Saturday, February 2, 2013

An NCR Editorial Speaks Truth About The LA Archdiocesan Leadership--Or Lack There OF



Seriously, Cardinal Mahony swears he wasn't taught anything about child sexual abuse in his MSW course work, which leaves me wondering what the heck they taught about evil in his seminary course work.


The National Catholic Reporter has just posted a hard hitting editorial on the situation in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Although I give Archbishop Gomez some credit for an attempt at accountability, the truth is Cardinal Mahony has lost very little of his input in Roman Catholicism.  He retains all of his perks as a Cardinal, including the right to vote in a conclave, and his priesthood has not been effected.  It is at best a slap on the wrist, typical of Pope Benedict's papacy when it comes to those bishops who covered for abusive priests. I have a very strong suspicion that AB Gomez would never have taken any such action against Cardinal Mahony if the Archdiocese had won the court battle over these released files.  This is not the action of a man of integrity.  It is the action of a man who lost in court and is now trying to both deflect all the blame to his predecessor and stem the current bleeding of Church credibility.

Editorial: In Los Angeles, a victory for truth

Editorial - National Catholic Reporter - 2/2/2013


To those familiar with the protocols of the Catholic hierarchy, the news was stunning. The archbishop of Los Angeles publicly rebuked his predecessor, a cardinal, for his failures in dealing with the priest sex abuse scandal.
The action by Archbishop Jose Gomez, relieving Cardinal Roger Mahony of “any administrative or public duties,” was remarkable on two levels.

First, it broke with the unspoken but nearly ironclad rule of the culture of Catholic hierarchy that bishops do not publicly criticize other bishops. That courtesy extended even to the most egregious examples of ecclesial malfeasance – the deliberate and persistent hiding of criminal activities by priests. No one to this point had uttered a word against a predecessor, not in New York or Connecticut, not in Philadelphia or Milwaukee, not in Seattle or Santa Fe. There were “mistakes made,” they would say, and offer vacuous apologies. For whatever reasons yet unknown, Gomez broke the code. (This isn't precisely true.  AB Martin of Dublin did have some very strong words for his fellow bishops including urging some of them to resign.)

Second, the language Gomez used was blunt and unqualified. The behavior he found in the files, he said, was “evil.” The acts themselves and the handling of these matters, as the files revealed, showed more than mistakes made, they showed a “terrible failure.”
“I find these files to be brutal and painful reading. The behavior described in these files is terribly sad and evil. There is no excuse, no explaining away what happened to these children. The priests involved had the duty to be their spiritual fathers and they failed,” Gomez wrote, who also referred to Mahony’s sorrow “for his failure to fully protect young people entrusted to his care.” (Except that AB Gomez was signing checks for the attorneys trying to keep these files out of the public domain and that makes it hard for me to believe in his sincerety.)

Gomez’s words are a direct contradiction of the weak defense that Mahony has advanced for years, all the while spending untold sums in attempts to keep the truth hidden. It is the same list of explanations that he repeated in a lengthy and testy response to Gomez’s statement. “Nothing in my own background or education equipped me to deal with this grave problem,” wrote Mahony. In studying for his master’s degree in social work, he said, no lecture or textbook ever referred to the sexual abuse of children. (This is a pathetic defense, but the MSW Mahony would have received in the early 60's would have been quite different than the same degree today with it's emphasis in counseling/therapy rather than social work.)

There is, of course, some truth to the “we didn’t know” defense. Few knew, years ago, the seriousness of the disease borne by those who molest children. Much of it remains a mystery today.
But the “we didn’t know” defense quickly wears thin against the details contained in the 12,000 pages of documents that were just released by the court in Los Angeles, just as it wore thin against the truth revealed when documents were released in other places like Philadelphia and Boston.

That’s why Mahony spent so much time and money over nearly a decade attempting to keep the documents sealed. It’s why, even after agreeing to release documents as part of a 2007 settlement with 508 victims costing $660 million, he continued to fight tooth and nail to keep the documents secret. It is why he and the diocese’s lawyers tried a last ditch and ultimately failed attempt to get the courts to redact the names of church officials from the documents so that it would be difficult to tell who did what. The documents put the lie to the “we didn’t know” defense.

