I wasn't surprised that being inside the church comforted me. Catholicism played a central role throughout my formative years.
Although my father was a baptized Catholic, neither my mother nor her children (my two sisters and myself) were. Eventually, she decided to convert. We took the mandatory catechism classes, parish priest Father Francis Osborne visited our home regularly and eventually we were baptized.
Shortly thereafter I became an altar boy with dreams of becoming a priest. When my parents were remarried in the Catholic Church, I served at their Mass.
Throughout my early childhood and into high school, I attended Roman Catholic schools, took more catechism and studied Latin.
In short, Catholicism was deeply ingrained into me and even during my periods of deepest doubts about its validity I cannot easily dismiss it.
Who knows how much further along I would be in my return—if it were not for Roger Cardinal Mahony, one of the most blatant illegal alien, Open-Borders advocates and an untried criminal for his role in covering up his priest subordinates who sexually abused minor boys and girls. Mahony's record of deceit dates back to the early 1980s.
What brings Mahony back into the forefront is the Mass he offered at the Capitol Hill March 21 illegal alien rally coyly named "March for America"
Comprehensive immigration reform is, said Mahony, "right and true"—as if he has any moral authority on immigration or any other subject. [Immigration reform is right and just, By Cardinal Roger Mahony, Washington Post, March 19, 2010]
In the opinion of many, including me, Mahony belongs in jail.
And, now that Mahony will turn the mandatory retirement age of 75 next February, that's just where he may be headed.
According to church protocol, when Cardinals reach 75, they are required to submit their resignations to the Vatican. The Pope has the option to permit the Cardinal to continue in his post, should he choose to, or accept his resignation.
Vatican insiders speculate that Mahony has approved a coadjutor bishop recently selected for him by the Holy See. This news and the new Cardinal's name will be, according to rumor, publicly announced "soon."
But retirement may not save Mahony from prosecution.
That will depend on whether Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley makes good on his promise to continue to thoroughly investigate and vigorously prosecute sexually abusive priests in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Included are those who protected the priests including Mahony.
For nearly a decade, Mahony has been defensive and defiant. He's steadfastly refused to respond to demands for the names of known priest offenders and the internal church documents that identify them.
Years ago, Cooley promised Ron Russell of Los Angeles' alternative newspaper the New Times that "his office intends to go beyond merely prosecuting a few priests accused of abusing children to pursue criminal misconduct within the nation's largest Roman Catholic archdiocese 'wherever it leads.'"
(If you wonder why Cooley spoke to the New Times and not the Los Angeles Times, the answer is simple. The LA Times in the early stages of the investigation never had an interest in exposing Mahony's deceit—presumably because it supports his political liberalism and efforts to destroy Catholicism.)
When Russell asked Cooley if that means Mahony himself may conceivably become the target of a criminal probe, the district attorney pointedly replied: "No one is above the law.'
"Cooley declined to speculate about how many current and former priests within Mahony's sprawling archdiocese—which includes Los Angeles, Ventura, and Santa Barbara Counties—may ultimately be charged. He pledged , however, to bring guilty clerics and those who criminally protect them to justice "whether the number turns out to be in the single digits, double digits, or triple digits."
[D.A. Steve Cooley Says He'll Take His Investigation of Cardinal Mahony's Pedo-Priests "Wherever it leads", By Ron Russell, New Times L.A., July 11, 2002]
"We intend to be thorough and cautious. We want to make sure the evidence we gather is not suppressed [in court].We're only at the beginning of a very long and detailed investigatory process."
If the public wants an idea of how Cooley intends to prosecute those for whom there is sufficient evidence, he pointed them to the case of Father Richard Allen Henry who molested four boys from the same family. Cooley convicted Henry convicted and sent him to prison for eight years—the first priest so sentenced.
Despite agreeing in 2008 to a record-setting $660 million settlement with more than 500 alleged victims of clergy abuse, no figure in the Catholic Church's worldwide involvement in the pedophilia scandal has been more elusive than Mahony who has blocked numerous attempts by prosecutors and plaintiffs' attorneys to gain access to internal church documents. [Judge Approves $660 million Abuse Settlement, Associated Press, March 7, 2008]
Even the U.S. bishops' National Review Board criticized Mahony for what it termed "resisting disclosure."
Although the criminal process is slow, don't discount Cooley.
Several years ago, while working with the district attorney's staff, I met Cooley. His prosecutors were engaged in what then seemed like the impossible task of pressuring Mexican authorities to change a 2001 Mexican Supreme Court decision that barred the extradition of killers facing life sentences in the United States.
Key to Cooley's efforts was his department's creation of the website EscapingJustice.com that highlighted the outrageous refusal of Mexico to cooperate by exposing the stories of victims whose killers fled to that country.
In 2005, largely because of Cooley's efforts, the Mexican Supreme Court overturned the previous decision and allowed criminals facing life terms to be extradited. Several murderers have since been returned, including the killer of Sheriff's Deputy David March.
During the week leading up to Easter Sunday, Mahony has now delivered the ultimate insult to whoever remains among his faithful.
On his blog, Mahony posted his response to disapproval about how then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (and future pontiff Pope Benedict XVI), as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), handled the case of Rev. Lawrence Murphy who sexually abused more than 200 students at a Milwaukee school for the deaf.
Reports claim that the priest was "protected" from laicization in the 1990s by the CDF. (Vatican Axed Trial for Priest Accused by Deaf Boys, by Nicole Winfield, Boston Globe, March 25, 2010)
"Without the proactive and helpful assistance of Cardinal Ratzinger and the Congregation over these years, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles would never have been able to move forward aggressively to remove priests from ministry who were proved to be guilty of the sexual abuse of minors."
[Cardinal Mahony praises Pope's swift response to Los Angeles abuse cases, Catholic News Agency, Mar 31, 2010]
Mahony, other Cardinals like New York's retired Edward Egan, who was once quoted as saying that 19 victims of sexual abuse is not "a significant number", and now possibly the Pope, all of whom claim to take the moral high ground on immigration while turning their backs on innocent sex abuse victims makes it tough for me to make a case for returning to the church.
Despite it all, I remain open-minded—in large part because of readers who urged me not to give up; and because of other Catholics that I know are charitable, loving people.
What I need to spur me on is a sustained news cycle without Roman Catholic advocacy for open borders—or more scandalous, stomach-churning accounts about sexual acts perpetrated on children that are so vile that my mind can barely grasp them.
Since it seems unlikely that I will get either, let alone both, my inner struggle remains unresolved.
Joe Guzzardi [email him] is a California native who recently fled the state because of over-immigration, over-population and a rapidly deteriorating quality of life. He has moved to Pittsburgh, PA where the air is clean and the growth rate stable. A long-time instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, Guzzardi has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.