In the fight for immigrants, Cardinal Roger Mahony works out of the spotlight

He told Archbishop Jose Gomez he would “stay below the radar”

Cardinal Mahony at Charles Borromeo parish in North Hollywood. (Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Standing beneath the wooden panels of a church in the San Gabriel Valley, Cardinal Roger Mahony delivered a message that has over decades become a refrain.

“Immigrants are our brothers and sisters,” he said, celebrating Mass in Spanish on a recent Sunday. The government may demonize them, but “they aren’t our enemies.”

He told parishioners of their responsibility to fight for reform. The pews erupted with applause.

A politically sophisticated clergyman whom Pope John Paul II nicknamed “Hollywood,” Mahony was raised among California’s immigrant farm workers. Named archbishop of Los Angeles in 1985, he became a powerful voice supporting those who were in the country illegally at a time when California was a pioneer in anti-immigrant measures.

Then came the fall, when he was relieved of public duties over his mishandling of clergy sex abuse of children. Once a shining star of the American church, his reputation suffered as a result of the devastating scandal, which led to the largest settlement by any archdiocese: $660 million.

“It became very difficult to look at him, to listen to him, without thinking this is a guy who messed up on dealing with abuse in the archdiocese,” said Father Thomas J. Reese, a senior analyst at Religion News Service. “It clouded his reputation.”

The cardinal who once filled Dodger Stadium gave way to a successor, Archbishop Jose Gomez, with a more subdued style but a growing voice.

“Cardinal Mahony was very outspoken, and the public policy debate was something that he would jump into with great vigor and ease. It was something he totally enjoyed,” Reese said. “Gomez, on the other hand, is your classic pastor.… He’s a warm person, he’s personable, he wants to be with his people.”

While Gomez has stepped into the spotlight, Mahony has continued to work on the cause he adopted in his youth — sometimes through a personal blog.

“I was so happy because I no longer had administration, personnel problems, budgets and all that stuff,” Mahony said of turning his official duties over to Gomez. “I was free to do just ministry things. One of my biggest focuses, then, was to continue working with our immigrants.”

Mahony’s lifelong passion for the topic stems from his encounters with migrant workers in the fields of the San Joaquin Valley during his years in the diocese of Fresno and Stockton, and days spent in his family’s poultry processing plant. As a boy, he would sit down with the immigrant employees who worked on the property behind theirs and share ears of corn roasted over a makeshift fire pit.

He attends monthly meetings as a member of Gomez’s immigration task force and celebrates Mass in Spanish in churches throughout the archdiocese almost every weekend, filling in for other priests. Often, his sermons touch on the experience of the immigrant.

“I told the the archbishop, I said, look I’ve got more time. I can go to parish meetings. You are brand new here. You’ve got so many things on your plate that you can’t do a lot of local level stuff that I can do,” Mahony, 82, recalled.

Sitting in a conference room at St. Charles Borromeo, Mahony explained how he told Gomez that he would “stay below the radar.” He said he promised the archbishop that he wouldn’t attend public events that would draw a lot of media and that he wouldn’t make public statements.

Full story at The LA Times.


  1. http://Lou%20Varini says

    Just think—The $660 million loss for which Mahony was resposible during his tenure, could have been used to help the legal residents of tha Los Angeles Archdiocese, with some left over for the illegal immigrants.

    • http://Anonymous says

      As a follow-up, the article below might be a good message to send to the Holy See and other “complicit” dioceses about their deteriorating credibility among the Faithful:

      • http://Anonymous says

        This person is really not very good at being a Christian, is she?
        We all fall short in many ways, as St. James says.
        He also said:
        Know this, my dear brothers: everyone should be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath,
        for the wrath of a man does not accomplish the righteousness of God.

        • http://Lou%20Varini says

          True; the Church has has scoundrels ever since Judas betrayed Our Lord and Peter thrice denied him on the same night, while all the rest except John voted with their feet and ran away. Yet the Church still survives because of the promise of Divine assistance (“I will be with you until the end of the age.”)

          Yes, we need to forgive; however, those who have betrayed still need to account and make reparation and restitution. Does the word “Penance” come to mind?

        • http://Anonymous says

          Roger, is that you?

          • http://Anonymous says

            You can confirm for yourself. The following was contsined in the full L.A. Times article:

            “Mahony lives on the campus of his childhood parish, St. Charles Borromeo in North Hollywood. His small home has its own chapel, a room where he works on his hobby of tinkering with radios, and a small garden where squash and tomatoes grow.”

