Priest abuse victims who fault Cardinal Roger Mahony for allegedly covering up the actions of abusive pastors said that the former archbishop of Los Angeles’ participation in choosing the Roman Catholic Church’s next leader is unacceptable.
"Every one of these bishops, popes, cardinals – people are embracing him," said Jackie Dennis, who on Tuesday invited the media to her attorney’s office in Echo Park.
"It's sickening to me. I don't get it."
Dennis and her lawyer, Arthur Goldberg, blame Mahony for allegedly covering up the actions of Father G. Neville Rucker, the priest who allegedly abused Dennis.
"It is absolutely disgusting that he's being allowed to vote for the new head of the church," Goldberg said.
They cite letters, including one from 1996, in which the cardinal heaped praise on Rucker, calling him a "friend" and "brother priest." They conclude that Mahony knew of Rucker's suspected abuse, yet did everything to shield him from prosecution.
"When you help a person carry out crimes, you're just as guilty as the perpetrator," Goldberg said.
Dennis said the church and its parishoners have become "comfortable with just putting things aside."
Dennis said she's speaking out now not for money. After winning a settlement from the Catholic Church in 2007, her civil options are essentially closed.
"I can honestly say, I didn't need that money," Dennis said.
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles – the nation’s largest – sent a statement to NBC4 on Tuesday saying that it was Cardinal Mahony who instituted the zero-tolerance policy that led to the immediate removal of Rucker from ministry.
And as far as the conclave is concerned, the statement said it is "the sacred duty of every Cardinal" to participate in the conclave to elect a new pope.
Still, Dennis echoes the concerns of thousands of Southern California Catholics who have expressed their wish that Mahony "stay home from Rome."
In February, an online petition that garnered some 10,000 signatures was delivered to the North Hollywood church where Mahony has a residence. The symbolic statement called for Mahony to withdraw from voting in the upcoming conclave to select Pope Benedict XVI's successor.
Pope Benedict XVI stepped down on Feb. 28, making him the first pope to abdicate since the Middle Ages. The 85-year-old pontiff said his decision was due to "an advanced age" that made it difficult to perform his papal duties.