On February 16, 2001, Cardinal Mahony spoke with Beliefnet and AOL members about issues facing his diocese and the Catholic Church as a whole.

Moderator: Good afternoon! Today we will be joined by Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony. We'll discuss challenges facing the U.S. Catholic Church as it enters the third millennium and anything else on your mind. This is the Cardinal's sixth annual online appearance and one of the highlights for the more than 32,000 attendees at the Religious Education Congress in Anaheim, California.

Moderator: Good morning/afternoon, Cardinal.

Cardinal Mahony: Hi, everyone! How are we doing?

Moderator: Well, thanks. We're very glad you're joining us. Here's our first question:

Question: How do you keep track of all that is happening in the largest diocese in the US? Do you deal with much of the issues personally?

Cardinal Mahony: BLF: One depends on many, many folks to assist. Priests, laity, religious. Great collaboration. I deal with a lot of things personally, but with over 5 million Catholics, lots of folks help me.

Question: My question to the cardinal is about teens and religious ed--how do you keep teens interested?

Cardinal Mahony: Great challenge keeping teens interested. We need to have them know Jesus Christ in some personal way.

Question: Here in North Texas, the Bishops have issued a letter regarding Eucharistic Ministers washing the Cup after Mass. I noticed at the end that they are now to be "vested" again. Is this Letter on the national level or just North Texas?

Cardinal Mahony: It is up to the local Bishops to make those determinations. Vesting is a local issue.

Question: I'd like to know if the question of women priests is an "if" or a "when" issue?

Cardinal Mahony: The Church believes that it does not have the authority to make this change, that Jesus set up the Church in a certain way.

Question: Why is it OK for Episcopal convert priests to be married, but regular Catholic priests can't marry?

Cardinal Mahony: That's a good question. Our Eastern Rite Catholic priests also may marry. That is strictly a matter of Church discipline, and could be changed if the Pope so directed.

Question: Is there any movement towards a return to more classical Latin Liturgy, both in song and services?

Cardinal Mahony: Many of us want to retain the Latin traditions, hymns, etc., so that we don't lose that precious heritage.

Question: How much sleep do you get, Your Eminence? How do you make time for prayer? You must be so busy.

Cardinal Mahony: I am a morning person--up at 5 AM. Prayer early, then the rest of the day unfolds. But my tent folds at 10 PM.

What factors played a part in your decision to join the priesthood, how old were you when you made that decision?

Cardinal Mahony: I always thought about being a priest while in St. Charles grammar school, No Hollywood. God did the rest.

Question: How can historically English-speaking parishes change to accomodate newer ethnic groups?

Cardinal Mahony: It's really important that we welcome all of our new groups into our parishes. The diversity and richness makes the Church much stronger. But we have to work at it. All parishioners need to get to know one another, to meet each other, talk to each other, and share their fascinating stories. Once that happens, all kinds of barriers fall quickly.

Question: What is it like to be the bishop of Los Angeles ... a place more known for its celebrities than it's celibacy ;-)

Cardinal Mahony: Los Angeles is a great place, and there is a deep faith and sense of sacred here. Not everything is "Hollywood" shallow.

Question: What does Cardinal Mahony do to address the needs of Latino americans in his diocese?

Cardinal Mahony: Our Hispanic Catholics are a great blessing, and we are taking many active steps to welcome them, offer them worship in their own language, and recruit more Spanish speaking priests for them.

Question: Cardinal, are you worried that fewer people are attending Mass and that there are more lapsed Catholics?

Cardinal Mahony: Our churches are packed on Sundays, and most are too small. But we still need to reach out to the inactive Catholics. We need to do more to welcome them home.