New York Times on Cardinal Mahony

New York Times Editorial
January 27, 2013
The Cardinal and the Truth

No member of the Roman Catholic hierarchy fought longer and more energetically than Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles to conceal the decades-long scandal involving the rape and intimidation of children by rogue priests. For years, the cardinal withheld seamy church records from parents, victims and the public, brandishing endless litigation and fatuous claims of confidentiality.

The breadth of Cardinal Mahony’s cover-up became shockingly clear last week with the release in court of archdiocese records detailing how he and a top aide concocted cynical strategies to keep police authorities in the dark and habitual offenders beyond the reach of criminal prosecution.

“Sounds good — please proceed!” the cardinal, now retired, instructed in 1987 after the aide, Msgr. Thomas Curry, cautioned against therapy for one confessed predator — lest the therapist feel obliged to tell authorities and scandalize the archdiocese. The two discussed another priest, Msgr. Peter Garcia, who admitted specializing in the rape of Latino immigrant children and threatened at least one boy with deportation if he complained. Cardinal Mahony ordered that he stay out of California after his release from a New Mexico treatment center out of fear that “we might very well have some type of legal action filed in both the criminal and civil sectors.” Monsignor Curry worried that there might be 20 young people able to identify the priest in “first-degree felony” cases.

It was the cardinal’s obligation under the primacy of secular law to instantly notify authorities of any priest’s criminal behavior. Instead, he invoked a nonexistent church privilege to hide miscreant clergy and shield the church and his own reputation. Cardinal Mahony has repeatedly apologized in recent years and insisted that the archdiocese was mending its ways. A lawyer for the archdiocese insisted that the scandal and the cardinal’s cover-up were “part of the past.” Not really. While statutes of limitations on possible criminal charges may have run out, Cardinal Mahony and his former aide could be deposed in civil suits. Monsignor Curry also managed to advance up the hierarchical ladder and would seem to merit instant removal from his current post as auxiliary bishop for Santa Barbara.


French Bishops still more Roman than French


A January 25th post on the LGBT website Bondings 2.0 has created a cloud of misinformation about the position of the bishops of France vis a vis gay marriage.

The post gives the impression that the French hierarchy has moved away from the hardline anti-gay marriage position of the Vatican and has issued a “recent” statement encouraging dialogue and openness to gay marriage. I wish they had. Unfortunately they haven’t. Not everything posted on the Internet is true and accurate and this little matter of “Bishops in France Release Hopeful Statement on Same-Sex Relationships” is a good case in point.

In September 2012 a study committee set up by the French conference of bishops did indeed issue a statement encouraging an open dialogue about the issue of same-sex unions. On the committee were six French bishops. At the time the committee’s report made little news because it was quickly pushed to the side. That same September the French bishops (there are more than a couple hundred active French bishops in active ministry) began their ad limina visits and Pope Benedict was very firm with them that marriage and the family “must be promoted and defended from every possible misrepresentation of their true nature, since whatever is injurious to them is in fact injurious to human coexistence as such.” He stressed that the truth about marriage must be promoted in bold and creative ways. The French bishops have consistently followed his admonitions.

On Sunday January 13th 2013 several hundred thousand (at least four hundred thousand and some say eight hundred thousand) demonstrators marched in Paris to protest French President François Hollande’s move to legalize same-sex marriage. Cardinal André Vingt-Trois of Paris was there to greet and encourage the marchers as was Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyon, who condemned the “violence” of the proposed law that would “change the meaning of a word.”

If “Frigide Barjot,” the provocative self-appointed figurehead for the January 13th march could be believed, many of the anti-gay protesters were atheists, Jews, Protestants, leftwing voters, and homosexuals who are against gay “marriage.”  In fact most of the protesters were far-to the right Catholic traditionalists drawn from across France to give the impression that France is anti-gay marriage. The key group behind the protest was Civitas a radically Catholic traditionalist organization led by Alain Escada, a French-speaking Belgian with strong sympathies to the Fraternity of Pius X, founded by the excommunicated Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.

