"It is so rare because they stick together like glue," he said. "The fact that Gomez said what he said, this had to have been cleared by the Vatican, they had to have discussed this with the Vatican. Mahony took the fall."
Gomez declined an interview request from The Associated Press.
The exchange also indicates the stress Mahony is under following several weeks of damaging disclosures of priest personnel files that reveal he and a top aide, Thomas Curry, who is now a bishop, maneuvered to shield priests from prosecution, kept parishioners in the dark, and failed to call police about sex crimes against minors.
Gomez's public rebuke of Mahony, 76, for failing to take swift action against abusive priests adds tarnish to a career already overshadowed by the church sex abuse scandal, but it does little to change his role in the larger church.
The archbishop also accepted a resignation request from Curry, who most recently served as auxiliary bishop in charge of the archdiocese's Santa Barbara region.
The fallout will get worse as parishioners themselves begin to read the thousands of pages of documents that are now posted on the archdiocese website.
The files were to be released as part of a record-breaking $660 million settlement with more than 500 victims of sex abuse, but lawyers for the archdiocese and individual priests waged a five-year battle to keep them sealed. On Thursday, a judge ordered them released without significant redactions after attorneys for The Associated Press and Los Angeles Times intervened.
An attorney for the media organizations contacted the archdiocese Friday with concerns that certain documents were improperly redacted.
Several of the documents in the newly released files echo recurring themes that emerged over the past decade in dioceses nationwide, where church leaders moved problem priests between parishes and didn't call police.