Christian ethics: does LA Cardinal Mahony carry Christ’s cross?

Christian ethics: does LA Cardinal Mahony carry Christ’s cross? February 24, 2013

Cardinal Roger Mahony might be mistaken regarding a powerful scriptural lesson about bearing one’s cross.  Recently, he blogged about “Carrying a Scandal Biblically,” in context to the child sex abuse scandal the Catholic diocese of Los Angeles is embroiled in.

Blameless, innocent people who have been victimized or those who politically, emotionally, or physically hurt others, yet have genuine regret, sorrow, and contrition, shoulder a cross or heavy burden, often for life.  A man who knowingly made decisions, as court records show, to protect pedophile priests at the expense of children cannot bear a cross unless he understands the life changing hurt caused.

Jesus tells disciples to “take up your cross” (Mark 8:34-35; Luke 9:23-24; and Mathew 10:38).  He meant shouldering one’s cross to love more, judge less, seek justice, and care for one another instead of venerating titles, wealth, and social status, are likely to encounter criticism, discrimination, and condemnation.

After being betrayed, flogged, imprisoned, and receiving a death sentence, Jesus dragged a large cross to the execution site.  He did so with dignity and humility.  In his dying breath, Jesus asked God to forgive those who had wronged him.

In light of the legal record, it’s troubling Mahony references in his blog a document and then writes about “the acceptance of being scapegoated” and “this scandal is putting us, the clergy and the church, where we belong – with the excluded ones; Jesus was painted with the same brush …”

It’s difficult to understand how Mahony was personally scapegoated.  If he was, then the question arises – by whom?  Did he act on orders from the Vatican?

Assuming, only for discussion purposes, a secret directive came from the Vatican to cover up child abuse, Mahony still chose to act on the directive and endanger the welfare of children to protect a monolithic, bureaucratic institution from lawsuits, compromised authority, and a major loss of moral legitimacy.

Is he implying senior Vatican officials unscrupulously used him in the botched cover up scandal?  Regardless, Mahony chose to be a good company man, even if it went unrewarded, instead of a good Christian.

It’s equally disconcerting, if as a scapegoat he is a social exile similar to Jesus.  Jesus didn’t do anything ethically or morally wrong.  He brought a message to love more, judge less, and look out for others.  This beautiful message put Jesus in harm’s way.

How has Mahony been “painted with the same brush” of exclusion comparable to Jesus?  He was excluded for calling on the world to love.  Mahony is being excluded for cover up.

Hatred, bitterness and the isolation shown to Mahony isn’t right.  On the other hand, as Mahony tries to bear Christ’s metaphorical cross it should not be misused to deny his role in causing pain and harm to children and their families.  He has caused emotional scars lasting a life time.

If he understands his personal role in the tragedy and accepts full responsibility, Mahony has a cross to quietly carry for the rest of his life.  He should be respected in doing so.  The cross, however, isn’t to be used in rationalizing bad behavior or administrative incompetence and the likely reactions that may result.  A “woe is me” self-pity fest suggests a cross of bruised ego, not the humility of the one shouldered by Christ.


Paul Jesep is author of “Lost Sense of Self & the Ethics Crisis: Learn to Live and Work Ethically”; “Credit Card Usury and the Christian Failure to Stop It”; andCrucifying Jesus and Secularizing America – the Republic of Faith without Wisdom.

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