Popular pressure is mounting in the U.S. and Italy to keep California’s Cardinal Roger Mahony away from the conclave to elect the next pope because of his role in shielding sexually abusive priests
This move targets one of the most prominent of a handful of compromised cardinals scheduled to vote next month.
Amid the outcry, Mahony has made it clear that he is going to Rome, and no one can force him to recuse himself.
A Vatican historian also 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 a shadow over the upcoming papal election.
Conclaves tend to bring out the worst in a cardinal;s record with past alleged 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 neglect are so fresh, coming as they do on the tail 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 Mahony should participate in the conclave, given the revelations.
“Your opinion: Mahony in the conclave: Yes or No?” reads the online survey of one of Italy’s most-read magazines.
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 has long kept quiet about priestly abuse and 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.
Mahony, however, has made clear he will vote. “Count-down to the papal conclave has begun. Your prayers are 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 or not to participate.
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 manoeuvred 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. Gomez has since urged prayers for Mahony as he enters the conclave.
– BBC News