Roger Mahony

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His Eminence

Roger Michael Mahony

Archbishop Emeritus of Los Angeles
2006-03-31 03 Anaheim, CA Cardinal Mahony.jpg
ArchdioceseLos Angeles
AppointedJuly 12, 1985
InstalledSeptember 5, 1985
Term endedMarch 1, 2011
PredecessorTimothy Manning
SuccessorJosé Horacio Gómez
Other post(s)Cardinal-Priest of Ss. Quattro Coronati
OrdinationMay 1, 1962
by Aloysius Joseph Willinger
ConsecrationMarch 19, 1975
by Hugh Aloysius Donohoe, William Robert Johnson, and John Stephen Cummins
Created cardinalJune 28, 1991
by John Paul II
Personal details
Roger Michael Mahony

(1936-02-27) February 27, 1936 (age 86)
Los Angeles, California, United States
DenominationRoman Catholic
ParentsVictor and Loretta Mahony
Previous post(s)
MottoTo reconcile God's people
Ordination history
Priestly ordination
Ordained byAloysius Joseph Willinger
DateMay 1, 1962
Episcopal consecration
Consecrated byHugh Aloysius Donohoe (Fresno)
DateMarch 19, 1975
Elevated byPope John Paul II
DateJune 28, 1991
Episcopal succession
Bishops consecrated by Roger Mahony as principal consecrator
George Patrick ZiemannFebruary 23, 1987
Armando Xavier OchoaFebruary 23, 1987
Carl Anthony FisherFebruary 23, 1987
Sylvester Donovan RyanMay 31, 1990
Stephen Edward BlaireMay 31, 1990
Joseph Martin SartorisMarch 19, 1994
Thomas John CurryMarch 19, 1994
Gabino ZavalaMarch 19, 1994
George Hugh NiederauerJanuary 25, 1995
Gerald Eugene WilkersonJanuary 21, 1998
Edward William ClarkMarch 26, 2001
Oscar A. SolisFebruary 10, 2004
Alexander SalazarNovember 4, 2004
Coat of arms of Roger Michael Mahony.svg
Reference styleHis Eminence
Spoken styleYour Eminence
Informal styleCardinal
SeeLos Angeles (Emeritus)

Roger Michael Mahony KGCHS (born February 27, 1936) is an American cardinal and retired prelate of the Catholic Church who served as Archbishop of Los Angeles from 1985 to 2011. Before his appointment, he served as Auxiliary Bishop of Fresno from 1975 to 1980 and Bishop of Stockton from 1980 to 1985.

Born in the Hollywood district of Los Angeles and raised in the city's San Fernando Valley, Mahony was ordained to the priesthood in the Diocese of Monterey-Fresno in 1962. He was appointed auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Fresno in January 1975 and consecrated bishop in March 1975. He was then appointed Bishop of Stockton in 1980. In 1985, he was appointed Archbishop of Los Angeles by Pope John Paul II, and became the first Los Angeles native to hold the office. The pope created him a cardinal in 1991, and he voted in the papal conclaves that elected Popes Benedict XVI and Francis.

During his tenure as Los Angeles archbishop, Mahony was instrumental in dividing the archdiocese into five administrative subdivisions and in guiding the construction of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, which opened in September 2002. He has also been identified as a key figure in the cover-up of the Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal, where dozens of abusive priests were moved to other churches rather than prosecuted. In 2007, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles apologized for abuses by priests and announced a record-breaking settlement of $660 million for 508 victims.[1]

In 2011, Mahony reached the mandatory retirement age for bishops and was succeeded by José Horacio Gómez on March 1.[2] On January 31, 2013, Archbishop Gómez relieved Mahony of his public and episcopal duties in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, following the release of personnel files documenting priests' sexual abuse during Mahony's tenure.

In April 2021, Mahony was named in a lawsuit where he was accused of sexually molesting a teenage boy, but the lawsuit was eventually withdrawn.[3]

Early life and priesthood[edit]

Mahony was born in the Hollywood district of Los Angeles, California, the son of Victor and Loretta (née Baron) Mahony, a second-generation Irish American couple. He has a twin brother, Louis, and an older brother, Neil. He attended St. Charles Borromeo Grammar School in North Hollywood, and at 14 entered Los Angeles College, the junior seminary of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

After studying at the Our Lady Queen of Angels Seminary and St. John's Seminary, he was ordained to the priesthood on May 1, 1962 by the Bishop of Monterey-Fresno, Aloysius Joseph Willinger, CSsR. He graduated from The Catholic University of America in 1964 with a master's degree in social work. For the next 13 years he held pastoral and curial assignments in the Diocese of Monterey-Fresno and the newly formed Diocese of Fresno. He also taught social work at Fresno State University. He was named a monsignor in February 1967.

