Poor, poor protector of child rapists.

Roger Mahoney, the Los Angeles Cardinal who protected child rapists, got caught, and still gets to be one of eleven Cardinals in the United States who gets to vote on the next Pope, is feeling humiliated.  He’s even got a blog post about how noble that makes him.

But as disciples of Jesus Christ, we are actually called to the fullness of humility: humiliation, and publicly.

Today’s Gospel gives us the stark reality and immediate challenge: “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” {Luke 9:23] Daily means each and every day, not now and then on our faith journeys, and on our terms.

That desire flows from our lips so easily, but we seldom mean it fully and internally. It’s almost a spiritual throw-away for us. But Jesus means it so deeply.

Given all of the storms that have surrounded me and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles recently, God’s grace finally helped me to understand: I am not being called to serve Jesus in humility. Rather, I am being called to something deeper–to be humiliated, disgraced, and rebuffed by many.

I was not ready for this challenge. Ash Wednesday changed all of that, and I see Lent 2013 as a special time to reflect deeply upon this special call by Jesus.

To be honest with you, I have not reached the point where I can actually pray for more humiliation. I’m only at the stage of asking for the grace to endure the level of humiliation at the moment.

In the past several days, I have experienced many examples of being humiliated. In recent days, I have been confronted in various places by very unhappy people. I could understand the depth of their anger and outrage–at me, at the Church, at about injustices that swirl around us.

Thanks to God’s special grace, I simply stood there, asking God to bless and forgive them.

Gag me.  Ed Brayton demolishes it in a single paragraph better than I ever could.

Yes, Cardinal, it’s all about you. It’s not about the children who were raped and had their lives destroyed because you deliberately chose to protect the criminals that victimized them. It’s all about you and how terribly humiliated you feel by having your own crimes made public. But you shouldn’t be thanking God, you should be thanking the local prosecutor, who has not indicted you even though your crimes of aiding and abetting and engaging in a conspiracy to cover up the most heinous crimes imaginable have been made clear by documents from within your own office. You should feel damn lucky that the only thing you’re getting is hostile comments from people in a grocery store. You should be in prison, you sick bastard.

Very few things inspire me to give an amen.  But god damn, that sure did.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Glodson

    Good old Cardinal PedoProtector out of LA. He forgives us for pointing out his crimes. Now I can sleep at night.

  • http://smingleigh.wordpress.com Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

    It’s so kind of him to rise above matters such as child rape and focus on what’s really important: Being condescending.

  • tubi

    Silly us, thinking we should care about the victims instead of the incredible burden this degenerate piece of shit has had to endure, and all because he chose the easier path for decades.

    Fuck Roger Mahony. And fuck every Catholic anywhere who tries to defend him or the church.

    • Andrew Kohler

      Even at least one Catholic blogger is begging this guy to shut up:


      BTW, I regret misspelling his name below (the error is also at the beginning of JT’s post). Note that I am not apologizing, since I don’t think well enough of him to make such an apology; I just hate it when I get something wrong.

      • Glodson

        Stop talking about mistakes. We all make mistakes, because we’re human, and even our best intentions are subject to the realities of a fallen world. But there is a clear difference between mistakes and sin, a difference that was covered in your seminary textbooks, in the Baltimore Catechism, in even the most flawed catechetical texts of the 1970s and 1980s, and is spelled out in the simplest language in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

        While the blogger does mention the abuses done under the watch of Cardinal PedoProtector out of LA, and even calls the man out for being a liar, it cannot be said to be a mistake. It was a crime. He should be in jail. He should be awaiting trial.

        I do like that Joanne, who wrote the piece, did take him to task for being a liar. But I would like to see Catholics go further and demand that these men be held accountable for their crimes in the court of law. As the documents come out, it is increasingly clear that these men were complicit in the crimes and actively created a safe haven for abusers. He should be held directly accountable. It is important to hold enablers like him accountable, to send the message that such acts will result in severe punishment.

        One thing I hate is seeing the idea that children so abused have their lives destroyed. We don’t need to say that. Or put it like that. These are heinous crimes, let’s not magnify them by invoking this trope that being abused will destroy a life. It is hideous that men and women will rape and abuse children, but this need not be called destroying their lives. I know she means well when she writes her piece, but this is an idea common in our culture, which makes victims of such crimes hesitant to accept what was done, which can impede some from moving forward.

        I would like to see the entire Catholic Leadership shut up until they’ve effectively cleaned house and rid themselves of every pedophile and pedophile enabler, until they have taken on the responsibility to ensure that the children left in their care will be safe and protected. Sadly, there is ever more evidence that the Leadership is corrupt to the core.

  • Scott Cragin
  • ZenDruid

    Is this a classic manifestation of narcissistic personality disorder, or what?

  • gratch

    You know at the start of this article I was all set to make a snarky, sarcastic comment about ‘Oh boo hoo, the poor guy.’ But now I just… I’m so angry I can barely type! He forgives them? Them? He covers up unspeakable crimes and then pats himself on the back for being big enough to forgive those who ‘humiliate’ him? I’m trying to express my level of outrage and disgust here but there are just no words that can convey it.

