Gomez, Mahony and the ‘Sodano Rule’

By John L. Allen Jr.

This column probably ought to carry a warning label: “The following piece of writing contains an apples-and-oranges comparison that may be hazardous to your intellectual health.” I’m going to compare two fights among senior churchmen, but the purpose is not to suggest they’re identical. Rather, it’s to understand what makes them different.

college of cardinals01The first term of comparison is the tension between Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles and his predecessor, Cardinal Roger Mahony. On Jan. 31, Gomez announced that Mahony would “no longer have any administrative or public duties” because of failures to protect children from abuse, documented in files released by the archdiocese. That triggered an open letter to Gomez from Mahony acknowledging mistakes, but insisting he went on to make Los Angeles “second to none” in keeping children safe.

Mahony remains a priest and bishop in good standing, and he really hasn’t had any administrative role since stepping down in March 2011. The practical effect of the action thus is limited, but symbolically it amounts to what Jesuit Fr. Tom Reese has called a “public shaming.”

So far, the Vatican hasn’t said much other than it’s paying attention and clarifying that the action applies only to Los Angeles.

Behind door No. 2 lies the highly public spat in 2010 between Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, Austria, and Italian Cardinal Angelo Sodano, a former Secretary of State and still the dean of the College of Cardinals.

For those whose memories may have dimmed, a series of clerical abuse scandals exploded across Europe in early 2010, which among other things cast a critical spotlight on Benedict XVI’s personal record. Sodano created a media sensation in April 2010 by calling that criticism “petty gossip” during the Vatican’s Easter Mass.

In a session with Austrian journalists not long afterward, Schönborn not only said Sodano had “deeply wronged” abuse victims, but he also charged that Sodano had blocked an investigation of Schönborn’s disgraced predecessor, Cardinal Hans Hermann Gröer, who had been accused of molesting seminarians and monks and who resigned in 1995. Schönborn reportedly said that then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, wanted to take action, but he lost an internal Vatican argument to Sodano.

Schönborn apparently thought that session was off the record, but the content leaked out anyway.

In that case, the Vatican hardly restricted itself to a dry “no comment.” Instead, Schönborn was summoned for a one-on-one with Benedict, and afterward, both Sodano and Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the current Secretary of State, joined the conversation. When it was over, the Vatican issued a statement widely seen as a rebuke to Schönborn — among other things, pointedly reminding him that it’s not up to him to pass judgment on a fellow cardinal.

“It should be remembered that in the church, when there are accusations against a cardinal, competence rests solely with the pope,” it said.college of cardinals02

One might call this the “Sodano Rule”: When it comes to cardinals, keep your hands off and leave it to the boss.

Hence the obvious question: Why doesn’t the Sodano Rule apply to Gomez? So far, no one has summoned him for a knuckle-rapping session, and the Vatican declined a chance to reiterate that cardinals are accountable only to the pope. The working assumption is that Gomez informed Rome of his plans, and apparently no one asked him to back down.

I can think of six factors that might help account for the contrast.

First, Schönborn had no authority over Sodano, who doesn’t live in Vienna. Mahony, however, resides in Los Angeles, having moved back to his childhood parish of St. Charles Borromeo in North Hollywood. Moreover, Mahony had no intention of keeping a low profile. He wanted to help lead the charge in Los Angeles and nationally on immigration reform.

Canonically speaking, Gomez has the right to determine who can play public roles on behalf of the church in his own jurisdiction, even if no one probably envisioned that codicil being wielded against a prince of the church.

Second, the 68-year-old Schönborn studied under Benedict XVI when the future pope was a theology professor and is widely perceived as a papal protégé. He made his comments about Sodano in the context of defending the pope’s record. Thus the initial suspicion in many quarters was that Schönborn was speaking for the pope, that his attack on Sodano represented Benedict’s thinking, expressed through one of his closest friends and allies.

Gomez does not have the same close relationship with Benedict XVI, so there’s not the same tendency to assume he’s acting as a mouthpiece for the papal apartment. As a result, the Vatican likely doesn’t feel the same pressure to get involved.

Third, and with no disrespect to Mahony, Sodano is simply a bigger target.

Sodano was the second-most-powerful official in the church under Pope John Paul II, and he remains dean of the College of Cardinals, which means he would preside over the college when Benedict dies. Although Sodano’s reputation has taken a beating, especially over his long-running defense of the late Mexican Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legionaries of Christ, he still has a lot of Vatican friends.

