’s about Power Politics


RELIGION POWER POLITICS - Try this for a scenario: when Cardinal Roger Mahony leaves for Rome to elect the new Pope, he may not be coming back. Consider: the current Pope, Benedict XVI, recently announced his resignation, literally giving two weeks’ notice to leave a job that normally lasts a lifetime. He is the first Pope to resign since 1415. Advanced age was given as the reason, but the timing is interesting, coming as several very large Church scandals are breaking. These involve the Vatican Bank, again, and increasing numbers of reported sex abuse cases in Europe and the United States. 

Cardinal Mahony, who retired as head of the Los Angeles Archdiocese in 2011, was recently stripped of his remaining administrative duties for the Archdiocese by his successor, Archbishop Jose Gomez. After reviewing the recently-opened and recently-published Church files detailing sex crimes by Cardinal Mahony’s priests against children, Gomez said he ”was disgusted by what was in the files”. 


Cardinal Mahony, however, will be one of the 117 Cardinals meeting in Rome to elect the new Pope; he was also one of the Cardinals who elected Benedict XVI. 

And remember that Vatican City is a sovereign city-state. So, he is safe from any prosecution or legal action if the Church wishes to help him. 

This means that he can’t be held legally accountable for the $100-plus million that he diverted from the cemetery maintenance fund to pay the sex abuse plaintiffs (500 of them, and counting). Or for the sex crimes committed by his priests when he was in charge of the Los Angeles Archdiocese. Or for any other reason, because he’ll be in a foreign country that can choose to take no action. 

And will quite possibly use his considerable influence to elect a new Pope who will be sympathetic to his cause. 

There is precedent: Chicago Bishop Paul Marcinkus was shielded from any investigations into his activities with Vatican Bank that allegedly included counterfeiting and money laundering. He lived for years in Vatican City, then retired to a Church-owned residence in Arizona, still under Vatican protection, until his death in 2006. 

Cardinal Bernard Law received similar diplomatic shielding after the former Boston archbishop left in disgrace, amid accusations very similar to Cardinal Mahony’s. 

And like Cardinal Mahony, Cardinal Law will be one of the 11 American Cardinals who will elect the new Pope. 

None of this has anything to do with religious beliefs or religious freedom: it’s simply an exercise in power politics. Powerful men protecting other powerful men, who elect each other to their positions of influence and power. 

And everybody wins, except for the victims, the kids and their families looking for some justice. 

But, on the subject of religion, it’s fair to ask: What Would Jesus Say? 

 (John MacMurray is a retired La Habra teacher and former Democratic candidate for State Assembly. He blogs at LAProgressive.com where this column was first posted. A must visit. LA’s most important Progressive voice.)




Vol 11 Issue 15

Pub: Feb 19, 2013



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