Roger Mahony

His Eminence
Roger Michael Mahony
Cardinal, Archbishop Emeritus of Los Angeles
Diocese Los Angeles
See Los Angeles
Appointed 12 July 1985
Installed 5 September 1985
Term ended 1 March 2011
Predecessor Timothy Manning
Successor José Horacio Gómez
Other posts Cardinal-Priest of Ss. Quattro Coronati
Ordination 1 May 1962
by Aloysius Joseph Willinger
Consecration 19 March 1975
by Hugh Aloysius Donohoe
Created Cardinal 28 June 1991
by John Paul II
Rank Cardinal-Priest
Personal details
Birth name Roger Michael Mahony
Born (1936-02-27) 27 February 1936
Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, United States
Nationality American
Denomination Roman Catholic
Parents Victor and Loretta Mahony
Previous post
Motto To reconcile God's people
Coat of arms {{{coat_of_arms_alt}}}
Styles of
Roger Mahony
Reference style His Eminence
Spoken style Your Eminence
Informal style Cardinal

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

Born in the Hollywood district of Los Angeles and raised in the city's San Fernando Valley area, 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, Mahony was appointed Archbishop of Los Angeles by Pope John Paul II, and became the first Los Angeles native to hold the office. He was created a cardinal in 1991 by Pope John Paul II, and as such 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 an instrumental figure in working to resolve the Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal, dismissing a dozen priests in 2002, developing new policies to prevent abuse, making a formal apology and issuing a report that described cases in detail. In 2007, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles apologized for abuses by priests and announced its record-breaking settlement with 508 victims worth $660 million.[1]

In 2011 Mahony reached the mandatory retirement age for bishops and was succeeded by José Horacio Gómez on March 1, 2011.[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 priest sexual-abuse cases during part of Mahony's tenure.

Early life and priesthood

Roger Michael 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. As a child he attended St. Charles Borromeo Grammar School in North Hollywood and at age 14, he 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, Mahony 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 during this period. He was named a monsignor in February 1967.

Episcopal career

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 auxiliary bishop of Fresno and titular bishop of Tamascani. Mahony received his episcopal consecration on the following March 19 from the Bishop of Fresno, Hugh Donohue, with Bishops William Johnson and John Cummins serving as co-consecrators. That year, the 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 various growers in the state to resolve agricultural 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 native Angeleno to hold the office. Mahony 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 May 1998 Mahony announced he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer.[3] 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.[4]

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

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

Civic involvement

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 remains a member of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications (1989–present), Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See (2000–present), and Congregation for Eastern Churches.

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[5] 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.[6] 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.[7] 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.[8][9]

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


Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels

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. Mahony defended the expense of the new cathedral to replace the previous earthquake-damaged cathedral citing the need for a community to have a religious center that unites people in faith and spirituality.[10][11]

Pastoral letter on the Mass

To prepare for the new Millennium, Mahony wrote a pastoral letter on the Mass entitled "Gather Faithfully Together: A Guide for Sunday Mass".[12] 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.[13] Some, including televangelist Mother Angelica, found "Gather Faithfully Together" to be gravely inconsistent with existing official liturgical directives set by the Catholic Church.[14] Others, however, found the letter to be visionary, inviting the Catholic Church to a more fruitful celebration of the Eucharist.[15]


The number of priestly vocations declined under Mahony's leadership.[16] 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."[17]

Sexual abuse cases

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.[18] 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.[19] 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.[19] O'Grady later was featured as the subject of the 2006 documentary film, Deliver Us from Evil.

Upon becoming Archbishop of Los Angeles in 1985, Mahony was active in addressing sexual abuse cases. Ray Boucher, a lawyer representing some of the plaintiffs in those cases, said the files released on Monday 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.” 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 2002, Mahony directed that as many as a dozen Southern California priests be forced to leave the church due to sexual abuse, in compliance with the church's promises in a 2001 settlement, resulting in praise from the victim's attorney in that case.[20]

In February 2004, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles issued the landmark Report to the People of God, containing a direct signed apology from Cardinal Roger Mahony. It included a detailed list of priests and circumstances in cases of known abuse. The report described the development of diocesan policy related to sexual abuse, and contained case studies of accused priests that fully explored how awareness and understanding of their crimes unfolded. The report contained details of the most significant cases in the history of the archdiocese; it did not release details of 33 priests who were accused but whose cases lacked confirmatory evidence. The church continued to fight against release of details on these priests despite strong criticism from media such as the Los Angeles Times.[21][22]

In 2007, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles apologized for abuses by priests and announced its record-breaking settlement with 508 victims worth $660 million, with 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 dwarfs the $157 million settlement paid by the Archdiocese of Boston; Massachusetts law places a legal dollar cap on how much money a non-profit group can be required to pay.[1]

In 2013, the diocese released memos from Monsignor Thomas John Curry to Mahony dating to 1986 and 1987; these revealed specific discussions regarding potential legal accountability for priests, including recommending that priests should try to avoid using therapists who might report them to police. At the time, Mahony wrote to the director of a treatment center in New Mexico, seeking to prevent accused priests from returning to Los Angeles. Among the reasons cited was to prevent the filing of lawsuits by victims who had been assured that these priests would not be allowed to return to their parishes.[23]


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.[24] Gómez succeeded Mahony on February 28, 2011, after the ceremony of transition held at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, with his resignation taking canonical effect on March 1, 2011.[25]

In his retirement, Mahony intended to devote more time to advocacy on behalf of immigrants, an issue that he has supported for many years.[26] He resides at his childhood parish in North Hollywood. He is no longer eligible to participate in any future papal conclaves because he passed his 80th birthday on February 27, 2016.

