Dear Cardinal Mahony, Please Stop

Dear Cardinal Mahony, Please Stop February 1, 2013

As events in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles continue to unfold, Deacon Greg Kandra brings to our attention a post by Cardinal Roger Mahony published this morning on the cardinal’s personal blog. In the immediate wake of Archbishop Jose Gomez’s announcement that Cardinal Mahony had been relieved of all official archdiocesan duties as a result of his mishandling of the clergy abuse scandal in Los Angeles, Cardinal Mahony’s blog post has, I am saddened to say, a particularly unpleasant note of defensiveness and self-involvement.

I sat at First Friday Mass this morning in my parish as our pastor brought last night’s news to our attention, humbly and gracefully imploring our prayers for Archbishop Gomez, for the victims of the abuse, and especially for all those who will see in these headlines more to rock a fragile faith.

I was not the only one in tears at the words of today’s startlingly apropos First Reading:

Remember the days past when, after you had been enlightened,
you endured a great contest of suffering.
At times you were publicly exposed to abuse and affliction;
at other times you associated yourselves with those so treated.
You even joined in the sufferings of those in prison
and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property,
knowing that you had a better and lasting possession.
Therefore, do not throw away your confidence;
it will have great recompense.
You need endurance to do the will of God and receive what he has promised.
We are not among those who draw back and perish,
but among those who have faith and will possess life. (Hebrews 10:32-39)

I believe Archbishop Gomez refused to draw back. Within the limits of what he could do to act decisively to stop the bleeding, he threw his lot with those exposed to abuse and affliction. He spoke truth about the sickening nature of the deeds described in the clergy files, and the equally if not more sickening attempts to cover them up. He made choices unpopular with Cardinal Mahony’s allies in this city, in the Church, and in the media. Instead of taking advantage of the extended deadline the court allowed in yesterday’s order to release unredacted files, Archbishop Gomez let not one more day of delay go by. The files were up on the Archdiocese’s own website last night, only hours after the court order was issued.

This is endurance. This is what lets me hold onto my confidence.

But then, this morning, while we in our parish and around the Archdiocese were praying, Cardinal Mahony was blogging, making public (on the advice of friends—a practice that has not stood him in great stead in the past) a “private” letter to Archbishop Gomez. In response, here’s my very public letter to him:

Your Eminence,

Please stop.

Stop inciting God’s people to take sides. This cannot be Team Gomez vs Team Mahony. This has to be, can only be, Team Jesus Christ.

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. In case you have not had a chance in your busy retirement to review that language, here it is (emphasis mine):

The reality of sin

386 Sin is present in human history; any attempt to ignore it or to give this dark reality other names would be futile. To try to understand what sin is, one must first recognize the profound relation of man to God, for only in this relationship is the evil of sin unmasked in its true identity as humanity’s rejection of God and opposition to him, even as it continues to weigh heavy on human life and history.

387 Only the light of divine Revelation clarifies the reality of sin and particularly of the sin committed at mankind’s origins. Without the knowledge Revelation gives of God we cannot recognize sin clearly and are tempted to explain it as merely a developmental flaw, a psychological weakness, a mistake, or the necessary consequence of an inadequate social structure, etc. Only in the knowledge of God’s plan for man can we grasp that sin is an abuse of the freedom that God gives to created persons so that they are capable of loving him and loving one another.

Stop whining. It’s indecent. It will not earn you sympathy, because there is no room to feel sorry for a person who feels so sorry for himself. Believe me. I know.

Stop, for God’s sake and the sake of the children and young people whose lives were destroyed by representatives of Christ and of his Church, trying to tell us you had no idea abuse could be so harmful, or that abusers couldn’t just give it up and move on. The documents signed off by you, the marginal notes in your handwriting, prove you a liar—and that’s if you truly had, initially, such a paucity of imagination and compassion that you did not intuit the damage rape, kidnapping, drugging, and death threats could do to a child—or to the soul of a predator.

Stop blogging. That takes some gall for me to say, but the Church in Los Angeles deserves at least a day’s silence from you to take all this to heart and pray. Whose needs are you serving, whose pain are you addressing, whose forgiveness are you seeking?  Take some time in stillness and listen to God, not your would-be friends.

I am going to do the same now, and pray for God to take away my anger and my pride. I will pray for you, and I mean that with all the respect I once had for you, but cannot muster now.

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