Mahoney and Modernism

I once made a solemn promise not to publicly criticize a fellow priest or member of the hierarchy. This is not because I have no criticism, but because I value loyalty and believe there are enough stones being thrown by the enemy that our side needs all the help it can get.

However, how can one stand on one side and not express the dismay and disgust of leaders like Cardinal Mahoney of Los Angeles? This article and others current at this time shows the conscious, pre meditated and planned cover up of criminal priests. We know this has gone on before, but we’ve tried to excuse it as naivety, being too kind or forgiving, not being worldly wise enough and every other possible excuse, but here is Mahoney not only covering up, but covering his own backside with a battalion of lawyers.

I don’t often groan out loud when reading reports on this stuff. Usually a sad shake of the head, but reading about Mahoney’s misdeed made me groan out loud, and what makes me even sadder and madder is that no one is really talking about the root cause of the problem.

Everyone points out that the prelates didn’t want to lose money. They didn’t want to lose face. They didn’t want to lose their jobs. They didn’t want to scandalize the faithful, they wanted to help and rehabilitate the guilty priests, but what no one seems to be picking up is that all of this is symptomatic of a deeper and more disturbing trend within the church, and this is the tendency to be soft on sin–first on ourselves and then on others. Modernist Catholics are so big on forgiveness–by which they mean letting the person off the hook–and so short on proper judgement.

In the rosy technicolor world of the modernist Catholic church everything has a kind of Disneyland artificiality about it. Everybody is supposed to go around smiling and clapping like some horrendous puppets singing It’s a Small World After All. It’s all about comfort and ease and being nice to everyone because everyone really is a nice person deep down after all aren’t they?

Sin? Now we talk about, “Let’s think for a few moments about those times when we may have done some things that we are rather ashamed of.” or “I know all of us have sometimes done less than our best. Let’s think about those times and resolve to do better.” This is what I call AmChurch Catholicism: a softly carpeted, slightly carbonated religion that is sweet and bubbly and cheap. Then when somebody does something bad we all scurry to cover it up because bad things aren’t supposed to happen at Sunnyside!

Like a smiling Disney security guard dressed in a Peter Pan outfit, the smiling security thugs step in and whisk away the offender to be “rehabilitated” to”receive treatment” and most of all to be out of sight so the smiling comfort machine of modern American catholicism can continue along it’s merry way.

Why is this? Chesterton said every argument is a theological argument, and so it is. The reason for this modernist softness for sin is universalism and semi-universalism. The universalist doesn’t believe anyone will go to hell. The semi-universalist is a universalist who is too cowardly to be a universalist. The idea that God is so very loving that no one will ever be punished and no one will ever be disciplined and certainly no one will ever go to hell produces a false religion in which criminals are never wicked. They’ve just “made a mistake and need therapy. They are victims themselves. They’re not responsible for their decisions…”

Universalism and semi-universalism creates a soft and spineless form of Christianity with no theological content. It doesn’t cause the sin and corruption. Sin of all kinds will be present in the church always, but modernism produces a sweetly, sentimental religion of naive do-gooders–who end up excusing crime, hiding criminals and covering up the worst kind of wickedness.

It makes me sick.

So have I kept my solemn promise to myself not to criticize a fellow priest, bishop or prelate? Yes. I’m not criticizing Cardinal Mahoney. I’m criticizing his grinning facade of being all lovey dovey and as kind as Jeezus. I’m criticizing the soft and nauseating modernism that lies beneath the facade and the disastrous results of this kind of false form of Christianity for our Catholic Church.

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  • Rachel

    I often think of St. Paul when it comes to guiding, judging others in the church. To have that balance of expecting the best out of someone, holding them accountable for their actions and loving them all at the same time. Paul tells us that we should be lovingly forthright with fellow believers, but I have to admit I find it so difficult. So concerned about being labeled “judgmental” that I just don’t say anything. Not to mention I feel that we live in such an “anonymous” world, that I don’t feel close enough to anyone to point out to them when they’re on the wrong path. Just going through life, minding our own business.

  • Terry

    Your post helps me understand why this situation is so disturbing, so deeply disturbing. There is no rejoicing or satisfaction in it – it is more like the discovery of the abomination of desolation in the sanctuary.

    The archbishop is correct – it is ‘evil’.

    I like how you wrote:

    “Universalism and semi-universalism creates a soft and spineless form of Christianity with no theological content. It produces a sweetly, sentimental religion of naive do-gooders–who end up excusing crime, hiding criminals and covering up the worst kind of wickedness.”

    Well said Father.

  • Paul Rodden

    Another interesting post from ‘Stand to Reason’ on this topic:
    (NB Vimeo videos don’t always work well on Firefox or Chrome)

    As I think I mentioned a couple of weeks back in relation to Protestant blogs/sites worth interacting with, Greg’s a lapsed Catholic and co-author, with Frank Beckwith, of, Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air.

  • Curtis Bratcher

    The kindest thing that could be done for Mahoney and others involved in this scandal would be to Laicize Mahoney and any other priest or deacon. Make them face the reality of what they have done so that their soul may be prepared to face eternity.

