Friday, February 1, 2013

Addressing the pastoral failure in L.A.

I have been silent on many simmering intra-Church issues because engaging in Church polemics and politics is not the point nor purpose of Καθολικός διάκονος, which is dedicated to the diakonia of koinonia (i.e., the service of communion). I became very enlightened about this during the summer of 2011 when I weighed in on l'affair Corapi. While my two posts on that sad affair remain some of the most popular posts that have appeared on my blog, I don't want to be popular on those terms.

But in light of the revelations out of Los Angeles this week, chronicled by the Los Angeles Times and other sources, that Cardinal Roger Mahony, along with his then-Vicar for Clergy, Bishop Thomas Curry, back in the mid-to-late 1980s (several years before the first round of the child sexual abuse scandals in the Church- which would mark the beginning of what the late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus referred to as the Church's long lent), together conspired, in the words of the Times, "to conceal the molestation of children from law enforcement," it is in the service of communion that I reluctantly weigh in.

The two bishops' conspiring was done with an eye towards protecting several abusive priests. In one memo Bishop Curry even suggested to Mahony, who was the fairly new archbishop of Los Angeles at the time, "strategies to prevent police from investigating three priests who had admitted to church officials that they had abused young boys."

In response to all of this coming to light, the current archbishop of Los Angeles, José Gómez (a priest of Opus Dei), published an open letter (the entire text can be found at the L.A. Times link above). In his letter Archbishop Gómez wrote- "Effective immediately, I have informed Cardinal Mahony that he will no longer have any administrative or public duties. Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Curry has also publicly apologized for his decisions while serving as Vicar for Clergy. I have accepted his request to be relieved of his responsibility as the Regional Bishop of Santa Barbara."

On his blog today, Cardinal Mahony posted a letter he wrote to Archbishop Gómez in response. I found this letter to be both disingenuous and disheartening. Cardinal Mahony took no responsibility for his deliberate decision to conceal the molestation of children from law enforcement, thus protecting priests who committed these horrifying offenses, which is the immediate cause of this whole dust-up.

At least for me, this prompts several questions: Does Cardinal Mahony seriously believe he should still have public duties in the archdiocese? Does he think he should be entrusted with administrative, or other responsible ecclesiastical duties? In light of what Archbishop Gómez correctly called "the failings of the past," does His Eminence believe himself to be above public chastisement?

This represents but ONE instance in this whole sickening mess where a bishop has held another bishop to account. So, to Archbishop Gómez, Thank you! In my estimation, Cardinal Mahony could've retained a modicum of dignity had he simply and humbly acknowledged his failings, said he was sorry, and lived in quiet retirement instead of trying to justify his failures and to indict his successor as both unfair and uncharitable. As Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin discovered, if you take on the club you'll pay a price.

Let's not forget that Fridays are days of penance. Perhaps this Lent we should also undertake acts of reparation for sins committed against children by the Church's ministers. Above all we should pray for and, if you know someone who was abused, help those who were the victims of abusive priests. I would also ask for prayers for Cardinal Mahony and Bishop Curry as they are confronted with the consequences of their failure to take steps to safeguard the young people entrusted to their pastoral care.

It was our blessed Lord who said, "For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light" (Luke 8:17-ESV). This is good for each of us to keep in mind. It also serves to remind us of our need to confess our own sins and failings, not only in the Sacrament of Penance, but directly to those we have sinned against. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer sagely observed, "It is not the sins of weakness, but the sins of strength that matter."


  1. I have no words overall, but thank you for posting this. Off to pray.

  2. I feel like crying just looking at it. Remeber Our Lady of Akita? "Bishop against Bishop." I wonder if such as this is what she meant. I love the Priesthood so much. I wish none of this would have ever happened to our beloved Church. I wasn't alive through the whole abuse scandal, well back in the early 70s and 80s. I'm glad I wasn't. I wouldn't have been able to take it. But, my generation will have very holy Priests. I know many of them. Priests are the greatest men in the world. I love them because of their sacerdotal dignity no matter what they do. And without them, we would have no Sacraments. Even those who were unfortunate to have a Priest in horrible sin. Without Him, No Eucharist. Think about it for a moment. The worthiness of the minister doesn't matter when he administers the Sacraments. Although he should be holy, very holy. He holds the place of God. I pray for mercy for all those priests who haven't been holy, so they would understand how much they're hurt the Church. I do pray for Priests every day because they are under attack. I can see that they are. If the Devil wants to make anyone fall, it's the priests. I want to save my priests from hell. I don't want them to be lost. Cardinal Mahoney, I know your not reading this, but I love and I'm praying for you. Jesus, have mercy on your Priests. Amen.

    "One ought to pray earnestly before God that he would give us holy Priests. If they are Saints what good they are able to do. But, whatever, they are never speak against them." -St. John Vianney

    "When you honor the Priest you honor Christ and when you insult the Priest you insult Christ." -St. John Chrysostom

    "After God, the Priest is everything." -St. John Vianney

  3. Thank you Hannah. I, too, feel like crying. You do a lovely job of writing about how our Blessed Mother and the saints would have us respond to this. With Fran, it's difficult to know what to say in the face of such disclosures. Understandably people are more upset by this kind of cover up and malfeasance than by the abuse itself.

    As we were reminded in 2010, all of this serves to remind us and bring us to "the true heart of the question, the forgotten focus, lies elsewhere."

    "Alongside all the limitations and within the Church’s wounded humanity, is there or is there not something greater than sin, something radically greater than sin? Is there something that can shatter the inexorable weight of our evil? Something that, as the Pope writes, 'has the power to forgive even the greatest of sins, and to bring forth good even from the most terrible evil'?" Our answer must be "Yes. It is Christ Jesus the Lord."

    I have the privilege of frequently working closely with my bishop. In his former diocese, while he served as auxiliary bishop, he had the pastoral task of dealing with clergy abuse victims and their families. I pray for him daily as he exercises his ministry.

    Let's commit to fulfill our sacred obligation to pray daily for those who were abused, to pray for our priests, our bishops. As Roman Catholics we also have an obligation to pray daily for the Holy Father.

  4. Thank you, Deacon! I try my best to be a faithful Catholic and I love the Church more than anything. And I know that because of this the Priests are hated in the world. The world strongly dislikes Priests because of what a small percentage did. My goal is to love them...I have cried before over it all. I couldn't help it. I can't bear to see the clergy offend Our Lord in such terrible ways and I can't bear to see them soil their sacred calling in such horrible sin. It hurts. I don't know how else to put it. This pierces my heart and only makes me pray all the more for Priests and all the clergy. I see why St. John Bosco is such a great Saint. He helped his boys become Saints and look at the priests 100 years later. And, yes, it is a sacred obligation to pray for the Priests, Bishops, Cardinals, and of course our Holy Father! (And Deacons too! Don't think I'm diminishing the greatness of Deacons!) I see it just as you do. May Catholics see this as a way to help Cardinal Mahony by praying for him, and not to respond with hate or bitterness. That is what we should do. God bless, Deacon! :)


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