Mahony, Mother A, and me

I mentioned earlier that EWTN has been mouthy in its treatment of some of our bishops. I should clarify lest I be taken as pulling a punch. As should be clear, I think Cdl. Mahony is an odious man. From his appalling treatment of abuse victims in his care, to his endless jockeying for position and portrayal of himself as the Voice of Reform, from his high-handed and condescending plays for the cameras to his patronizing attitude toward the Holy Father, Cardinal “Ain’t It a Shame about Law, Gee I’m Glad I’m not Him, I will Explain to the Old Man in Rome that It’s All About Celibacy, Gosh I miss my Personal Helicopter, We’ll Take Care of the Priests Who Abused You Ma’am, Get Me My Minions at the LA Times I have To Do Damage Control” Mahony has shown himself to be a man profoundly unworthy of his office. Compared to him, I actually take Cdl. Law to be a basically good man who forgot he was a priest and instead thought he was a CEO of a corporation. Mahony has forgotten he’s a priest and thinks he’s the CEO of a ruthless, cutthroat corporation. If I were in his archdiocese, I would obey him for he is a bishop. But that would be the utmost limit of “Honor your father” I could muster for I think him a deeply dishonorable man.

That said, I have to add that it was precisely here where EWTN screwed up majorly several years ago when Mother A actually called for people to render this odious man “zero obedience.” Sorry, but this is simply wrong. Mahony could be the worst bishop in the world. Indeed, he would get a strong vote of confidence for this honor from me (though there are so many American bishops to choose from, it’s hard to decide). But he is still owed obedience by his flock. Obedience, I say, not bovine acquiesence to his grotesque abuse of his office. Mother A did go on to retract this statement though in somewhat half-hearted terms. But it still needs to be said that the authentic voice of Reform in the Church must not give in to a radical refusal to obey duly constituted authority acting within its proper sphere. Neither must it conflate the actions of sinful members with the nature of the Church and refer to the Church as “despicable” “evil” or whatever else. Call the Church’s members sinful all you want. Call the Church herself sinful and you are calling Christ sinful for his Spirit is the soul of the Church. A small but vital distinction.