LOS ANGELES -- As archbishop of Los Angeles, Roger Mahony responded to criticism of his handling of sexual abuse cases with a high-priced crisis management firm, full-page ads in Spanish and English newspapers, and a report naming accused priests.
In retirement, Mahony's public relations operation consists mainly of his thoughts and a computer keyboard. Since last month, when outrage flared anew over files showing he shielded abusers, the cardinal has thrown himself into social media to give the public his side of the story.
It was on his blog that Mahony defended himself against a public rebuke by his successor, and it was on Twitter that he confirmed, to the dismay of many critics, that he would attend the conclave to elect a new pope.
"Am planning to be in Rome and vote for the next Pope," he wrote hours after Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation. He added, "Will be twee(t)ing daily."
It was an extraordinary pledge from a man who had tweeted just five times before and only sporadically updated his blog. But as Catholic groups, members of the public and even some Vatican officials continued to question Mahony's integrity, he became ever more prolific online.
From the Vatican on Monday, he posted his harshest assessment yet of those who have attacked him.
"I can't recall a time such as now when people tend to be so judgmental and even self-righteous, so quick to accuse, judge and condemn," he wrote. "And often with scant real facts and information."
Since the release of 12,000 pages of confidential church records, Mahony has been lambasted by church critics, victims' advocates and others. The criticism skyrocketed with Benedict's resignation and Mahony's insistence that he would cast his vote for the next pope despite having been removed by Archbishop Jose Gomez from all public duties.
Last week, three former top Vatican officials publicly discussed the propriety of Mahony attending the conclave, and a liberal Catholic group gathered 10,000 signatures online urging the cardinal to give up his vote.
The debate over his presence only grew when a British cardinal, Keith O'Brien, decided to stay home following allegations that he had engaged in "inappropriate acts" with priests decades earlier.