Support for same-sex marriage in France is now at about 65%. The Paris protest this January misrepresented French attitudes. Unfortunately, the post in Bondings 2.2 has misrepresented the attitudes of the French bishops, who are more in sync with the Vatican than the people of France.

And so the old institution carries on — more in sync with an increasingly romanticized past than the living and realistic present………..


Cathédrale Notre-Dame

PPT16 : Proposed Papal Tweet for Pope Benedict XVI

My good friend in Missouri, Robert S., reacted immediately to my posting last Sunday…the Downton Abbey/Vatican-hierarchy reflection…..He has written what he would like to see as a Papal Tweet. I added just a few modifications. It is a bit longer than the usual tweet of 140 characters. But then…It is a PAPAL TWEET. Holding the Keys of the Fisherman the pope does deserve some special perks.

Dearly Beloved in Christ,

Inspired by the fact that the Holy Spirit came down upon all in the upper room at Pentecost, and continues to dwell within all the faithful to bring Christ’s message about God’s love for us to the whole world, I too am compelled to give voice to this same Spirit in the pathways of the world using whatever means available, as our beloved predecessors have always done. 

I invite you to join me in using the modern technology of the Internet to share with each other the gifts of the Spirit, for the benefit of all humankind. As an example to you all, I urge every Christian community to deploy the new gifts of communication to share, instruct, listen, and work out what is needed to live with the dignity we humans have, being made in the image and likeness of God, and to preserve our mother-earth.  

Our communication networks today – smartphones, iPads, Facebook, etc. – break-down the old authoritarian structures; level hierarchies; and put all of us on an equal horizontal level of brother-sister shared responsibilities. These changes are particularly difficult for me and for the papal office. Change is in the wind. Change must come. God’s Spirit is with us.

  • To this end, I ask that the Church throughout the world to initiate a communication structure whereby members who are able, and so choose, can communicate mutually with their pastors, parishes with parishes, priests with priests, and all with their bishops, using whatever means modern technology can and will provide for this purpose, while always in keeping with the spirit of the two commandments that Christ gave to love God and one another.  
  • I am aware of the difficulty that this entails; but I see no real alternatives for respectfully sharing concerns, ideas, needs, and resources.
  • All around us, we witness today the devastation of war, poverty, weapons of death, and destruction. The old authoritarian structures must go. Otherwise, we walk down a path to utter oblivion.  Jesus Christ, with His Holy Spirit guiding and helping us, offers a clear and certain way to a better future.  We must take it.

My blessings and prayers to all sisters and brothers who share equally our image and likeness of a beloved and loving God, who gave us the ability to know and love the vast created universe and our very special place in it. God who is our Mother and our Father deemed it wise to share our humanity and show us how important each human person is.

Very Sincerely,    


Benedict XVI

Brother and Pope — Tweeting Friend in Christ

(Tweeted from Rome, on a cold winter day,  in this Eighth year of my Pontificate: Benedictus Pontifex Maximus.) 


Downton Abbey to Vatican City: a New Year’s Refection

Over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, I watched a number of Downton Abbey episodes, watching the unfolding lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants in post-Edwardian England. A lot of real human drama. Plenty of material for a serious meditation on the meaning and purpose of human life. And good British drama for an old Yankee.

One afternoon, however, I sat rather lazily in front of the fireplace and re-read Pope Benedict’s Christmas Message with its dire warnings that gay marriage is destroying “the essence of the human creature” and that gay marriage, like abortion, and euthanasia (I call them the contemporary Roman Catholic “intrinsic evil trinity”) is a threat to word peace. Then I put another log on the fire and switched back to Downton Abbey, where, amidst all the human joys, downfalls, hopes and sorrows, there was, of course no mention of the gay-marriage-abortion-euthanasia evil trinity.