Mahony, by way of contrast, is seen as a relatively liberal prelate somewhat out of sync with the ethos under John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Although he’s an active member of three Vatican departments — the Congregation for Eastern Churches, the Council for Social Communications, and the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs — he doesn’t have anything like Sodano’s base of support to push back.

Fourth, precisely because Sodano was a key aide to John Paul II, criticism of his record functions as a proxy for calling John Paul’s legacy into question. In 2010, the Vatican was preparing to beatify John Paul II, just as they’re now getting ready for his canonization. In that context, anything that smacks of tarnishing the late pope’s memory is dicey stuff, especially if the critique is perceived as coming from the sitting pope through one of his friends.

Mahony was never part of John Paul’s inner circle, so criticism of him doesn’t carry quite the same sting.

Fifth, perhaps the Vatican learned something from the way it handled things two years ago. Whatever the intent, the fact that Schönborn was hauled on the carpet came off as punishment for being outspoken about the sex abuse crisis and was taken by critics as another chapter in denial. If the Vatican were to wade in now in support of Mahony, even if the principle involved was a cardinal’s unique relationship with the pope rather than his record on abuse cases, it would probably leave a similar bad aftertaste.

Of course, the Vatican has a mixed record in terms of learning the right lessons from previous PR disasters, but maybe this is one instance in which they’ve concluded that discretion is the better part of valor.

Sixth, and most basically, the culture of the church is evolving in the direction of greater accountability. Yes, it’s happening under external pressure, and yes, it’s taking an awfully long time. Nonetheless, the wheels are slowly grinding in the direction of the idea that when someone drops the ball, there need to be consequences.

This week marks the one-year anniversary of an international summit on the sex abuse crisis at Rome’s Gregorian University co-sponsored by several Vatican departments. At that session, then-Msgr. Charles Scicluna of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said it’s “simply not acceptable” for bishops to fail to act when reports of abuse surface, and that “we need to use the tools that canonical law and tradition give us for the accountability of bishops.” Sciculna since has been made a bishop in Malta and a member of the doctrinal congregation, and one could view the situation in Los Angeles as a trial run for Scicluna’s position.

How all this will play out isn’t clear. Vatican culture abhors public tiffs between senior prelates, fearing that it projects disunity. If the tensions between Gomez and Mahony metastasize, Rome may feel compelled to step in.

For now, however, it would seem the Sodano Rule comes with an asterisk: Only the pope can judge a cardinal — unless there are good reasons to let somebody else do it.

Complete Article HERE!

The Magdalene Laundries explained

What were the Magdalene Laundries?

Institutions where women were sent if they were regarded as “fallen women”.

Who was sent there?

The women who were committed to these homes included women who conceived out of wed lock, wards of state and so-called ‘promiscuous and flirtatious’ women.

Parents, social workers, judges, priests and members of the Gardai could recommend a woman to be sent to these workhouses. Magdalene Laundries

Who ran the institutions in Ireland?

Four Catholic religious orders: The Sisters of Mercy, The Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, The Sisters of Charity, The Good Shepherd Sisters.

Why were they called laundries?

The institutions ran laundries and the women were used as unpaid labour.

Where were the laundries?

Laundries were located all over the country, sometimes outside of towns.

Who were these women?

No proper records were kept and the ‘inmates’ had their real names removed and were given a one-letter name or a number.

How long did the laundries operate in the country?

From 1922 to 1996, but some of the laundries operated as orphanages previously.

When did the last laundry close?

The Sisters of Our Lady of Charity Laundry on Sean McDermott Street in Dublin city centre closed in October 1996.

How many women were sent to the laundries?

No known figures as records were not kept, but an estimated 30,000.

How many children were adopted from the laundries?

Again, this is unclear but it is believed over 2,000 children ‘exported’ from the laundries to new homes, mainly to wealthy families in the US, usually for a payment from the families.

What do campaigners want?

The campaign group, Justice for Magdalenes, have fought for 10 years bring justice to Magdalene Laundry survivors. The group wants apology from the State for the abuse perpetrated towards girls and women in the laundries, a compensation scheme for survivors and the adoption and a statutory inquiry.