What they demonstrate – and we have yet to read through all the thousands of pages -- is that diocesan officials, while they may not have understood the intricacies of the sex abuser’s mind and motivation, did know that laws were being broken, children were being raped and otherwise abused. They knew they had to take extraordinary lengths -- sending priests to counselors who were also lawyers so they could claim their conversations were privileged, sending some priests out of the country and others from parish to parish and diocese to diocese -- to avoid detection by the law and by the very Catholic community the officials were charged to serve. They knew enough to understand they had to hide the crimes and the behavior if they didn’t want to besmirch the good name of the clergy culture. Consideration of what was happening to the abused children and their families was incidental, at best. (No, the documents show the children were only considered in the context of being adversaries to the agenda of protecting the clerical culture.)

What Mahony and others  --  Cardinals Bernard Law, Justin Rigali, Edward Egan, Anthony Bevilacqua, and a host of archbishops and bishops  --  really didn’t understand was the degree to which their moral compasses had been distorted by the strong magnetic pull of the clergy culture. In their fierce allegiance to that exclusive club at all costs, in their willingness to preserve the fa├žade of holiness and the faithful’s high notion of ordination, they lost sight of simple human decency and the most fundamental demands of the gospel.

It doesn’t take a master’s or a doctorate to understand that the first obligation of adults is to protect the children. When the first instinct became protection of the clergy and the institution, our leaders became disfigured at some deep and essential level. The Catholic community is still waiting for them to deal honestly with that reality, with what happens to them when their robes turn to purple.

Meanwhile, there are no heroes in any of this. Gomez may have broken with normal behaviors, but as many have already pointed out, he had access to the documents for two years and said nothing. And it is reasonable to expect that if Mahony and the lawyers had succeeded in keeping the documents sealed, nothing would have been said. The “evil” would have remained festering on some chancery shelf.
If Archbishop Gomez really wants to do a service to the people of God in Los Angeles, he will reveal how much of the archdiocese’s treasury was spent during the last decade on trying to hide that truth. By its own admission the Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., diocese spent $1.39 million in a failed 18-month attempt to defend Bishop Robert Finn from charges of failing to report a child pornographer, and the Milwaukee archdiocese has spent $9 million in a two-year-long, far-from-settled bankruptcy case precipitated by sex abuse law suits. The amount of money the Los Angeles archdiocese has spent hiding these documents must be mind-boggling. That is evil, as well. (An evil AB Gomez has himself participated in.)

There are no heroes among the many other chancery officials and public relations advisors and lawyers who knew, some for many years, what crimes and sins had been committed against children.

There are no heroes in the Vatican structures, on up to the pope, among those who years ago could have demanded a review of the documents, come to the same conclusions as Gomez and removed Mahony long ago. It would have saved the church of Los Angeles years of suspense and enormous amounts of money. We say we believe that the truth will set us free. In too many dioceses today, the truth remains hidden and the church remains in chains fashioned by its bishops.

Endless speculation will swirl now about why Gomez did what he did and what precisely it means. None of that really matters. What matters is the truth that will outlast reporters, commentators, perpetrators, cardinals, bishops, victims and the rest. The revelation and preservation of that truth in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles just received a boost with the release of the documents.

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When Bishop Finn wrote his attack piece on the NCR, the cynical conspiracy theorizing part of my mind suspected that the Opus Dei Finn was providing cover for the Opus Dei Archbishop Gomez to come up with some response for the sick situation exposed in LA.  So here it is, a take down of Cardinal Mahony.  It's a good strategy in that Cardinal Mahony earned this takedown, (as ineffective as it is since Mahony hasn't lost much of anything except participating in confirmations in the Archdiocese) and it seemingly paints Gomez as  courageous for breaking ranks with the long purple line. But if one takes the time to actually read some of these documents, what AB Gomez has done amounts to nothing more than blowing smoke.  
 
Nothing is going to change until there is a completely different authority structure in the Church and a different concept of the priesthood, and that is never going to happen under the AB Gomez' of Roman Catholicism.  Much easier to rattle his crozier at Roger the not so artful Dodger than really and truly do something about the conditions that gave Mahony the sense of clerical entitlement that was the real motivation for Mahony and hundreds of other bishops to enact strategies that were both criminal and self protecting.  
 
