Cardinal Roger Mahony, retired archbishop of Los Angeles, withdrew Monday as the keynote speaker at next month’s annual fundraising dinner for Utah’s Catholic diocese after hearing of potential protests about his alleged role in covering up priest sex abuse in Southern California in the 1980s.
Mahony decided to decline the invitation after recent reports of abuse — including the explosive grand jury finding that more than 300 priests in six Pennsylvania dioceses had abused at least 1,000 victims over 70 years — and the call from Pope Francis “for greater accountability,” diocesan spokeswoman Jean Hill said.
In 2013, Mahony’s L.A. successor, Archbishop Jose Gomez, barred him from any public duties,according to the National Catholic Reporter, which said the reason for the move was Mahony's “alleged failures to protect young people from sexually abusive priests — documented in court filings in recent years.”
Solis, who oversees the 300,000-plus Catholics in the Diocese of Salt Lake City, expressed his “personal shame, distress and anger” about the “sexual abuse committed by some of our priests, bishops and church leaders against our children, young people and adults whom we are supposed to serve and to protect.”
Steve Onysko, a member of St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Parish in Park City, was among those troubled by Mahony as a guest speaker at the dinner.
The former archbishop, Onysko wrote in an email, “evokes unwelcome memories of Los Angeles Archdiocese leaders' failings in prevention of priest sexual abuse of children.”
The fundraiser should honor “the courage and strength of these abuse victims, and their advocates' efforts,” he added, and a “guest speaker [who is an] appropriate spokesperson for these victims' healing journey.”
A substitute for Mahony at the Sept. 6 Utah event has yet to be named.
“We hope to have a speaker at the annual Bishop’s Dinner,” Hill said, “who can highlight a vision for moving forward in the Catholic Church.”