Campaigners claim there is evidence of State involvement and the State sent women to these institutions as a means of dealing with various social problems, such as illegitimacy, poverty, domestic, youth crime, infanticide and sexual abuse – at home and also by clerical orders.

What international pressure has come on the State?

The UN Committee Against Torture criticised successive government’s failure to apologise or compensate as of yet.

MPs vote 400 to 175 to pass same-sex marriage bill

by Scott Roberts

MPs have voted 400 to 175 in supporting the government’s Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill – a majority of 225 votes – following an afternoon of heated debate in the House of Commons.

About 140 Conservative MPs are thought to have voted against the plans.

Commons-voteFormer children’s minister and Conservative MP Tim Loughton told the BBC that he believed “140 or so” of his party colleagues had voted against the plans, along with “a small rump of Labour MPs” and “four Lib Dem MPs”.

He added: “Apparently there’s 132 Conservative MPs that voted in favour, so I think what we’re going to see is that more Conservative MPs voted against this legislation than for it.”

The bill would enable same-sex couples to get married in both civil and religious ceremonies, where a religious institution had formally consented, in England and Wales.

It would also allow couples who had previously entered into civil partnerships to convert their relationship into a marriage.

Just before the vote, Prime Minister David Cameron said: “Today is an important day. I am a strong believer in marriage. It helps people commit to each other and I think it is right that gay people should be able to get married too.

“This is, yes, about equality. But it is also about making our society stronger.

“I know there are strong views on both side of the argument – I accept that. But I think this is an important step forward for our country.”

Ahead of the vote, Culture Secretary and Minister for Equalities, Maria Miller, told MPs: “What marriage offers us all is a lifelong partner to share our journey; a loving stable relationship to strengthen us and a mutual support throughout our lives.”

She added: ”I believe this is something that should be embraced by more couples. The depth of feeling, love and commitment is no different between same-sex couples than opposite-sex couples.”

Mrs Miller insisted religious freedom would be protected and that no faith organisations would be forced to marry gay couples.

She dismissed concerns from Tory opponents that the European Court of Human Rights could order British churches to marry gay couples.

“It is simply inconceivable that the court would require a faith group to conduct same-sex marriages in breach of its own doctrines” – not my words but the words of the eminent QCs, Lord Pannick, Baroness Kennedy and Lord Lester,” said Mrs Miller.

Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper welcomed Mrs Miller statement.

The Labour MP said in the Commons: “Call us hopeless romantics, call it the triumph of hope over experience, but most of us think it is wonderful when people love each other and want to make that long-term commitment.

“So why would we want to stop a loving couple getting married just because they are gay?”

The bill will now proceed to a parliamentary committee for further scrutiny.

Complete Article HERE!

Mahony responds to ban: ‘Not once’ did successor raise questions

File under: It’s gettin’ nasty! The secret internal power struggle is beginning to seep into the public domain. There is no way that Gomez would attack Mahony without the explicit authorization of B-16. The pope is throwing Mahony under the bus. His thinking…better to sacrifice a cardinal and a bishop (Curry) than have this whole thing skink up the Vatican. This is SOOO fascinating. Regular folk, like us, almost never get to see this kind of ecclesiastical fight to the death. The long knives are out!

By: Joshua J. McElwee

Cardinal Roger Mahony, the retired archbishop of Los Angeles who was barred from public ministry by his successor over his handling of sex abuse, has issued a rare public response to the action.

archbishop-gomez-and-cardinal-mahoneyWriting an open letter to Archbishop Jose Gomez, the archdiocese’s current leader, Mahony states that during his leadership the archdiocese became “second to none in protecting children and youth.”

“When you were formally received as our Archbishop on May 26, 2010, you began to become aware of all that had been done here over the years for the protection of children and youth,” Mahony writes to Gomez in the letter, which Mahony has made available on his personal blog.

“You became our official Archbishop on March 1, 2011 and you were personally involved with the Compliance Audit of 2012 — again, in which we were deemed to be in full compliance,” Mahony continues.

“Not once over these past years did you ever raise any questions about our policies, practices, or procedures in dealing with the problem of clergy sexual misconduct involving minors.”

Mahony, who became archbishop of Los Angeles in 1985 and was made a cardinal in 1991, was replaced by Gomez in 2011.

Typically seen as shying away from public criticisms of their peers, Catholic bishops rarely issue public responses to one another’s actions.