Removal from public duties

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.[27][28] Critics called Gómez's action "purely symbolic punishment" and "hand-slapping...a nearly meaningless gesture", and noted that Mahony remains "a powerful man" in the church.[28] According to the archdiocese, Mahony remains "a priest in good standing" and may still celebrate Mass, but he may no longer speak publicly[29] or exercise any responsibilities ordinarily reserved for a bishop, such as administering the sacrament of Confirmation.[27] Under canon law, Gómez does not have authority to punish Mahony, only to control his administrative assignments within the archdiocese. Mahony continued to administer confirmations later in 2013.[30] He still held the titles of Cardinal and Archbishop Emeritus of Los Angeles,[27] and retained his Vatican appointments including his eligibility to vote in papal conclaves.[31] 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;[32] however, Mahony participated in the conclave in March 2013.[33][34][35]


  1. 1 2 "LA cardinal offers abuse apology". BBC News. 2007-07-16. Retrieved 2008-03-08.
  2. "Cardinal Roger Mahony passes leadership of L.A. Archdiocese to Jose Gomez" Retrieved: 2011-02-27.
  3. Stammer, Larry B (29 May 1998). "Mahony Faces Cancer Surgery". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 6 June 2013.
  4. Shuit, Douglas P. (16 June 1998). "Mahony Has Successful Surgery for Prostate Cancer". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 6 June 2013.
  5. White, Deborah (2006-05-19). "Catholic Cardinal Mahony Slams House Bill HR 443". US Liberal Politics. Retrieved 2008-03-09.
  6. Donald Kerwin (2006-05-08). "Immigration reform: what the Catholic Church knows". Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. Archived from the original on 2007-04-21. Retrieved 2007-05-11.
  7. John L. Allen, Jr. (2006-04-14). "Mahony on immigration". National Catholic Reporter. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-04-11.
  8. "Cardinal Mahony speaks out on immigration reform". Day to Day. National Public Radio. 2006-03-29. Retrieved 2007-04-11.
  9. "Catholic Church officials spurn immigration reform plan". American Morning. CNN. 2006-03-29. Retrieved 2007-04-11.
  10. Farrell, Michael J. (1999-04-09). "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 2008-03-08.
  11. Nelson, Mike (2002-09-11). "New Los Angeles cathedral dedicated, opened to the world". Catholic News Service. Retrieved 2008-03-08.
  12. Cardinal Roger Mahony (1997-09-04). "Gather Faithfully Together: A Guide for Sunday Mass" (PDF). Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Retrieved 2015-09-26.
  13. 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. Retrieved 2008-03-08.
  15. 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 2010-01-29.
  16. The Official Catholic Directory. New York: P.J. Kenedy & Sons, 1982-2010.
  17. "As I Have Done for You: A Pastoral Letter on Ministry", by Cardinal Roger Mahony and the priests of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
  18. Russell, Ron (18 April 2002). "Mouth Wide Shut". New Times. Los Angeles. Retrieved 6 June 2013.
  19. 1 2 Lattin, Don (17 July 1998). "$30 Million Awarded Men Molested by `Family Priest' / 3 bishops accused of Stockton coverup". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 6 June 2013.
  20. Stammer, Larry B.; Lobdell, William (4 March 2002). "Mahony Ousts Priests in Sex Abuse Cases". Los Angeles Times.
  21. "L.A. archdiocese reports on decades of abuse claims". USA Today. 17 February 2004.
  22. Guccione, Jean; Lobdell, William (20 April 2006). "Details on 11 Priests Missing in '04 Report". Los Angeles Times.
  23. Kim, Victoria; Powers, Ashley; Ryan, Harriet (21 January 2013). "L.A. church leaders sought to hide sex abuse cases from authorities". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 30 May 2013.
  24. Pope selects Latino bishop from Texas to succeed Mahony Retrieved: 2010-04-06.
  25. "Cardinal Mahony Retires" Retrieved: 2011-02-27.
  26. Castro, Tony (24 February 2011). "Cardinal Roger Mahony's era is ending, but not his advocacy". Los Angeles Daily News. Retrieved 8 March 2011.
  27. 1 2 3 Ryan, Harriet; Kim, Victoria (1 February 2013). "Cardinal Mahony relieved of duties over handling of abuse". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 1 February 2013.
  28. 1 2 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.
  29. Medina, Jennifer; Goodstein, Laurie (1 February 2013). "Church Personnel Documents Released After Years of Resistance". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 February 2013.
  30. Watanabe, Teresa (May 9, 2013). "After rebuke by archbishop, Cardinal Mahony takes higher profile". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 6, 2013.
  31. "Cardinal relieved of public duties for past failure to protect children". Catholic News Service. 1 February 2013. Retrieved 1 February 2013.
  32. KTLA report on opposition to Mahony going to Rome
  33. Winfield, Nicole (20 February 2013). "Conclave brings out cardinals' dirty laundry". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 24 February 2013.
  34. Kolk, Doug (23 February 2013). "Catholics Petition Cardinal Roger Mahony Not to Cast Papal Vote". Retrieved 24 February 2013.
  35. "Cardinal Mahony tweets request for prayers before papal conclave". Los Angeles Times. 12 March 2013. Retrieved 12 March 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.”
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Simon Tonyé
Bishop of Tamascani
Succeeded by
Jerzy Dabrowski
Preceded by
Merlin Joseph Guilfoyle
Roman Catholic Bishop of Stockton
Succeeded by
Donald William Montrose
Preceded by
Timothy Manning
Roman Catholic Archbishop of Los Angeles
Succeeded by
José Horacio Gómez
Preceded by
Julijans Vaivods
Cardinal-Priest of Santi Quattro Coronati
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