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weak bishops, trying times

By Diogenes (articles ) | Apr 07, 2006

Cardinal Roger Mahony responds to questioners in his on-line chat session:

Joe: Hello Cardinal. With the growing interest in traditional worship of the Catholic Church are we going to see a more generous use of the Traditional Latin Mass?

Cardinal Mahony: It is not correct to say "traditional worship" in our Church. For a small slice of Church history, Latin was the language of Mass. But the Council moved us beyond that to a new Roman Missal. We must continue forward with the Church. However, it is important to bring with us our Latin hymns and other treasures from the past ages.

"For a small slice of Church history, Latin was the language of Mass." It's such a petty, pointless lie. And the mendacity reveals a moral shabbiness characteristic of so much that Mahony stands for.

Putting to one side the Latin Mass controversy, the Cardinal has to know he asserted a falsehood. Why would he do so? Probably because lying has served him so well in the past that it has become second nature to him, a reflex response to discomfort. Traditionally, Christians have believed that their ministers of religion put a premium on truthfulness and that these ministers would not knowingly lie to them. Think of what a formidable weapon this put into the hands of a bishop! Whatever pronouncement he made was taken by the great majority of the faithful to be true (or at the very least a sincere misstatement), and even those few who may have suspected a fib had to pretend the contrary. [Note: there is a profound theological truth behind (though not identical with) this presumption of honesty. Bishops are successors of the apostles, witnesses to the risen Christ. The belief we extend to their testimony is more than a pious compliment. It is indispensable to faith.]

But -- the power to be believed ex officio is the power to escape from any painful or vexing situation by telling a lie. Only a heroically good man could possess this power for most of his life and not be worsened by it. Like the Ring in Tolkein's trilogy, a bishop's reputation for solemn truthfulness "thins out" those who employ it to make matters easier for themselves. And once recourse to the tactically expedient lie is taken, it becomes addictive; like the Ring, it's too easy to use and too difficult to pass up. Those who get hooked on this magic mendacity get corrupted. Morally, they shrivel. Thus we're face to face with the pathetic example of Mahony casting into oblivion fourteen or fifteen centuries of history because it suits his (trivial, inconsequential) purpose of the moment: he's become a Gollum among ecclesiastical Ring-knockers.

And he's not the only one. Cardinal Law had the same addiction and used his ex officio privilege the same way (no, he doesn't recall Jackie Gauvreau; no, he'd never think of putting children at risk; no, he didn't read the letter he sent to Sodano). Both men, when they were young priests, may have been solid. Neither could handle the power of the Ring.

The problem is how to deal with the counter-reaction, when the inevitable counter-reaction kicks in. You see this reaction in children whose parents have exploited their juvenile credulity and told lies to get them to behave. You see it sometimes in former fundamentalists whose pastors didn't know the answers to their intelligent adolescent doubts and so made up bogus scholarly facts to satisfy or at least silence them. Once the adolescents become young adults, and read enough to see through the fraud, it's rare that they don't throw the baby out with the bathwater and acrimoniously reject all appeals to religious authority. So here we have Roger Mahony, a cardinal of the Catholic Church, telling a lie as stupid as that of the four-square gospeler who claims the Scriptures were first written in English. It won't have a happy ending.

As I've emphasized before, it has not pleased God to gift our generation with morally courageous clergy, and the composition of "this hapless bench of bishops" (the phrase is Bishop Bruskewitz's) is disheartening. Yet each generation works out its salvation or damnation endowed with a particular set of strengths and weaknesses, and often it's precisely in response to the weaknesses that God calls forth the reforming saints: they redeem the vices characteristic of their age through heroic exercise of the contrary virtues. The time will soon come when, for many, a statement will be judged false simply because a bishop claims it to be true. The task of Catholics will be to teach the world yet again the meaning of apostolic witness by our willingness to suffer for those utterances of bishops that are at once the truest and the least demonstrable: that is, when bishops repeat revealed teachings, especially the teachings that launch those who believe them into losing battles.

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Show 29 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - Apr. 12, 2006 4:15 PM ET USA

    Benedictusoblatus, Not being a member of the Los Angeles Archdiocese, I can only verify that I was informed of the helicopter escapade by a very reliable source local to that area. About what is current, I have no information regarding the Bird of Pray.

  • Posted by: B_Anthony - Apr. 11, 2006 5:25 PM ET USA

    Thanks for the tip, Quadratus. My apologies for confusing the use of Latin with the Tridentine Mass. But the entry for "ecclesiastical Latin" in New Advent's online Catholic Encyclopedia provided some clarity. I suggest www.newadvent.org/cathen/09019a.htm to anyone with "fuzzy math" like mine. Perhaps the cardinal similarly was interchanging "Latin" for "Tridentine" ... or perhaps not. Who am I to speak for or judge a prince of the Church?

  • Posted by: Quadratus - Apr. 11, 2006 2:32 PM ET USA

    Latin has been the language of the Western Church since at least the 4th century. Check your history.

  • Posted by: B_Anthony - Apr. 11, 2006 11:38 AM ET USA

    I'm just checking my math here. Wasn't it only 400 years from the close of Trent to the close of Vatican II? How do we get "FIFTEEN centuries of history"?