  • Andrew Kohler

    “But as disciples of Jesus Christ, we are actually called to the fullness of humility: humiliation, and publicly.”

    This is a terribly constructed sentence; specifically, the punctuation of the last four words really throws me. The real problem is that “publicly” seems to modify “humiliation,” even though adverbs cannot modify nouns. I believe that “publicly” is supposed to modify “called,” but the colon separates the last three words from the previous part of the sentence and thus it is hard to see the adverb going all the way back. One solution would be: “…we are actually called, and publicly, to…” Even better, from a rhetorical standpoint, would be “…humiliation, and public humiliation at that.”

    Of course, even such an improvement of his sanctimonious and sententious prose would not rectify his shoddy use of language: while “humiliation” and “humility” do have a common ancestor (to be Darwinian), they have evolved separately in modern usage. “Humility” is the state of not having an unduly or unrealistically high opinion of oneself; theoretically it could be applied to someone who thinks too poorly of him/herself, but it is normally used to describe the healthy characteristic of not being an overweening and inconsiderate jerk. “Humiliation” is being stripped of one’s dignity and being made to feel devalued. While humiliation can be deserved (as, for example, in the case of Roger Mahoney), generally humiliating a person is a thoroughly contemptible thing to do, especially when it serves as a tool to exert power over someone else. By no means is that the natural fulfillment (or “fullness”) of humility (not that the phrase “the fulness of humility” actually means anything).

    “I am not being called to serve Jesus in humility. Rather, I am being called to something deeper–to be humiliated, disgraced, and rebuffed by many.”

    WHOA. Has he been reading Venus in Furs? In Edward Albee’s play Tiny Alice, the protagonist (a Catholic clergyman of some sort–I almost typed clergyperson, but then remembered they have to be men) describes his fantasies of being martyred, and the sexual overtones are unmistakable. I don’t have access to my copy of the play at the moment, but I recall him talking about lots of blood and about his “loins.” The only difference between this and Mahoney is the superiority of Albee’s writing. I don’t want to be judgmental against members of the BDSM community, and the element of masochism is not my objection here: rather, I am not a big fan of the “I’m so noble because I’m being persecuted just like Jesus said I would be in the Sermon on the Mount” mentality. By ostentatiously accepting his humiliation as part of his divine purpose, Mahoney manages to give the impression of taking responsibility while doing the exact opposite (“Look at how admirably I am bearing my cross, just like God wants me!” is quite different from “I’m going to do everything I can to rectify what I have done wrong and make amends,” which would actually help people). And simultaneously he vilifies his critics by making himself the victim (although presumably his persecutors are helping to carry out the divine plan for his degradation).

    “He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrow and acquainted with grief” — as beautiful as is Handel’s setting of this text near the beginning of the second part of Messiah, I hardly think that one should aspire to being similarly miserable and persecuted. The second section of that aria begins “He gave his back to the smiters”–why is this a good thing to do? If the smiters are in the wrong, shouldn’t Mahoney be standing up to them rather than (to continuing quoting the aria’s imagery) letting them pluck out his beard and spit in his face? (Wait, did Jesus’s persecutors have tweezers!?)

    “To be honest with you, I have not reached the point where I can actually pray for more humiliation.”

    So reaching the point of praying for further humiliation is something to which a person should aspire? Dude, just find a dominatrix already (some copies of Venus in Furs include Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s actual contracts with two dominatrices, so check the edition that you have).

    “I could understand the depth of their anger and outrage–at me, at the Church, at about injustices that swirl around us.”

    This sentence is the only one in which he actually admits to his and the Church’s shortcomings, but note that he then deflects this by talking “at about injustices that swirl around us.” (I’ll assume that “at about” is a typo, and given that I make my share of those infernal things I’ll abjure a snarky comment. Although I was pretty snotty in the way I quoted it just now–oh well.) This is the equivalent of saying, “Yes, you let me borrow your car and I drove it into a telephone pole; there are so many traffic accidents! Let’s talk about just how many traffic accidents there are in the world rather focusing on just this one.”

    So, yes, a thoroughly contemptible piece of writing, both casuistic and unctuous (always a winning combo), and of course also astoundingly narcissistic. I feel somewhat guilty about my shots about this man reading Venus in Furs, though, because Mahoney isn’t fit to be mentioned in the same sentence as its author, Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, an advocate for women’s equality and an active opponent of 19th-century European anti-Semitism. So, maybe Mahoney could learn something from Sacher-Masoch; clearly he could benefit from a good role model.

