“This scandal is putting us, the clergy and the church, where we belong — with the excluded ones,” he added. “Jesus was painted with the same brush as the two thieves crucified with him.”

The Surviviors Network of those Abused by Priests slammed the language.

“It’s hurtful and disingenuous for Mahony to claim he’s been scapegoated,” said director David Clohessy. “He’s been a bishop for almost 40 years and the sole head of America’s largest archdiocese for more than a quarter century. Few, if any, U.S. Catholic prelates have been more powerful than Mahony. So for him to somehow pretend to be a powerless pawn is pathetic.”

Fueling the latest round of criticism of Mahony is last month’s release of reams of confidential personnel files that, according to Reuters, showed Mahony and an aide, Thomas Curry, worked to send priests accused of abuse out of California to shield them from law enforcement scrutiny in the 1980s.