Black Smoke Means the Catholic Church Settled a Sex Abuse Scandal for $10 Million

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Photo: ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images

The black smoke pouring from the Vatican this morning signals that the 115 cardinals inside have not yet picked a new pope. But one of them has less on his mind today: Cardinal Roger Mahony, along with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, has settled four child abuse cases for a total of $9.99 million, Reuters reports.

Mahony allegedly helped an admitted pedophile priest avoid the law by sending him out of state for treatment and then readmitting him to work as a priest in L.A., but the terms of the settlement do not include an admission of wrongdoing. After Mahony stepped down as head of the largest U.S. archdiocese in 2011, he was censured by the next local leader "and stripped of all public and administrative duties, as punishment for his role in the sex abuse scandal."

None of which, however, precludes a trip to Rome: "Mahony retained his title as cardinal and his right to take part in the Vatican conclave that selects a new pontiff to replace retired Pope Benedict XVI, an authority he chose to exercise."

Two civil suits were scheduled to go to trial next month. A lawyer for the church said Mahony "admitted that he made serious mistakes in putting Michael Baker back in the ministry," but denied a cover-up. According to the victim's attorney, that is "as close to an admission of guilt as you're going to get from the archdiocese." Well, that and the money.