Episcopal career[edit]

Coat of arms of Roger Mahony, on the cathedra in the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles

On January 7, 1975, Mahony was appointed as auxiliary bishop of Fresno and titular bishop of Tamascani by Pope Paul VI. He received his episcopal consecration on the following March 19 from the Bishop of Fresno, Hugh Donohue, with Bishops William Johnson and John Cummins as co-consecrators. That year, California Governor Jerry Brown appointed Mahony as the first chair of the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board, where he worked with the United Farm Workers and other growers to resolve labor disputes.

On February 15, 1980, Mahony was appointed Bishop of Stockton by Pope John Paul II, as announced by the nuncio, Jean Jadot. Mahony terminated two extern priests for sexual abuse during his tenure at Stockton. On July 16, 1985, Mahony was promoted to Archbishop of Los Angeles, the first Angeleno to hold the office. He was created Cardinal-Priest of Santi Quattro Coronati by Pope John Paul II in the consistory of June 28, 1991.

After the former Cathedral of Saint Vibiana was damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake, Mahony began plans to construct the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, one of the largest Catholic churches in the United States. It was dedicated on September 2, 2002.

In 1987, Mahony presided over the controversial auction of an extensive collection of rare books, including a Gutenberg Bible, donated to St. John's Seminary by philanthropist and book collector Carrie Estelle Doheny. The auction raised $37.8 million, publicly earmarked for an endowment for the training of new priests, but by 1996 some $23–25 million had been spent, including $1 million for a makeover of Mahony's living quarters.[4]

In May 1998, Mahony announced he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer.[5] He underwent a prostatectomy on June 15, 1998; doctors at the time indicated that the surgery was "successful" and were optimistic that he would not require additional treatment.[6]

Mahony was one of the cardinal electors who participated in the 2005 papal conclave that selected Pope Benedict XVI,[citation needed] as well as the 2013 Papal conclave that selected Pope Francis.[7]

Cardinal Mahony with Rep. Diane Watson (D-CA)

Civic involvement[edit]

Mahony was a member of the Board of Trustees of The Catholic University of America. He served on a number of committees of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, including those on Liturgy, Pro-Life Activities, and Migration & Refugees. He is still a consultant for the latter two committees. In the Vatican, he was a member of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (1984–1989) and the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerants (1986–1991). He was also a member of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications (1989–2000), Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See (2000–2019), and Congregation for Eastern Churches.

In 1992, Mahony published a pastoral letter Film Makers, Film Viewers[8] on the topic of television news and the entertainment industry.

Mahony spoke out on provisions in immigration bills, such as the Sensenbrenner-King Bill, debated by Congress in late 2005 and 2006. He wrote to President Bush[9] that certain proposed measures would effectively outlaw the provision of charitable assistance and religious ministry to individuals not in valid immigration status. On Ash Wednesday, 2006, Mahony announced that he would order the clergy and laity of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to ignore H.R. 4437 if it were to become law.[10] He personally lobbied senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein to have the Senate consider a comprehensive immigration reform bill, rather than the enforcement-only bill that passed the House of Representatives.[11] Mahony also blamed the Congress for the illegal immigration crisis due to their failure to act on the issue in the previous 20 years, opposed H.R. 4437 as punitive and open to abusive interpretation, and supported S. 2611.[12][13]


On April 6, 2010, with Mahony due to reach his mandatory retirement age of 75 the following year, the Vatican under Pope Benedict XVI named San Antonio archbishop José Horacio Gómez as the Coadjutor Archbishop of Los Angeles with immediate right of succession to Mahony.[14] Gómez succeeded Mahony on February 28, 2011, after the ceremony of transition held at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, with Mahony's resignation taking canonical effect on March 1, 2011.[15]

In his retirement, Mahony intended to devote more time to advocacy on behalf of immigrants, an issue that he has supported for many years.[16] He resides at his childhood parish in North Hollywood.


Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels[edit]

Many Catholics were upset about the non-traditional design and the amount of money that was spent on the new Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, although the parishes of the Archdiocese were not involved in the fund-raising. $190 million was raised from Foundations and individual donors. Mahony defended the expense of the new cathedral to replace the previous earthquake-damaged Cathedral of Saint Vibiana citing the need for a community to have a Mother Church and religious center that unites people in faith and spirituality.[17][18]

Pastoral letter on the Mass[edit]

To prepare for the new Millennium, Mahony wrote a pastoral letter on the Mass entitled "Gather Faithfully Together: A Guide for Sunday Mass".[19] The letter called all parishes to plan and celebrate each Sunday Mass in order to deepen the faith-life of all Catholics through the Eucharist.[20] Some, including televangelist Mother Angelica, found "Gather Faithfully Together" to be inconsistent with existing official liturgical directives set by the Catholic Church.[21] It would be adopted by parishes all across the English speaking world over the years.[22]


The number of priestly vocations declined under Mahony's leadership.[23] By contrast, lay ministries grew and Mahony has said, "What some refer to as a 'vocations crisis' is, rather, one of the many fruits of the Second Vatican Council. It is a sign of God's deep love for the Church, and an invitation to a more creative and effective ordering of gifts and energy in the Body of Christ."[24]

Sexual abuse cover-ups[edit]

In 1980, shortly after Mahony became Bishop of Stockton, California, a parent wrote to the diocese accusing Father Oliver O'Grady, a priest of the diocese, of molesting his two sons. Mahony had O'Grady transferred to another parish in 1982, where more abuse accusations followed.[25] In 1984, a police investigation into accusations against O'Grady was closed after a diocesan lawyer promised that O'Grady would be kept away from children.[26] In December of that year, Mahony had O'Grady transferred to another parish. Mahony was promoted to Archbishop of Los Angeles the following year. In 1998, he testified in a civil trial against the Diocese of Stockton, in which a jury awarded $30 million to two of O'Grady's victims.[26] O'Grady was later the subject of the 2006 documentary film, Deliver Us from Evil.

On becoming Archbishop of Los Angeles in 1985, Mahony was active in addressing sexual abuse cases. In 1988, the Archdiocese adopted a zero-tolerance policy. In 1992, at a national meeting of Catholic bishops, Mahony publicly addressed the need to do more to combat sexual abuse in the Church. In 2002, he directed that as many as 12 Southern California priests be expelled from the Church due to sexual abuse, in compliance with the Church's promises in a 2001 settlement.[27]

In February 2004, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles issued the landmark Report to the People of God, containing a signed apology from Cardinal Roger Mahony. It included a detailed list of priests and circumstances in cases of known abuse. It described the development of diocesan policy related to sexual abuse, and case studies of accused priests that fully explored how awareness and understanding of their crimes unfolded. It included details of the most significant cases in the archdiocese's history, but did not include details of 33 priests who were accused but whose cases lacked confirmatory evidence. Despite strong criticism from media such as the Los Angeles Times, the Church continued to block the release of details on these priests.[28][29]

In 2007, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles apologized for abuses by priests and announced a record-breaking settlement of $660 million to 508 victims, an average of $1.3 million for each plaintiff. Mahony described the abuse as a "terrible sin and crime". The agreement settled all outstanding civil lawsuits against the archdiocese. The deal dwarfed the $157 million paid by the Archdiocese of Boston, where state law limits how much money non-profit groups can be required to pay.[1]

In 2013, the diocese released memos Monsignor Thomas John Curry wrote to Mahony in 1986 and 1987 discussing potential legal accountability for priests, and recommending that priests should try to avoid using therapists who might report them to police. At the time, Mahony wrote the director of a New Mexico treatment center, seeking to prevent accused priests from returning to Los Angeles. Among the reasons he cited was to prevent lawsuits by victims who had been assured these priests would not be allowed to return to their parishes.[30] Ray Boucher, a lawyer representing some of the plaintiffs in those cases, said the memos were "particularly damning" because they showed the "wanton disregard for the health and safety of children, and a decision by the highest members of the Church to put its self-interest and the interest of abusive priests ahead of those of children."[31]

In 2018, a petition was launched to remove Mahony from St. Charles Borromeo and to press criminal charges against him. On September 16, 2018, a group gathered in front of St. Charles Borromeo in North Hollywood, California to protest Mahony's involvement with cover-ups of the crimes.[32]

In February 2020, Mahony was named as a defendant in a lawsuit where he was accused of shielding convicted ex-priest Michael Baker.[33]

Removal from public duties[edit]

