LOS ANGELES (ChurchMilitant.com) - Two Catholics were kicked out of the LA cathedral after trying to hand a petition to Abp. Jose Gomez.
Brother Christopher Sale and a Catholic layman using the name John Paul Norris approached Abp. Gomez in a walkway after Sunday Mass at Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral on Feb. 17. The archbishop's security workers tried to stop the two men from getting too close to Abp. Gomez. But the archbishop allowed them to speak, at least initially.
The men were trying to present to Abp. Gomez a copy of a petition to remove retired Cdl. Roger Mahony, his predecessor in the Los Angeles archdiocese. The petition, launched last year, has garnered more than 7,000 signatures. It calls for Cdl. Mahony to be condemned by Church leaders, punished by the Vatican and investigated by law enforcement for covering up sexually abusive clergy.
While Cdl. Mahony was officially relieved of many public duties in 2013 owing to his legacy of clerical sex abuse cover-ups, he remains embedded in the Los Angeles archdiocese. For instance, he is slated to speak at this year's LA Religious Education Conference.
A short video of the encounter was shared by Clean the Church. In the video, things turn south after someone mentions the name of disgraced former cardinal Theodore McCarrick (recently laicized). A security guard intervenes, saying, "No talking about that, I'm sorry."
Security officers quickly turned against Norris and Bro. Christopher, widening the space between them and the archbishop. It is unclear whether this was due to the mention of McCarrick's name or the fact that they were being videotaped.
Brother Christopher complied with the security officers, who escorted him from the premises.
"The faithful were appalled to see a man wearing a religious habit being escorted off the cathedral grounds," Brother Christopher told Church Militant in an email correspondence on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Norris persisted in calling out to Abp. Gomez and trying to get past the security team.
Norris told Church Militant he managed to pass on the text of the petition to the priest walking alongside the archbishop, but not the list of signatures — which he says is several hundred pages.
He tried evading one security worker and explained he was trying to give the archbishop the signatures for the petition. The security officer advised Norris, "You can turn them in to the office, if you want. You can go inside the office."
He mentioned to Church Militant that there had been efforts in the past to make sure Abp. Gomez would see the petition himself.
As the security officer continued blocking Norris' path to Abp. Gomez, another worker told him, "It's private property. He said you can't."
Norris replied, "I understand, but he's my bishop. I have the right to ask him a question, he's my bishop."
He called out as Abp. Gomez and the others walked away, "Bishop Gomez! Do something about Mahony!"
Church Militant reached out to the archdiocese of Los Angeles to get Abp. Gomez's side of the story. No response was received by press time.
Norris told Church Militant in a phone interview Tuesday that he found it ironic that Abp. Gomez supports immigration but "basically kicks people out" of the cathedral.
Brother Christopher commented on the incident, "I would imagine he [Abp. Gomez] regrets how he handled the situation. He just turned his security team loose on us and they behaved like a bunch of mafia thugs. Really shameful."
He also stated, "Had we been hostile I could understand. We were extremely courteous."
"I have written letters to Gomez over the years," Bro. Christopher mentioned. "This was the first time I met him."
"He did send a letter once to tell me he commended my work," he added, "but he didn't think I needed to wear a religious habit. I wrote him back telling him that God put this habit on me and that's where it's going to stay."
Church Militant interviewed Bro. Christopher in 2016. He described a powerful conversion experience in which the Lord brought him away from drug addiction and same-sex attraction.