Cardinals set to go to Rome to choose new pontiff

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CARDINAL Keith O’Brien is not the only senior member of the Catholic Church to be caught up in controversy.

Roman Catholic activists have been petitioning the now retired Cardinal Roger Mahony not to take part in the forthcoming papal conclave, claiming it would be an insult to the survivors of sexual abuse committed by priests while he was archbishop of Los Angeles from 1985 to 2011.

In January this year, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles officially relieved Cardinal Mahony of all of his duties in the archdiocese following the release of personnel files documenting priest sexual abuse.

Despite the controversy, Cardinal Mahony has said he intends to attend the conclave, claiming he has been “scapegoated” and unfairly disgraced.

The United States has seen further controversy. Cardinal Justin Rigali, the former archbishop of Philadelphia, retired in 2011, five months after the archdiocese was rocked by an abuse scandal, while Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, was recently questioned over the abuse of children by priests in his former archdiocese of Milwaukee.

Lawyers are interested in knowing when Cardinal Dolan learned of the allegations and when he made them public.

Meanwhile, victims of sexual abuse at the hands of priests in Ireland have called on the Catholic primate, Cardinal Sean Brady, not to attend the papal conclave at the Vatican.

In 2010, he apologised for his role in mishandling the case of serial child abuser Father Brendan Smyth.

The apology came after it emerged that, in 1975, as a priest, Cardinal Brady had been at meetings where children signed vows of silence over complaints about the paedophile priest.

Christine Buckley, of the Aislinn Centre for abuse survivors in Dublin, has criticised the cardinal for taking the decision to go to the conclave.

“When the Pope made his statement that he was stepping down, I did think surely Sean Brady will not go to Rome. I was naive,” she said.

“He has such arrogance that he thinks it is OK to hop off to Rome.

“He is thinking of himself rather than the victims he could have saved had he spoken about Brendan Smyth.”

She added: “He would do best by expressing his apology by not going to Rome.”