On January 31, 2013, in the wake of a court order requiring the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to release its unredacted files on clergy sexual abuse, Archbishop Gómez relieved Mahony of all of his remaining public and administrative duties.[34][35] According to the archdiocese, Mahony remains "a priest in good standing" and may still celebrate Mass, but he may no longer speak publicly[36] or exercise responsibilities ordinarily reserved for bishops, such as administering the sacrament of Confirmation.[34] Critics called Gómez's action "purely symbolic punishment" and "hand-slapping...a nearly meaningless gesture", and noted that Mahony remained "a powerful man" in the Church.[35] Under canon law, as a cardinal, Mahony enjoys the "privilege of forum", meaning that only the pope is competent to judge and punish him in matters subject to ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and Gómez may only control Mahony's administrative assignments within the archdiocese.[37]

After a 2013 service, Mahony told a Los Angeles Times reporter that it was "news to him" that he was not to administer them any longer, and said, "I've been doing them every week and I'm going to be doing them every week... So go home."[38]

Following the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, a number of Catholic groups voiced opposition to Mahony's voting in a papal conclave so soon after his censure;[39] however, Mahony participated in the conclave in March 2013.[40][41][42]

Child abuse lawsuit[edit]

In April 2021, Mahony was accused in a lawsuit of sexually molesting a teenage boy, though the suit has since been withdrawn.[43]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "LA cardinal offers abuse apology". BBC News. July 16, 2007. Retrieved March 8, 2008.
  2. ^ "Cardinal Roger Mahony passes leadership of L.A. Archdiocese to Jose Gomez" Retrieved: 2011-02-27.
  3. ^ "Mahony sued for sexually assaulting a male teen". Church Millitant. May 3, 2021. Retrieved May 3, 2021.
  4. ^ Davis, Margaret Leslie (2019). The lost Gutenberg : the astounding story of one book's five-hundred-year odyssey. [New York]. ISBN 9781592408672. OCLC 1076371236.
  5. ^ Stammer, Larry B (May 29, 1998). "Mahony Faces Cancer Surgery". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 6, 2013.
  6. ^ Shuit, Douglas P. (June 16, 1998). "Mahony Has Successful Surgery for Prostate Cancer". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 6, 2013.
  7. ^ "List of Cardinal Electors". Zenit. March 12, 2013. Retrieved October 11, 2019.
  8. ^ Mahoney, Roger M. (September 15, 1992). "Film Makers, Film Viewers: Their Challenges and Opportunities" (PDF). Los Angeles, California. Archived (PDF) from the original on October 1, 2021. Retrieved October 1, 2021.
  9. ^ White, Deborah (May 19, 2006). "Catholic Cardinal Mahony Slams House Bill HR 443". US Liberal Politics. Archived from the original on February 10, 2008. Retrieved March 9, 2008.
  10. ^ Donald Kerwin (May 8, 2006). "Immigration reform: what the Catholic Church knows". Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. Archived from the original on April 21, 2007. Retrieved May 11, 2007.
  11. ^ John L. Allen, Jr. (April 14, 2006). "Mahony on immigration". National Catholic Reporter. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved April 11, 2007.
  12. ^ "Cardinal Mahony speaks out on immigration reform". Day to Day. National Public Radio. March 29, 2006. Retrieved April 11, 2007.
  13. ^ "Catholic Church officials spurn immigration reform plan". American Morning. CNN. March 29, 2006. Retrieved April 11, 2007.
  14. ^ Pope selects Latino bishop from Texas to succeed Mahony Retrieved: 2010-04-06.
  15. ^ "Cardinal Mahony Retires" Retrieved: 2011-02-27.
  16. ^ Castro, Tony (February 24, 2011). "Cardinal Roger Mahony's era is ending, but not his advocacy". Los Angeles Daily News. Archived from the original on February 28, 2011. Retrieved March 8, 2011.
  17. ^ Farrell, Michael J. (April 9, 1999). "Los Angeles Cathedral – controversy over the construction of the church for the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles". National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved March 8, 2008.
  18. ^ Nelson, Mike (September 11, 2002). "New Los Angeles cathedral dedicated, opened to the world". Catholic News Service. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved March 8, 2008.
  19. ^ Cardinal Roger Mahony (September 4, 1997). "Gather Faithfully Together: A Guide for Sunday Mass" (PDF). Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Retrieved September 26, 2015.