        • http://SueNomi says

          People like you are why the RC is in the mess it is today. You are the devil’s best pal.

  2. http://Anonymous says

    These people never just go away. They’re all the same: Mahony, the Clintons, the Obamas. They never just sail into the sunset and enjoy a quiet life. It’s because of their egos and their love of attention and adulation. They have to get the spotlight because they love the spotlight. This article’s title is wrong: Mahony is very much in the spotlight and very much public. He can’t stand being out of it.

  3. http://Gratias says

    Cardinal Mahony is a disgrace to the Catholic Church. We all remember Roger Cardinal Mahony and the money (640,000,0000 U$D) from our collection baskets he had to pay off. Lest you forget, Auxiliary Bishop Thomas J. Curry, was also an accomplice to Mahony in the protection pederast gay priests Both of them concocted the plan for gay priests to undergo re-education treatment only with Psychologist-Lawyers bound to silence by Attorney-privilege. He had to resign his post as a regional bishop in Santa Barbara. I remember this well because through Curry one of the Mahony final acts as Archbishop was to expel the Latin Mass from the Ventura Mission. Eventually we got a new home in Camarillo, but only thanks to Archbishop Gomez. A good half of…

  4. http://Steve%20Seitz says

    Cardinal Mahoney did significantly more damage to the mission of the Church than the notorious Bishop Patrick Ziemann. But unlike his understudy, who went into monastic seclusion to make amends for his sins against God and Man, Cardinal Mahoney speaks proudly from his lofty seat.

    Not only does he appear to lack a healthy sense of shame, but he behaves as if he believes that God doesn’t exists.

    • http://Truth%20Seeker says

      Dear Mr. Seitz: The final paragraph of your 23 July post is way out of order. I grant that the Cardinal made some very bad clergy personnel decisions. And he was much too slow to remove from pastoral ministry clerical abusers he knew about. Consider, though, the tireless devotion with which he administered the largest archdiocese in our country. No matter what else you think of him, no other American bishop came close to his prodigious work ethic—often flying to Rome overnight for a meeting and flying back to LA the same day, and stopping by the Chancery office on return, before he went home.

      • http://Steve%20Seitz says

        Mr. Seeker,
        I appreciate that you feel that the bishop is innocent of guile. Regretfully, I don’t think you’re correct. I heard him state back in the late 80s after a precursor to the molestation crisis that he had learned from prior mistakes and was implementing new procedures to prevent future problems. But years later, it seems that he was still doing the same things. He also had developed a reputation over the years of saying one thing for public consumption while simultaneously doing something else. It’s not surprising that he seems to have dealt with the Sheriff’s office in exactly the same way: proclaiming cooperation while obstructing their investigation.
        [Continued on Next]

      • http://Steve%20Seitz says

        [Continued from Previous]
        To me, all of this demonstrates an entrenched modus operandi. For the sake of the Church, I strongly feel that he needs to be publically ostracized and take permanent leave from public life. The more we defend him, the more difficult it makes for us to advance the Church’s mission here on Earth.

        • http://Ellie says

          Also, he was not very kind or charitable to Mother Angelica and she was right.

          • http://Lou%20Varini says

            So true, Ellie! The arrogance and heavy handedness of prelates were also experienced by the truly holy and faithful such as Bernadette Soubirous (St. Bernadette of Lourdes), Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta of Fatima, among others.

  5. http://Amelia says

    All of the comments are correct….but not sringent enough. He is a disgrace to the Catholic Church….actually worse than that. He has no SHAME and has never been put in his place or told what a horrible man he is. The money he has cost the Church would house all the homeless in California for years to come….and he does not even blink an eye but continues to pontificate.

    • http://Anonymous says

      He probably confessed and had his sins absolved. We can’t know for sure, of course. Is he not allowed to do good? Maybe it is a penance.
      Do any Catholics actually believe their own religion?

      • http://bohemond says

        We do, but we are tired of the arrogance of liberal clerics, and their lack of humility. Mahony should never show his face in public again.. He should be an monastery somewhere near the Canadian border

  6. http://Chardin says

    Mother Angelica, pray for us!

  7. http://Lou%20Varini says

    It looks like the “Mahony financial effect” is spreading.

    A the bishop of a diocese in Montana has the unmitigated gall to ask for donations from the faithful and pressure parishes to donate for abuse settlements!

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