Should abuse-tainted cardinal be allowed to vote for new pope?

Cardinal Roger Mahony, former archbishop of Los Angeles, attends a ceremony held by Pope Benedict XVI at the Saint Peter's Basilica Feb. 18, 2012, in Vatican City. Getty Images

Thousands of pages of evidence released last month in California showed the former Los Angeles archbishop and current Cardinal Roger Mahony participated in a bold cover up of priest sex abuse in his diocese.

Cardinal Roger Mahony, former archbishop of Los Angeles, attends a ceremony held by Pope Benedict XVI at the Saint Peter's Basilica Feb. 18, 2012, in Vatican City.
Cardinal Roger Mahony in 2012
Getty Images

The evidence, which is part of a lawsuit against the archdiocese, showed how Mahony and an aide maneuvered behind the scenes to shield molester priests, provide damage control for the church, and keep parishioners in the dark. Shortly after the revelation, Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez relieved Mahony of his remaining public duties.

It appears Mahony will avoid any criminal charges in the matter, and he is also expected to be among the approximately 117 men called to participate in the College of Cardinals to help pick the next pope following Pope Benedict XVI's announcement that he will be stepping down as Pontiff on Feb. 28. Mahony has said he looks forward to traveling to Rome to participate in the conclave of cardinals.

An influential Italian Catholic magazine asked its readers if Mahony should participate in the conclave. Famiglia Cristiana, one of Italy's most-read magazines, featured the question on its website Monday asking readers: "Your opinion: Mahony in the conclave: Yes or No?"

For Catholics United, an American nonprofit organization, the answer is a resounding "no."

"It's the right thing to do," said Andrea Leon-Grossman, a Los Angeles member of Catholics United, in a statement on its website. "In the interests of the children who were raped in his diocese, he needs to keep out of the public eye. He has already been stripped of his ministry. If he's truly sorry for what has happened, he would show some humility and opt to stay home."

Mahony, who was archbishop of Los Angeles from 1985 until 2011, has apologized for "mistakes" he made as archbishop, saying he had not been equipped to deal with the problem of sexual misconduct involving children.

Although Archbishop Gomez stripped Mahony of his duties, the L.A. church leader has endorsed Mahony's participation in the conclave, asking parishioners to pray for him, reports KCBS in Los Angeles.

Gomez said in a statement: "Cardinal Mahony's accomplishments and experience in the areas of immigration, social justice, sacred liturgy, and the role of the laity in the Church will serve the College of Cardinals well as it works to discern the will of the Holy Spirit in these deliberations that will lead to the election of our new Pope."

EDITOR'S NOTE: In what was likely a response to the outcry against Cardinal Mahony, Ambrogio Piazzoni, vice prefect of the Vatican Library, told reporters on February 20 that all eligible members of the College of Cardinals are required to attend and participate in the papal conclave. However, as Edward Peters, Edward Peters, a canon law expert at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, pointed out in a recent blog post, Mahony could always resign first.

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