    • Andrew Kohler

      P.S. I have just clicked on the link to the blog post and see that there is bit more than is quoted: right before where JT starts Mahoney gave his definition of humility: “Because humility is all about self-effacing, about seeing ourselves as far more diminished than we had hoped. As a result, few of us set out to embrace humility for Lent or as a pattern for our lives. Most us us accept a few affronts and neglects as humility, and then move on.” I just don’t see humility as that degrading and negative a phenomenon, at least not necessarily. But then I read another of Mahoney’s recent posts:


      So, it would seem that he going with Ignatius Loyola’s definition of humility, which has three varieties, each more perfect than the next. Perfect means complete and without flaw, so really there can’t be degrees of perfection (as with uniqueness or pregnancy)–it’s like the Futurama episode with Bender saying, “Each one more identical than the last.” (Although then there’s “to form a more perfect union” in the preamble to the Constitution, which does have a nice ring to it, and dictionary.com now gives “highly unusual” as one definition of “unique”–boo.) More to the point, Loyola’s definitions sound to me closer to abjection and self-degradation than humility. I can’t say I agree that choosing death over committing a venial sin (that’s Level 2) is reasonable, exactly. Then again, I remember Christopher Hitchens quoting some cleric saying that the Catholic Church thinks it would be better for the world to end than for one venial sin to be committed. So, what we have here is an exhortation to break down one’s humanity and embrace worthlessness.

      The original post quoted by JT ends, following a reference to “personal attacks”: “Strangely, the more I allow all of this to unfold without protest and objection, the greater the inner peace I feel.” I’m sure we’re all sooooo glad that you’re feeling better, Roger, just as we so admire you for having the grace to ask God to forgive the people who were yelling at you. (sarcasm off)

      If you go to the link above, you’ll see there’s another post called “Carrying a Scandal Biblically” (to which I’ll not post a link as that would trigger the need for moderator approval–silly–and it’s very easy to find). Some choice quotations:

      “You will never find the Rolheiser approach [referring to an article he's cited] even mentioned in any news media, since it is not about condemning others, but about how disciples of Jesus are called to carry and live out a terrible scandal day by day.”

      Because the news media is focused on the victims’ suffering, and not how sad the perpetrators are. If Mahoney seemed rack by conscience and genuinely aware of the pain he’d caused to others, I’d have compassion for him and take seriously what he had to say. I’d not excuse him by any means, but I give people credit when they admit that they’ve been wrong. This, however, is just narcissistic self-pity.

      “He calls our suffering what it really is: painful and public humiliation, which is spiritually a grace-opportunity.”

      And what is the suffering of children who have been sexually assaulted by someone whom they should have been able to trust? Isn’t it they who have humiliated and wronged? If it makes sense to talk about anyone taking in bitterness and transforming it into love (as Rolheiser describes Jesus doing), it would be the victims, not the perpetrators and their accomplices.

      He then goes on (these are his words, though citing Rolheiser’s ideas) about “the necessary connection between humiliation and redemption” — “this scandal is putting us, the clergy and the church, where we belong–with the excluded ones; Jesus was painted with the same brush as the two thieves crucified with him.”

      This redemption through humiliation thing is giving me the creeps (I don’t know much at all about BDSM, but I have a feeling that plenty of the members of that community would agree with me, at least in this context). Note that the Church is the sinless and wrongly persecuted Jesus, rather than either the thieves (one of whom, in Mel Gibson’s delightful version, God sees fit to have his eyes pecked out by a bird).

      In another post called “Jesus, Suffering Servant,” Mahoney describes Isaiah’s description of a man being tortured and not protesting: “That means never rationalizing what is happening in our lives, never protesting misunderstandings, and never getting angry because of false accusations.”

      1) I know I’ve said this already, but how is it possibly a good thing never to protest misunderstanding or to think that a false accusation is just hunky-dory!? Has this man no conception of justice!?!? (Rhetorical question.)
      2) Well, dear Roger, I wouldn’t expect you to be getting angry over *false* accusations since *the accusations against you are not false.*

      The one good thing about these profoundly disturbing posts is they prove as a useful distillation of so much that is wrong with this whole way of thinking; it was, I suppose, nice of him to give us a case study for future criticism.

      He ends the post titled “Carrying a Scandal Biblically” as follows:

      “I surely need your prayers and your encouragement in my own life to handle all of my mistakes, omissions, and commissions as God asks, and as Jesus and Mary lived out: to take in what swirls around me, to hold it, to carry it, to transform it and to give it back as grace, blessing, and gift. Jesus and Mary, walk with us and show us how to follow you!”

      Note how yet again his exaltation of humility allows him sneakily to exonerate himself: “Well, gee, I know I’m a sinner! So are we all, and surely we can’t judge each other!” seems to me implicit. He even appeals to his readers for help, which is a rather shameless bilk to get sympathy. And note how he deflects responsibility by talking about “what swirls around [him]” (a rather effete image he also uses in the text JT quotes above)–he’s portraying himself as helplessly caught up in something overwhelming and deprived of agency, and therefore absolved completely of responsibility. And, of course, it’s all about HIM. If this is humility, then I guess I just don’t know English.

      • Andrew Kohler

        Whoops: “Isn’t it they who have humiliated and wronged? ” should be “…they who have *been* humiliated and wronged?” I hope that’s clear from the context, but I don’t want any doubt that I am accusing the children.

        Wow, rereading this, I see I left not one but two very long comments. Sometimes I get a bit worked up. Then again, offenses of the magnitude of Mahony’s really do require thorough evisceration from as many people as possible.

  • Tobias27

    If god’s got his back so well, maybe the next person to run into him in the store could kick him in the balls for me.