He instead ends the interview by saying: “to be honest with you, I don't see anything is going to happen with this document or next week in Washington, D.C., that is going to bring about this unity.
“I think what’s going to happen is we will pass this. Hopefully, we will accept the offer of the Catholic Congress members and move forward with them after the holidays, with the new Eucharistic revival. And those elements will bring together the unity and communion that we all want,” Mahony says.
Mahony’s own record in dealing with issues related to the Eucharist is steeped in controversy, however. In September 1997, the then-Archbishop of Los Angeles published a pastoral letter titled “Gather Faithfully Together: A Guide for Sunday Mass, Pastoral Letter on the Liturgy.” Critics of the 31-page long document faulted its confusing language and its inability to transmit a clear message regarding the role of the people of God, the celebrant, and the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.
The letter sparked a major back and forth of criticism and defense of Mahony in Catholic media. The Servant of God Father John Hardon, S.J., wrote that “the central focus of the pastoral letter is on the body of Christ, indeed, but on the Mystical Body of Christ, which is the Church. Prophetically, the late Pope Pius XII anticipated this misunderstanding of associating, to the point of identifying, the Holy Eucharist with the Mystical Body of Christ.
“Given the length of ‘Gathering Faithfully Together,’” Hardon observed, “it is impossible to give here a full analysis of its theological orientation. One thing, however, may be said. This pastoral letter is misleading.”
In 1988, Mahony was hailed for his zero tolerance policy on sex abuse, and temporarily became a hero to sex abuse victims when he directed that 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.
Upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 75 in 2011, Mahony resigned and was replaced by the first Hispanic to lead the Los Angeles archdiocese, Archbishop José Gomez, now president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
But an investigation published by Los Angeles Times revealed that Mahony and his then-vicar of clergy systematically conspired to conceal the sexual abuse of children by priests from law enforcement officials.
According to the investigation, in “memos written to Mahony in 1986 and 1987 contained in personnel files for 14 priests and filed this month as evidence in a court case, his chief advisor on sex abuse cases proposed strategies to prevent police from investigating three priests who had admitted molesting young boys to church officials.”
As a consequence of the ensuing scandal and protests at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in North Hollywood, where Mahony was residing, Gomez relieved him of his remaining duties.
“We need to acknowledge that terrible failure today. We need to pray for everyone who has ever been hurt by members of the Church,” Gomez said in a statement on Jan. 31, 2013. “And we need to continue to support the long and painful process of healing their wounds and restoring the trust that was broken.”
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Gomez noted that “effective immediately, I have informed Cardinal Mahony" — who served the archdiocese from 1985 to 2011 — “that he will no longer have any administrative or public duties.”
"The behavior described in these files [released by the Los Angeles Times] is terribly sad and evil. There is no excuse, no explaining away what happened to these children. The priests involved had the duty to be their spiritual fathers and they failed,” Gomez stated.
“Reading these files, reflecting on the wounds that were caused, has been the saddest experience I've had since becoming your Archbishop in 2011," Gomez wrote.
Mahony’s role in covering up the sexual abuse of minors have caused him problems ever since.
In 2013, a group of Los Angeles Catholics gathered thousands of signatures asking Mahony to recuse himself from attending the conclave in Rome that elected Pope Francis. Mahony attended the conclave.
In February 2018, Pope Francis appointed Mahony as his special envoy to the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the diocese of Scranton, Pa. The local uproar against his visit forced Mahony to cancel his participation.