Thursday, May 23, 2013
By NICOLE WINFIELD The Associated Press
VATICAN CITY - Popular pressure is mounting in the U.S. and Italy to keep California Cardinal Roger Mahony away from the conclave to elect the next pope because of his role shielding sexually abusive priests.
Disgraced Cardinal Roger Mahony, shown officiating at Ash Wednesday services, says he has every intention of attending the conclave to elect the next pope.
The Associated Press
Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley
AN AMERICAN POPE?
BOSTON ARCHBISHOP MAKES
THE NOTION 'THINKABLE'
Vatican watchers buzzing over next month's expected papal conclave say Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley could emerge as a strong candidate as concerns over an American pope subside and the Boston archbishop's star rises.
The chatter about O'Malley picked up after John L. Allen Jr., a highly respected Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter, wrote in a blog post that the cardinal's name has been making the rounds in the Italian press, both because of his handling of the clergy sex-abuse scandal and his growing profile as a "prominent" non-European contender.
It's made the notion of an American pope -- long considered implausible given the country's superpower status -- now "thinkable," said Allen.
"For every major crisis that seems to pop up as a front-burner issue, Cardinal Sean brings some real gifts," said Ernest Collamati, chairman of philosophy and religious studies at Regis College.
"His appearance is one of a man of simple habit," Collamati added, noting that in light of the politicking that dominates the Holy See and scandals surrounding the Vatican Bank and church abuse crisis, "this might appear to be the kind of medicine needed. And he has worked with immigrant communities as well. He would have a real feel for cultural diversity."
O'Malley declined comment through an archdiocese spokeswoman, who referred to comments O'Malley made last week, when he said he wasn't interested in the post.
That in itself could be a benefit, said Thomas Groome, chair of the Department of Religious Education at Boston College.
- Boston Herald
The effort targets one of the most prominent of a handful of compromised cardinals scheduled to vote next month.
Amid the outcry, Mahony has made clear he is coming, and no one can force him to recuse himself. Andd a Vatican historian said Wednesday that there is no precedent for a cardinal staying home because of personal scandal.
But the growing grass-roots campaign is an indication that ordinary Catholics are increasingly demanding a greater say in who is fit to elect their pope, and casts an ugly shadow over the upcoming papal election.
Conclaves always bring out the worst in cardinals' dirty laundry, with past sins and transgressions aired anew in the slow news days preceding the vote.
This time is no different -- except that the revelations of Mahony's sins are so fresh and come on the tails of a recent round of sex abuse scandals in the U.S. and Europe.
This week, the influential Italian Catholic affairs magazine Famiglia Cristiana asked its readers if the Los Angeles-based cardinal should participate in the conclave given the revelations.
The overwhelming majority among more than 350 replies has been a clear-cut "No."
The magazine is distributed free in Italian parishes each Sunday. The fact that it initiated the poll is an indication that the Catholic establishment in Italy has itself questioned whether tarnished cardinals should be allowed to vote - a remarkable turn of events for a conservative Catholic country that still is deferential to the church hierarchy in its backyard.
That initiative followed a petition by a group in the United States, Catholics United, demanding that Mahony recuse himself. So far 5,600 people have signed the petition, according to spokesman Chris Pumpelly.
"It's the right thing to do," Andrea Le?rossman, a Los Angeles member of Catholics United, said in a statement on the group's website. "In the interests of the children who were raped in his diocese, he needs to keep out of the public eye. He has already been stripped of his ministry. If he's truly sorry for what has happened, he would show some humility and opt to stay home."
Mahony, however, has made clear he will vote. "Count-down to the papal conclave has begun. Your prayers needed that we elect the best pope for today and tomorrow's church," he tweeted earlier this week. He promised daily Twitter updates.
Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, one of the Vatican's top canon lawyers, told The Associated Press that barring any canonical impediments, Mahony has a right and duty to vote in the conclave. At best, he said, someone could persuade him not to come, but De Paolis insisted he wasn't suggesting that someone should.
Bishop Charles Scicluna, the Vatican's former sex crimes prosecutor, said it was up to Mahony's conscience to decide whether to participate.
"It's not an easy situation for him," Scicluna was quoted as saying by Rome daily La Repubblica.
Last month, a court in Los Angeles ordered the release of thousands of pages of confidential personnel files of more than 120 priests accused of sex abuse. The files show that Mahony and other top archdiocese officials maneuvered behind the scenes to shield accused priests and protect the church from a growing scandal while keeping parishioners in the dark.
Mahony was stripped of his public and administrative duties last month by his successor at the largest Catholic diocese in the United States. But the dressing-down by Archbishop Jose Gomez only affected Mahony's work in the archdiocese, not his role as a cardinal.
Mahony has responded directly and indirectly to the outcry on his blog, writing about the many "humiliations" Jesus endured.
"Given all of the storms that have surrounded me and the archdiocese of Los Angeles recently, God's grace finally helped me to understand: I am not being called to serve Jesus in humility. Rather, I am being called to something deeper -- to be humiliated, disgraced, and rebuffed by many," Mahony wrote.
He said in recent days he had been confronted by many angry people. "I could understand the depth of their anger and outrage -- at me, at the Church, at about injustices that swirl around us," he wrote. "Thanks to God's special grace, I simply stood there, asking God to bless and forgive them."
Mahony declined further comment Wednesday, according to the archdiocese spokesman Tod Tamburg.
Mahony is scheduled to be questioned under oath on Saturday as part of a clergy abuse lawsuit about how he handled a visiting Mexican priest who police believe molested 26 children in the Los Angeles archdiocese during a nine-month stay in 1987. The Rev. Nicolas Aguilar Rivera fled to Mexico in 1988 after parents complained. He has since been defrocked but remains a fugitive, with warrants for his arrest in both the U.S. and Mexico.
Historian Ambrogio Piazzoni, the vice prefect of the Vatican library, said there was no precedent for a cardinal staying away from a conclave because of personal scandal.
Any decision to stay away, he said, would have to be approved by the full College of Cardinals given that the main duty of a cardinal is to vote in a conclave.