Is there a Christian in the house? A close reading of Cardinal Roger Mahony's latest pastoral, As One Who Serves, gloms the reader in lots of rhetorical syrup but fails to come up with a recognizably theistic sting. The most thin-skinned Unitarian can bathe in the document and encounter nothing to cause offense. In fact, all indications are that a Unitarian ghosted the thing in the first place:
Central to any Christian vision must be the Reign of God, which is at the heart of the word and the work, the meaning and message of Jesus. In the preaching and prophecy of Jesus, holiness, truth, justice, love and peace will prevail in the Reign of God. In our own time and place, we become heralds of God's Reign when ...
When what? In the tenth chapter of St. Matthew, Jesus instructs the Twelve as he sends them out to proclaim the Kingdom ("reign" in dronespeak). He reminds them that persecutions will attend their preaching and works, but says, "Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell." What is at stake is above all a spiritual struggle, hingeing on the recognition (or failure to recognize) that the messianic promises made in Scripture are being fulfilled. So how does Cardinal Mahony interpret this for us?
... we become heralds of God's Reign when we work here and now to safeguard and promote the dignity of the human person, the rights of workers, the person in relationship and community, opting for the poor, building solidarity among persons, nations, races, and classes, and caring for creation.
Re-read that slowly. Not a word about prayer, redemption, sin, repentance, or indeed about God himself. Instead, the Cardinal gives us an ideologically lopsided list of this-worldly concerns -- noble ones, to be sure -- but nary a project that the Los Angeles County Democratic Committee would blush to take up. Read on.
To this must be added an ongoing commitment to forgiveness as a basis for a new world order, the seedbed for the flourishing of God's Reign of holiness, truth, justice, love and peace. This is the mission of Jesus, the mission of the Church.
No, Eminence, it's not. This is politics -- eschatologically-flavored politics, maybe, but politics all the same. The New Testament does not speak about an emergent New World Order but about a new heaven and a new earth -- which are not constructed by men but instituted by God after the end of history, after, in fact, the two-edged sword has finished its work of division. All things will be reconciled in Christ (Col 1:20), but in the meantime he is not present to his Church as a Conflict Resolution negotiator with a Master's degree in counseling.
It especially rankles that, in order to weaken the opposition to his Parish Life Directors putsch, Mahony makes frequent reference to the writings of Pope John Paul II, but to the opposite of their intended effect. After mentioning, e.g., that Christifideles Laici views the lay state as a "theological and ecclesiological reality" -- he immediately proceeds to flip the Pope's teaching on its head:
But as in the time of Saint Paul our understanding of the Reign of God, and what is entailed in living for God's Reign, must be formulated afresh in light of changing circumstances and in view of the shifting perceptions of different cultures and diverse communities. One such shift involves the realization that the Church-world divide is not as neat and clean as we once thought.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff will agree with you there, Eminence, but I'm sure St. Paul would not. Is there a Christian in the house?
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Posted by: a son of Mary -
Oct. 12, 2005 4:44 PM ET USA
what is God telling us?
Posted by: benedictusoblatus -
Oct. 10, 2005 2:26 PM ET USA
"we become heralds of God's Reign when we work here and now to safeguard and promote the dignity of the human person, the rights of workers, the person in relationship and community, opting for the poor, building solidarity among persons, nations, races, and classes, and caring for creation." Sounds more like a card-carrying Democrat than a Catholic priest/bishop/cardinal. The Pope knows this man AND his errors. When will he depose him?
Posted by: -
Oct. 07, 2005 8:12 PM ET USA
We get the Church we deserve. Was Mahoney a dissident priest? Who recommended that he be made a bishop? Was he a dissident bishop? Who recommended that he be made a cardinal?
Posted by: Ignacio177 -
Oct. 07, 2005 11:49 AM ET USA
Does one get the impression that this stuff is written by someone with too much time on his hands? Someone needs to remind his Eminence that the job of a bishop is to bishop and the job of priest is to priest. When all of the LA clergy is saying three Masses a day and hearing 30 or 40 confessions a day we could then talk about organizing work loads and lay ministers assuming greater roles. Generally the clergy is under utilized in the states.
Posted by: Pseudodionysius -
Oct. 06, 2005 11:43 PM ET USA
In my darker moments, I imagine that the Los Angeles script is being crafted by a former Monty Python headwriter as a parody. By the way, for those who wonder where this syrupy drivel came from, check out Jacques Barzun's The House of Intellect, written in the 1950's. Its a beautifully written takedown of all this pantheistic rhetorical dreck which permeates every nook and cranny of our society. LA is HQ of The Ministry of Abstract Nouns.
Posted by: patriot6908 -
Oct. 06, 2005 11:17 PM ET USA
All very true and very sad. Not because it's his Eminence's banality at work, but that his little homily is a prototype for a thousand others given every Sunday by a priest who spices it with a lame joke and sometimes a prop or two. Then, on to tunes by Marty Haugen and David Haas, a bunch of handshakes after the Lord's Prayer and the great rush of women to get up by the altar to distribute the Eucharist--most of whom badly need to entertain a long fast. Sad, sad, sad.
Posted by: Catholicity -
Oct. 06, 2005 8:47 PM ET USA
I see Cardinal Mahoney's lips moving, but this is what I hear: "Blah blah blah. Blah blah seedbed blah. Blah diverse communities blah blah blah. Blah blah neat and clean blah blah...