LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A former Los Angeles Catholic archbishop who was stripped of all public duties after being linked to efforts to conceal child sex abuse by priests said on Monday he planned to participate in the process to elect a successor to Pope Benedict XVI.
The announcement by Cardinal Roger Mahony, which angered a prominent victims support group, came less than two weeks after 12,000 pages of church files unsealed under court order showed Mahony worked to send priests accused of abuse out of state to shield known abusers from law enforcement scrutiny in the 1980s.
"I look forward to traveling to Rome soon to help thank Pope Benedict XVI for his gifted service to the Church, and to participate in the Conclave to elect his successor," Mahoney, 76, said in a statement released on Monday by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
Benedict surprised the world's Catholics earlier in the day by announcing his plan to retire at the end of this month.
All cardinals under 80 years old are eligible to enter a conclave to choose the next pope. Mahony, who has been a cardinal since 1991, participated in the 2005 conclave that elected Benedict as the successor to Pope John Paul II.
Mahony's successor as archbishop of Los Angeles, Jose Gomez, removed him last month from all public and administrative duties following the release of the documents. Mahoney's former top aide, Thomas Curry, also stepped down as bishop of Santa Barbara.
Mahony, who was archbishop of Los Angeles from 1985 until 2011, has apologized for "mistakes" he made as archbishop, saying he had not been equipped to deal with the problem of sexual misconduct involving children.
Joelle Casteix, western regional director for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said she was concerned that it was not in Mahony's best interest to "elect anyone who will punish wrongdoers and take child molesters out of ministry.
"We fear that anyone that he votes for will only continue this shameful cover-up of child sexual abuse," she added.
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles was not immediately available to comment on the group's concerns.
The Los Angeles archdiocese, which serves 4 million Catholics, reached a $660 million civil settlement in 2007 with more than 500 victims of child molestation in the biggest such agreement of its kind in the nation.
Mahony at the time called the abuse "a terrible sin and crime."
(Reporting by Nichola Groom; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Dan Grebler)