  • Wendell Clanton

    “But he that shall scandalize one of these little ones that believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be drowned in the depth of the sea.” St. Matthew 18:6

    I doubt that there is a lifejacket big enough to float Cardinal Mahoney, et al.

  • Will

    There are good and bad people on the right, left, and in the middle. I have heard criticism of othere bishops and archbishops, some fairly recently. There is a balance in preaching and teaching. Preach and teach about sin, but please do not forget what Jesus said were the two most important commandments.

  • Carneades-Skeptic Griggsy

    Do criticize real evils.
    But ti’s a straw man based on a non-sequitur about universalism and non-universalism. Where is the evidence for that infirmed intuition? Mahoney and others could not be either way as followers of the Vatican!
    The late protestant universalist guessed that a form of purgatory awaits us sinners. That would mean some sort of punishment.

  • Lynda

    You are correct, of course. It came about in large measure due to the adoption of a relativistic, worldly attitude/philosophy towards sin, among the clergy.


    Regarding the exact words of St. Paul, please see:
    1 Cor 5:11-13;
    and 1 Tim 5:20.

    It is time for corrective action regarding scandals within the Church, that only Diocese Bishops can act upon for public SCANDAL. Those who do not repent should be excommunicated; those who do repent should be required to repair their public scandal as part of their penance. A significant part of the problems of relativism, heresy and schism within the Church are due to ignoring the mortal sin of SCANDAL by ‘Catholic’ politicians and other public figures.
    ” Can. 1399 In addition to the cases established here or in other laws, the external violation of a divine or canonical law can be punished by a just penalty only when the special gravity of the violation demands punishment and there is an urgent need to prevent or repair scandals. “


    Re: SCANDAL please see “Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition” : 2284, 2285, 2286, 2287.

  • http://msn/ pete

    I’m half Irish and half Italian (mother) I think that it’s likely that a strong element in Mahoney’s coverup is IRISH SHAME combined with being a POLITICAL ANIMAL (of the Irish variety, that emphasizes croney connections).

  • AnneG

    I don’t know if you saw, but Card Mahoney wrote an open letter to Abp Gómez saying, basically that he wasn’t prepared and it wasn’t his fault. Amazing that somebody at his level would say that. What kind of conscience could he have? That is shameful. Maybe it is the warm, fuzzy Jesus mixed with universalism. Lord, have mercy!

  • Charles E. Mac Kay

    Quite right in what you say father. There is a lot going on that the Holy Sea could stop and for some reason nothing is done. This is especially true of the infiltration of the church by homosexuals and the appropriation of funds for other uses which questions charitable status of the church. I do not believe this guy is stupid or he just might be. On the other hand sin is such a cunning baffling foe that the poor fool might think he’s right He needs prayer

  • Charles E. Mac Kay

    Sorry I do not understand a word you say. What about the forgiveness of sin and the ressurection of the body

  • Adrian Yañez

    It is far more simple than Father Longenecker says here. Archbishop Mahoney was covering for his fellow travelers so as to cover his own proclivities and the political and spiritual manifestations of those proclivities.

  • Emmanuel Goldstein

    Father Longenecker, you forgot that St. Peter Damian wrote about clerical pederasty and concubinage in “Liber Gomorrahianus” (“The Book of Gomorrah”) in 1049. Modernism and universalism weren’t issues then, were they? St. Alphonsus Ligouri recommended that clerical predators be castrated in the 18th century. Was modernism a problem then? Do modernism and universalism explain Mariscal Maciel, who was neither a modernist nor a universalist?

    Your serve, Father.

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    Good comment. Not my serve, but my return I think…

    Of course the problem of sin and corruption is present in every age, and in every age it is excused by some reason or another. If you had read the post closely you will see that I never said that modernism caused the problem, but that modernism helps the excuses and cover ups. However this distinction was not as clear as it could be and I have corrected to post to clarify this.

    In our age the sin and corruption is exacerbated, enabled and excused by modernism. In Maciel’s case the sin and corruption was exacerbated, enabled and excused by the cult mentality surrounding him.

  • Emmanuel Goldstein
  • Emmanuel Goldstein
  • Beefy Levinson

    I’m a day late and a dollar sort Father, but His Eminence’s name is spelled “Mahony.”

  • Matthew Smythe

    What a terribly disingenuous article. Fr. Longenecker has tried to construct a scapegoat in the form of “modernism” that would allow him to gig Cardinal Mahony while supposedly keeping his “solemn promise not to publicly criticize a fellow priest or member of the hierarchy.” In brief, what a load of sewage.

    It wasn’t the “modernist Catholic church” (sic) that spawned a centuries old environment where priests were moved and hidden rather than prosecuted. It was the Catholic Church, period.

    I have no doubt that Mahony, Curry and others should be criminally indicted for their crimes. I suspect in most cases they would be. If they’re not, it will be due to the efforts and the influence of the Catholic Church rather than this artificial construct known as the “modernist Catholic church.”

    Where is the voice of Pope Benedict XVI in all of this? Does he have any idea how loudly his silence amplifies this situation?

  • Matthew Smythe

    Mahony is largely of GERMAN and ITALIAN extraction despite his surname.