Bishop Accountability

Roger M. Mahony
Cardinal, Los Angeles CA Archdiocese

Mahony was born on February 27, 1936 in North Hollywood CA and is a graduate of St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo CA and of the National Catholic School of Social Science at Catholic University in Washington DC. He was ordained in 1962, served as bishop of Fresno CA (1975–80) and Stockton CA (1980–85), and has been the archbishop of Los Angeles since 1985. Mahony became a cardinal in 1991; he is 67.

Despite claims of transparency and openness, Mahony has resisted the release of accused priests’ names and has employed constitutional challenges to keep documents from prosecutors. Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney William Hodgman has charged 9 priests with sexual abuse of minors, and may charge as many as 12 more. In Ventura County, a grand jury has questioned 4 vicars of clergy, past and present, and charged 2 priests. Under a law extending the statute of limitations for one year (subsequently increased), over 400 claims are ongoing against 120 defendants.

Among the accused, Michael Baker confessed to Mahony in 1986, but was transferred to a series of parishes until 2000. Michael Wempe was placed by Mahony in a hospital with access to children, despite a long record of abuse. Like Mahony, Baker and Wempe went to St. John’s Seminary, as did disgraced bishop and Mahony protégé G. Patrick Ziemann. As in Boston and elsewhere, seminary connections appear to have enabled abuse and fostered the cover-up, and the Catholic treatment center network was used to recycle abusive priests. Mahony’s connection with the notorious treatment center in Jemez Springs NM, run by Servants of the Paraclete, is well established.

On June 26, 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against extending statutes of limitations (see opinion and dissent), and a California judge will soon rule on whether prosecutors can have 2,000 pages of chancery documents. In the July 2003 update to, we will provide full coverage of the Supreme Court decision and its implications.

The mood and methods of the Mahony chancery as the scandal broke in LA can be gauged from the emails among Mahony’s inner circle, leaked to the Los Angeles radio station WKFI in early April 2002. (See resources on this site for two versions.) Even during Holy Week, concern for the victims is nonexistent in this email exchange, and contrition never comes up. Cynical manipulation of the victims, press, police, and even comrades in the chancery seems to be the norm.

Mahony precipitated the resignation on June 16, 2003 of Frank Keating, after Keating criticized Mahony’s orchestration of a boycott by California bishops of the National Review Board’s compliance survey. The face-off had the unintended effect of focusing national attention on collusion among the bishops, days before the June USCCB conference begins.

As prosecutors await the decision on 2,000 pages of documents, they are actively pursuing their investigations. Wempe had been released in the wake of the Stogner decision, but was recently picked up on new charges.


Bishop Accountability © 2003