  20. ^ Jim Holman (January 1998). "You and I Are Not the Eucharist, You and I Are Poor Sinners: Mother Angelica on Mahony". Los Angeles Lay Catholic Mission. Archived from the original on January 16, 2001. Retrieved March 8, 2008.
  21. ^ "Adoremus Statement on Cardinal Mahoney's "Gather Faithfully Together"". Archived from the original on June 13, 2010. Retrieved January 22, 2010.
  22. ^ Gabe Huck (January 2004). "What We Have Done and What We Have Failed to Do: 40 Years After Vatican II's Call to Liturgical Renewal, We've Still Got a Long Way to Go". National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved January 29, 2010.
  23. ^ The Official Catholic Directory because the High School Seminary and the College Seminary were eventually closed. The reason: almost no graduates went on to the Major Seminary. However, the Juan Diego House for College Seminarians took its place, and a majority of their graduates have gone on to the Major Seminary and to priesthood ordination.New York: P.J. Kenedy & Sons, 1982–2010.
  24. ^ "As I Have Done for You: A Pastoral Letter on Ministry", by Cardinal Roger Mahony and the priests of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
  25. ^ Russell, Ron (April 18, 2002). "Mouth Wide Shut". New Times. Los Angeles.
  26. ^ a b Lattin, Don (July 17, 1998). "$30 Million Awarded Men Molested by 'Family Priest' / 3 bishops accused of Stockton coverup". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved June 6, 2013.
  27. ^ Stammer, Larry B.; Lobdell, William (March 4, 2002). "Mahony Ousts Priests in Sex Abuse Cases". Los Angeles Times.
  28. ^ "L.A. archdiocese reports on decades of abuse claims". USA Today. February 17, 2004.
  29. ^ Guccione, Jean; Lobdell, William (April 20, 2006). "Details on 11 Priests Missing in '04 Report". Los Angeles Times.
  30. ^ Kim, Victoria; Powers, Ashley; Ryan, Harriet (January 21, 2013). "L.A. church leaders sought to hide sex abuse cases from authorities". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 30, 2013.
  31. ^ Lovett, Ian (January 21, 2013). "Files Show Cardinal Roger Mahony Covered Up Sex Abuse". New York Times. Retrieved April 11, 2019.
  32. ^ "Protesters Demand Probe, Resignation Of Ex-LA Archbishop Roger Mahony". September 16, 2018. Retrieved July 13, 2021.
  33. ^ "Man sues Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Cardinal Mahony and ex priest at center of abuse scandal". Los Angeles Times. February 12, 2020. Retrieved April 11, 2021.
  34. ^ a b Ryan, Harriet; Kim, Victoria (February 1, 2013). "Cardinal Mahony relieved of duties over handling of abuse". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 1, 2013.
  35. ^ a b Stoltze, Frank (January 31, 2013). "More than 100 LA Catholic clergy files released following sex abuse suit; Mahony pulled from duties". KPCC. Retrieved January 31, 2013.
  36. ^ Medina, Jennifer; Goodstein, Laurie (February 1, 2013). "Church Personnel Documents Released After Years of Resistance". The New York Times. Retrieved February 1, 2013.
  37. ^ Canon 1405 §1 and canon 1406 §2 Archived 22 August 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  38. ^ Watanabe, Teresa (May 9, 2013). "After rebuke by archbishop, Cardinal Mahony takes higher profile". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on June 7, 2013. Retrieved June 6, 2013.
  39. ^ KTLA report on opposition to Mahony going to Rome
  40. ^ Winfield, Nicole (February 20, 2013). "Conclave brings out cardinals' dirty laundry". The Seattle Times. Archived from the original on December 3, 2013. Retrieved February 24, 2013.
  41. ^ Kolk, Doug (February 23, 2013). "Catholics Petition Cardinal Roger Mahony Not to Cast Papal Vote". Retrieved February 24, 2013.
  42. ^ "Cardinal Mahony tweets request for prayers before papal conclave". Los Angeles Times. March 12, 2013. Retrieved March 12, 2013. Last tweet before moving to Casa Santa Martha, and Mass to Elect a Pope," Mahony tweeted from his account @CardinalMahony. "First Conclave meeting late Tuesday afternoon. Prayers needed.
  43. ^ "Mahony sued for sexually assaulting a male teen". Church Millitant. May 3, 2021. Retrieved May 3, 2021.

External links[edit]

Episcopal succession[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by Cardinal Priest of Santi Quattro Coronati
Preceded by Roman Catholic Archbishop of Los Angeles
Succeeded by
Preceded by Roman Catholic Bishop of Stockton
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Auxiliary Bishop of Fresno
Succeeded by
Preceded by — TITULAR —
Bishop of Tamascani
Succeeded by