Paging Cardinal Mahony: Please pick up the white courtesy phone.

Keith Cardinal O’Brien, archbishop since 1985 of Edinburg and St. Andrews, Scotland, had his resignation accepted by Pope Benedict XVI effective yesterday, weeks before his 75th birthday.

What’s more, O’Brien has recused himself from the upcoming conclave.

It appears that credible accusations have been made against O’Brien concerning inappropriate advances toward seminarians many years ago, and “inappropriate contact” with at least one priest over the years. Denying the allegations, he nonetheless said, “I do not wish media attention in Rome to be focused on me – but rather on Pope Benedict XVI and on his successor.” So he will not go for the conclave.

Cardinals approaching the conclave.While obviously the best scenario would be none of the accusations being credibly made because he had been a saintly man for the past thirty years, given the credibility of the accusations that have been made, his decision to refrain from taking part in the conclave is admirable and welcome.

Which brings us to Roger Cardinal Mahony, archbishop emeritus of Los Angeles, whom, we now know, intentionally and knowingly shielded from prosecution priests who were known to have sexually abused minors.

I’ll not get into the moral balancing act of “which action is worse, inappropriate advances toward seminarians and other priests or shielding an abuser,” because neither is remotely acceptable, or even rationalize-able-because-of-the-times, conduct for a prelate. But if O’Brien so quickly and simply removes himself out of a desire to protect the Church from the taint of his involvement, why cannot Mahony see the virtue in that action also?

To be sure, Mahony has the right to attend the conclave as a cardinal of the Church younger than 80 years old, and I have defended that right to others who think he ought not have that right. But having a right to do something and exercising that right are different things.

Perhaps this will give those like Velasio Cardinal De Paolis more “oomph” when trying to persuade Mahony to stay home and assist the conclave through great prayer and sacrifice.

The Church needs to move beyond the scandals, not only through increased child protection measures (which have been implemented over the past decade or so) and better transparency (also well underway, though it will likely never reach the levels demanded by some groups, and that’s not a bad thing) but also by accelerating as much as prudent the turnover rate of those responsible for the scandals and cover-ups. A conclave with as few tainted cardinals as possible would be a great help on that score.



  • Samwise

    The parallel between Joe Paterno and Mahoney is difficult to pass up at this point. Are they more culpable for not intervening?
    The article seems to suggess that ‘yes’ they are, and had they acted sooner, it probably would have shed light on this issue long before the millenium.
    What ended up happening, is that the NCAA took drastic and necessary action against Penn State, and, the Vatican took drastic and necessary action to implement “protecting God’s Children”. Of the two, I can’t help but think that the Vatican’s approach is more to the point–whereas, the NCAA didn’t get at the heart of the matter.

    • Samwise

      Final note: in reading Cardinal O’Brien’s responses to allegations, it appears as though he blames his actions on the celibate priesthood–suggesting that if priests were married then such abuses wouldn’t occur.
      On the contrary, such abuses would occur regardless of marriage (since they are particular to the individual, not the institution). “Protecting God’s Children” takes this into account, be sure to guard against not only celibates but married persons as well.
      Unfortunately, in the 60s, 70s and 80s, such investigations had not been conducted yet.

  • mustang

    I am in the Archdiocese of Edinburgh, and my fellow Catholics and I are filled with sadness due the last few days. Its very unnerving to see ones diocese plastered on every front page of newspapers in such a troubling light. Whatever his failings, Cardinal OBrien, I think, made the right decision to refrain from voting in the Conclave. I think Cardinal Mahoney needs to take a leaf out of OBriens book and cancel any flight he has in mind to Rome. His insistence smacks of pride and self importancy, and only makes disillusionment among the faithful even greater. Please your Eminence, dont trouble the faith of your flock any more than you have already done.

    • Tom Crowe

      ‘Tis a sad time indeed for your archdiocese and for all those who have looked to the Cardinal for leadership, especially on the defense of marriage. We must pray and sacrifice all the more for holy shepherds to replace those who have failed in their duties over the last however many decades.

  • Mark Polo

    According to a priest who actually spoke with Cardinal De Paolis, he actually did not make the statements that are being reported in reference to Cardinal Mahoney, at least not directly or intentionally. He was apparently asked a theoretical question of “if a certain cardinal were guilty of…” and responded with an academic answer that he would have every right to attend, but someone with moral authority over him might want to suggest to him not to do so. He is reportedly not happy about the reporting of his statements.

    • Tom Crowe

      well that’s unfortunate.

  • Antonio A. Badilla

    My understanding is that the Cardinal is already on his way to Rome, so, obviously, he didn’t learn O’Brien’s lesson.

    • Tom Crowe

      ah well



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