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.

The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of


About Author

Tom Crowe is a cradle Catholic with a deep love for and commitment to Holy Mother the Church, colored by a rather interesting life-long relationship with her. Born during the great liturgical upheaval of the 1970s, Crowe was brought up in a parish that continued using the Missal of 1962—the Traditional Latin Mass—for which he developed a love. Crowe learned the faith as a child from the Baltimore Catechism, and didn’t stop learning and wrestling with the Church’s teachings at his Confirmation. Through reading and many conversations with friends and converts far smarter than he, Crowe came to know, accept, and love the Church and what she proposes far more intimately. For three years these conversation took place in seminary before Crowe, with the blessing of the formation team, determined that seminary was not right for him. In the wild and humorous ways of God, Crowe landed on his feet in Steubenville, Ohio, where he manages the online presence for Franciscan University of Steubenville, where he also trains altar servers and is the head master of ceremonies for the Mass in the Extraordinary Form on campus.

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