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Conclave brings out cardinals' dirty laundry

Thursday - 2/21/2013, 4:41am  ET

FILE - In this Feb. 6, 2008 file photo , Cardinal Roger Mahony officiates during Ash Wednesday services at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles. Popular pressure is mounting in the U.S. and Italy to keep California Cardinal Roger Mahony away from the conclave to elect the next pope because of his role shielding sexually abusive priests, a movement targeting one of the most prominent of a handful of compromised cardinals scheduled to vote next month. . (AP Photo/Nick Ut, File)

NICOLE WINFIELD
Associated Press

VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Popular pressure is mounting in the U.S. and Italy to keep California Cardinal Roger Mahony away from the conclave to elect the next pope because of his role shielding sexually abusive priests, a movement targeting one of the most prominent of a handful of compromised cardinals scheduled to vote next month.

Amid the outcry, Mahony has made clear he is coming, and no one can force him to recuse himself. A Vatican historian also said Wednesday that there is no precedent for a cardinal staying home because of personal scandal. But the growing grass-roots campaign is an indication that ordinary Catholics are increasingly demanding a greater say in who is fit to elect their pope, and casts an ugly shadow over the upcoming papal election.

Conclaves always bring out the worst in cardinals' dirty laundry, with past sins and transgressions aired anew in the slow news days preceding the vote. This time is no different -- except that the revelations of Mahony's sins are so fresh and come on the tails of a recent round of sex abuse scandals in the U.S. and Europe.

This week, the influential Italian Catholic affairs magazine Famiglia Cristiana asked its readers if the Los Angeles-based Cardinal Mahony should participate in the conclave given the revelations. "Your opinion: Mahony in the conclave: Yes or No?" reads the online survey of one of Italy's most-read magazines.

The overwhelming majority among more than 350 replies has been a clear-cut "No."

The magazine is distributed free in Italian parishes each Sunday. The fact that it initiated the poll is an indication that the Catholic establishment in Italy has itself questioned whether tarnished cardinals should be allowed to vote -- a remarkable turn of events for a conservative Catholic country that has long kept quiet about priestly abuse and still is deferential to the church hierarchy in its backyard.

That initiative followed a petition by a group in the United States, Catholics United, demanding that Mahony recuse himself. So far 5,600 people have signed the petition, according to spokesman Chris Pumpelly.

"It's the right thing to do," Andrea Le
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