I never ever forget that what this behavior really defines is the sad fact that when our leadership thinks of 'the Church' those thoughts do not include those who foot the bills--or their children.

14 comments:

  1. I was already suspicious and cynical as I read the NCR piece. I wondered what could have motivated Gomez. I think you have put your finger on it, the Opus Dei connection. Now that is frightening. These are the guys in ascendency in benedict's church.

    I totally agree with your conclusion: "Nothing is going to change until there is a completely different authority structure in the Church." Yes, the concept of the priesthood is going to need to change also. In my more hopeful moments, I think it will happen.

    Since you have switched to Disqus I will need to update my picture. That supposedly is my face painted on to some official portrait of some bishop of Chicago. I owe it to loving friends.

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  2. In my opinion, Finn did his piece about NCR to test the waters. He has been silent on anything of substance since his conviction. He is trying to reinvigorate his conservative base, in this diocese. The diocese is hurting for money and some of these conservatives are loaded. He wants to pick their pocket and what better way than to dig up the old chestnut about NCR. This whole NCR thing was settled 40 years ago by Bishop Helmsing. NCR is an independent newspaper. It is not a diocesan newspaper. It can have "Catholic" in its title if it wants to. The last two Bishops had no problem with NCR publishing its newpaper.
    I also do not think that Finn is smart enough to cook a deal with Gomez. As one of his dearly departed priests said to me after Finn came to the diocese, "he's not a very smart guy."

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  3. Amen. I don't think the OD people will ever abandon their faith in Gomez or Finn, even as the larger Church implodes around them.

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  4. Wild, I don't care if you switch your picture because my own Disqus photo confuses a lot of people. It's amusing to me how many men want to argue me as if I was a 'confused' male. The truth is I've had eye lense replacement surgery and need to have sun glasses always available, and as a teaching professional golfer, putting them on top of a hat works best for me--even in my current profession.

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  5. I don't think OD can afford to recognize a larger Church. Way too much money behind the cult.

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  6. Don, I agree with your comment, but I also think that truly Finn's attack on the NCR is one OD Bishop giving another OD Archbishop time to cover his butt. Gomez has been the Archbishop of LA for two years. He's had plenty of time to speak to Mahony's mistakes before the LA Times forced the release of these current files. I really think the whole agenda is to isolate and burn those bishops whose acts and/or spoken words impinge on the 'all sacred priesthood'. Cardinal Mahony most definitely acted on the same orders as Gomez--- protect the idea of the sacredotal priesthood no matter who you have to burn. Mahony is not much different than any victim of any other priest.

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  7. Colleen, you've written a very apt description of the situation. Gomez sat on the case until the absolute end and he's just blowing smoke now.

    Mahony has had the real life of clerical entitlement for so long. So too has the Pope and his Opus Dei cronies. They are acting more like mobsters than priests.

    The "Taj Mahony" awaits Roger & Gomez, a shrine and mausoleum that tells the story of power gone amok in our time in our Church. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cathedral_of_Our_Lady_of_the_Angels

    Lots of money spent by Mahoney during his tenure of covering up sex abuse of children and the outrageous sum of $189 million for his own mausoleum shrine, while the poor went hungry or starved to death. What a mockery to the angels of the Lord. I just think about the oh so many who were denied even a chance to live by the reckless diversion of money to this building and on protecting in a criminal manner the pedophile priests. It is not pro-life at all. 'The Church' is OD-ing with the wrong & sinful sort of powers in power. Much change is needed for sure to put a stop to this type of leadership and priesthood.

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  8. Don't believe that the Church will change at all from inside. Those that want to remain Catholic and not part of the cult of Opus Dei will drop the Roman leadership and follow Old Catholic leadership or become Protestants. At one time the RCC was very close to the recognition of Lutherans (recognized all of Luther's thesis), Anglicans, and Methodists. In Orange County, CA., There is a very high ratio of ordained former RCC priests to parishioners in the Ecumenical Catholic Church which is really part of the Old Catholic structure. The independent catholic movement is much more dependent upon what the laity needs because there is not yet so much money pushed into it by those that wish to control. Most of its former RCC priests are married, a fact that changes the tenor of the organization's clerical structure. There are women priests in this organization as well women clerics in the above Protestant organizations. Of course the pall the organizations mentioned above also have conservative wings, some so conservative that they resemble the current OD controlled RCC.