In a letter outlining his decision to ask Mahony to stay away from public ministry in LA, Gomez wrote Thursday that Mahony had failed to protect young people from sexually abusive priests.

The Gomez letter accompanied a release of extensive files concerning Los Angeles priests who had abused minors, most involving abuse that had occurred decades ago.

“I find these files to be brutal and painful reading. The behavior described in these files is terribly sad and evil. There is no excuse, no explaining away what happened to these children. The priests involved had the duty to be their spiritual fathers and they failed,” Gomez wrote.

“My predecessor, retired Cardinal Roger Mahony, has expressed his sorrow for his failure to fully protect young people entrusted to his care,” he added. “Effective immediately, I have informed Cardinal Mahony that he will no longer have any administrative or public duties.”

For his part, Mahony states in his letter to Gomez that Mahony’s understanding of sex abuse evolved over the years.

“Nothing in my own background or education equipped me to deal with this grave problem,” states Mahony. “In two years [1962 – 1964] spent in graduate school earning a Master’s Degree in Social Work, no textbook and no lecture ever referred to the sexual abuse of children. While there was some information dealing with child neglect, sexual abuse was never discussed.”

Writing of the era of the documents from the 1980s, Mahony writes that he began implementing “policies and procedures to guide all of us in dealing with allegations of sexual misconduct” in 1986.

He was given advice, Mahony states, “to remove priests from active ministry if there was reasonable suspicion that abuse had occurred, and then refer them to one of the several residential treatment centers across the country for evaluation and recommendation.”
“We were never told that, in fact, following these procedures was not effective, and that perpetrators were incapable of being treated in such a way that they could safely pursue priestly ministry,” Mahony states.

“I have stated time and time again that I made mistakes, especially in the mid-1980s,” Mahony writes.

“Unfortunately, I cannot return now to the 1980s and reverse actions and decisions made then. But when I retired as the active Archbishop, I handed over to you an Archdiocese that was second to none in protecting children and youth.”

Complete Article HERE!

LA Cardinal Mahony ‘stripped of duties’ over sex abuse

A retired Los Angeles cardinal accused of mismanaging a child sex abuse crisis has been stripped of all administrative and public duties by his successor.

Retired Cardinal Roger Mahony, 76, has apologised for his “failure”, Archbishop Jose Gomez said on Thursday.

Cardinal Roger MahonyThe Los Angeles archdiocese, the largest in the US, has released thousands of pages of files on priests accused of child molestation.

Cardinal Mahony retired in 2011, having run the archdiocese for 25 years.

In 2007 Los Angeles paid $660m (£415m) to alleged victims of abuse, the largest sex abuse payout on record.

Cardinal Mahony has publicly apologised for mistakes he made handling the clerical sex abuse issue.
‘They failed’

“I find these files to be brutal and painful reading,” Archbishop Gomez said in a statement. “The behaviour described in these files is terribly sad and evil.

“There is no excuse, no explaining away what happened to these children. The priests involved had the duty to be their spiritual fathers and they failed.”

He added that Bishop Thomas Curry, former vicar of the clergy who handled the cases of accused priests, had stepped down from his post as bishop of Santa Barbara.

The 12,000 pages of documents were released after Church records on 14 priests were unsealed as part of a civil case.

They showed both Bishop Curry and Cardinal Mahony had helped to shield accused priests from investigation in the 1980s.

A Church expert said the “very unusual” punishment showed how seriously the US Catholic hierarchy was taking the case.

“To tell a cardinal he can’t do confirmations, can’t do things in public, that’s extraordinary,” Jesuit scholar the Reverend Thomas Reese, a Georgetown University fellow, told the Los Angeles Times.

But a victims’ support group said Cardinal Mahony’s reprimand was too little, too late.

“When [Cardinal Mahony] had real power, and abused it horribly, he should have been demoted or disciplined by the Church hierarchy, in Rome and in the US,” said David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.

“But not a single Catholic cleric anywhere had the courage to even denounce him. Shame on them.”

The Catholic Church in the US has been embroiled in a series of child sex scandals over the past two decades.

A Church-commissioned report said more than 4,000 US priests had faced sexual abuse allegations since the early 1950s, in cases involving more than 10,000 children – mostly boys.

Complete Article HERE!