Then a little insight.

What would happen, I wondered, if during the coming season of Lent neither the Pope nor any bishop would be allowed to use the words “gay marriage, abortion, euthanasia”…….and for U. S. bishops one could throw-in one more intrinsic evil no-no term: “birth control.”

Think about it.

If our bishops could not groan, protest, and cry-out about gay marriage, abortion, euthanasia, and birth control, what would they talk about?

What message would our hierarchy proclaim for millions of people hungering for genuine spirituality? For a taste of the Divine? Would they be tongue-tied and speechless? Or would there be a new Pentecostal-type inspiration….little tongues of fire flickering over every episcopal miter?

Would young people turn, for a minute, from their smartphones and iPads, shaken by a new message?

Would our young people see visions and our elderly men and women dream good dreams? Would the Pope have something fresh and invigorating to “tweet” from his pontifical iPad?

As my favorite poet said…….

“Last year’s words belong to last year’s language
and next year’s words await another voice.”


Our Eyes are Open. We have Seen the Light. No Turning Back Now……

Epiphany 2013 Reflection

Some time ago my old friend Sister Joan Chittister observed that change in the church, like all social change, is not an event. It is a process.

Joan continued:

Once it has begun, the change has already happened. Only the process of adoption is left. It is the process of change itself that must be understood if ministers are to be the bridge between the Holy Spirit and the institution.

The fact is that once change has begun in a system, the options for dealing with it are limited and mutually exclusive. We can either simply ignore both the question and the questioners or we can ignore the present state of social shift and its effect on both the question and the questioners.

But neither is possible. Social consciousness is a social force. Major social questions do not go away and change, once begun, will come either peacefully or destructively. Ask the few people who went to the barricades in the French Revolution about the truth of that. Or the sisters who struggled through renewal in the course of Vatican II.

Or the 82 percent of Catholics who consider other practices of birth control, beyond natural family planning, moral. Despite what seemed to be ponderous institutional resistance in each instance, concern for institutional approbation floundered in the end under the tide of change.

It is possible to repress change temporarily — to slow change, to resist change, to deny change — but it is impossible to stop a change whose time has come. It is impossible to ignore change once it has begun to well up through the cracks in the cement of a society, however rigid the barriers to it…..

To suppress the question now can only delay its coming and, at the same time, increase its impact when it does. The question of women’s place in the church, let alone the issue of the ordination of women in the Catholic Church, for instance, has been ignored at the highest levels of the church despite the growing demand for attention among the faithful.

Nevertheless, the sense of inevitability has continued unabated in society at large and affected people’s attitudes toward the church — much in the same way the birth control issue did as well. As a result, both issues have already broken the boundaries of the institution.

Second, openness about emerging issues and good theoretical preparation must fill in the gap between institutional readiness to consider the questions and the resistance fatigue in the people. To deny the question will only, in the long run, reduce the credibility of the minister on other issues as well as on the question at hand.

Change comes in three phases. The numbers of innovators — early adherents of change — who have already left the church over these issues, for instance, have gone from trickle to stream. Second level change agents, early adaptors, comprise about 13.5 percent of a population.

The problem is that we are well beyond that already. Surveys tell us that third level change, the point at which another 34 percent of the population has begun to experience tension between belief and practice, is already here.

Acceptance of the idea of women priests by the majority, if the polls are correct, is then already in the popular psyche. The psychological impact of that kind of spiritual stress between scriptural values and institutional norms takes a toll on people’s sense of commitment.

It is a dangerous time for any institution; it is a time for bridge-builders who will admit the truth of the situation and keep the faith at the same time.

So friends, in this New Year, let’s celebrate Epiphany!



Middle English epiphanie, from Anglo-French, from Late Latin epiphania, from Late Greek, plural, probably alteration of Greek epiphaneia appearance, manifestation, from epiphainein to manifest, from epi- + phainein to show.


Our eyes are open, and the vision remains!