    What is really seems to be happening is that very many former RCC members, who so idealized the RCC and its clergy, have lost their respect for Clerical structures all together. This is the majority of the "once catholics" in the United States and in Europe. Many, however, have not given up their spirituality and even their catholic identities, but are struggling to find means of expression. They feel that the Institutional churches of all denominations esp. the RCC have lost their way completely and have even become an evil in our society. When I see Christians worship at the thrown of pro life and state that birth control pills cause abortions, I see that they have thrown out completely the scientific underpinnings of the struggle for more truth in society. These "Christians" attempt to snow us with the ideas that there is no scientific or cultural evolution. They are failing miserably and so are the structures based in Christianity because they fail to look for more truth. They fail to listen to the HOly Spirit. This is ruination for these organizations. They no longer are really Christian following the radical ideas of loving enemies ---- the ethic proposed by Jesus Christ. They fail to follow the ethical revelations (revolution) of the man who they have declared their founder. They fail to admit that our knowledge of truth is not absolute but is ever growing. To the educated eye, these religions have become nothing more than out dated mythology and even worse mythology than those produced by the Romans and Greeks. dennis

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  9. As an MSW AND a priest he is a mandated reporter. he should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

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  10. "Don't believe that the Church will change at all from inside." I do believe in miracles, however, it is not happening in the RCC leadership. The miracle that is going on, however, is that there are many who do hear the Holy Spirit and they are either kicked out of the Church or they are walking away.

    The RCC is changing and has been changing for the worst from the inside to an ever apparent OD uncatholicized institution and more people will find it to be oppressive enough to search for a community of believers, as you say, to continue on their spiritual journey as a truth seeker and/or they will give up on the notion in cynical &/or angry reaction to the blight in the church that they witness. This RCC leadership under PBXVI has chosen a suicide route in contradiction to Christ's message to bring His Light into the world which creates new Life, Hope and Love in His People & that is reflected in the rest of the world as Peace. This hierarchy serves the interest of mammon. One cannot serve two masters.

    Truth seekers cannot stay in a Church or any institution in alliance with leadership that has & continues to deliberately and intentionally fail to protect children from the evil of raping children and failing to report these heinous crimes to the police, even after they said they would. Who can trust such men with the 'salvation of their souls' while their children are raped & their souls raped too?


    Those like-minded to OD will stay in the RCC. They will take an oath to be in obedience to the magisterium, to men in alliance with the sole interest of the immediate gain of mammon or the pleasure of power and prestige for themselves. That power and prestige is diminishing as I type though. They cannot win this battle, for surely I believe that Jesus is resurrected and His truth goes marching on.

    Who can trust such men to teach them about anything having to do with Jesus after such a scandal & the continued lies from various church officials who no doubt continue like Gomez to try to hide the facts of these crimes against children?

    This problem of raping children by priests will not change from the inside either under the direction of this Pope and OD fundamentalist types. Even those who remain will suffer the consequences of following in lockstep and solidarity with an evil and corrupt institution that willfully deceives to selfishly maintain its status & narcissistic lifestyle in the world.

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  11. I don't know that Cdnl Mahony was ever licensed as an MSW and so I am not sure he actually was a mandated reporter. Irrespective of that, there was a moral obligation to report criminal activity to the authorities.

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  12. I think the core problem is the powers that be can't fathom operating out of a relational paradigm that doesn't include some aspect of dominance and submission. Until they can do that, Catholics are never going to experience a spiritual relationship with their leadership that isn't both dehumanizing and infantilizing.

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  13. I agree Fran, but it's not just OD. They just happen to be in the ascendance at the moment. Pope Benedict actually is more fond of the Communion and Liberation movement, but any conservative group which stresses obedience is fine by him.


    I think it's interesting that it is the liberal Mahony who is castigated by Gomez, and yet not one US bishop said one word about the OD ordained Finn who actually was convicted.

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  14. The operate out of a false self paradigm and don't understand that so many others see what they consider strength to be strong like brittle plastic. One that is cracking everywhere.

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