  • Posted by: - Apr. 11, 2006 2:17 AM ET USA

    Yes it is true. He had a helecopter since the 80's...I thought he still had it. --a gift from a friend in high places. Most of us LA-ers thought the new cathedral was a landing pad.

  • Posted by: benedictusoblatus - Apr. 10, 2006 9:57 PM ET USA

    Centurion, is that really true??? That's incredible! A helicopter! Jesus, Mary and Joseph fled to the deserts of Egypt with donkey and the Lord Cardinal Archbishop of Los Angeles, Roger Mahony had his own helicopter! Did he at least use it to make urgent sick calls with the Blessed Sacrament when the freeways were clogged with traffic?

  • Posted by: rpp - Apr. 10, 2006 12:26 PM ET USA

    I think the parishioners of LA and neiboring (arch)diocese may best be served if our Holy Father chose to the Eminent Cardinal Mahoney to be the new Papl Nuncio to Indonesia or Saudi Arabia, even China, if relations can be normalized. After all, you will want a Cardinal to represent the Church to such important countries and peoples. Note this related story from AsiaNews (from CWNews Headlines): http://www.asianews.it/view.php?l=en&art=5869

  • Posted by: - Apr. 10, 2006 12:10 AM ET USA

    Contrary to what some may think, Mahony has not always gotten away with his little self magnifications. Pope JPII was not impressed by the fact that Roger the Dodger had his own helicopter and pilot. No reprimand was issued publicly, but after the visit, the copter was gone. What on Pope could do to a helicopter, another could do to a person

  • Posted by: Linus682 - Apr. 09, 2006 7:47 AM ET USA

    Ab insidiis Mahony Libera nos, Domine

  • Posted by: - Apr. 09, 2006 12:01 AM ET USA

    I thank Cardinal Mahony for causing me to become a traditional Catholic, and go to Father Schell's Mass. If he didn't drive faith into the ground througout LA, I wouldn't have had to look for the Catholic Faith, from a retired Jesuit, (Fr. Schell) who said the Latin Mass because of all the "Bunk." I went to the Seminary in Oxnard for about 1 second before I was hit on by several "dudes." The place was a discoteque. I do not exaggerate. They did everything possible to dissuade catholic men...

  • Posted by: - Apr. 08, 2006 5:57 PM ET USA

    This is the cardinal who nominated media mogul Rupert Murdoch for a Papal Knighthood. Murdoch made his money in the UK by printing the first tabloid newspaper showing topless women. He got his award at the same ceremony as Ricardo Montelban who played boss in Fantasy Island - the 70s TV series. Maybe the cardinal gave him the award because he made people's dreams come true on that island - at least its more plausible than his reasons for nominating Murdoch.

  • Posted by: Canismater - Apr. 08, 2006 7:26 AM ET USA

    Pseudodionysius you have the answer. Sensus fidelium, ora pro nobis.

  • Posted by: Quadratus - Apr. 07, 2006 11:04 PM ET USA

    Probably the well scripture versed Cardinal was refering to the fact that a thousand years is a day in the Lord's eye. So given that, its ben only close to two days since the Church uses Latin (i.e. close to two milenia) a little "slice"of time. Of course the long and proven tradition of the last forty seconds (years) is more relevant for the Cardinal. OK, someone's pants are on fire!!

  • Posted by: Venerable Aussie - Apr. 07, 2006 9:24 PM ET USA

    Surely Cardinal Mahony could have answered Joe's question by quoting another guy also named Joe who just so happens now to be his superior: "Latin, for centuries the vehicle and instrument of Christian culture, guarantees not only continuity with our roots, but remains as relevant as ever for strengthening the bonds of the unity of faith in the communion of the Church."

  • Posted by: hUMPTY dUMPTY - Apr. 07, 2006 8:48 PM ET USA

    Please go easy: he suffers from an edifice complex. AMDG

  • Posted by: Meg Q - Apr. 07, 2006 8:40 PM ET USA

    "Then he could retire to some quiet little place like Alaska." Hey, please, have some mercy on the poor Alaskans! (Mental picture of Bishop Roger Mahony, regular of Lincoln, trying to deal with his flock): Heh, heh. Well, at least it would fit him for heaven. No more first-class airfare, though, I'm afraid.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 07, 2006 7:00 PM ET USA

    To cope with bad clergy, one must do what the scriptures have always said to do. Come togeather. "Where two or more are gathered togeather in MY name, there I am". Pray for God's will concerning this individual(s). Don't do what they do, but do what God's laws and the laws of the church dictate, "obey God, not man" first, and then conduct yourself in truth and honesty before God and man. Treat the offending clergy with charity. This will pile hot coals of fire on their heads. bjr

  • Posted by: Pseudodionysius - Apr. 07, 2006 4:28 PM ET USA

    Pope B16 should reassign him to Lincoln, Nebraska where Bruskewitz' parishioners would drive him into early retirement.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 07, 2006 4:18 PM ET USA

    Diogenes speaks correctly on Roger the Dodger or should I say "equivacator"? An answer to the problem of having such a man in a position of power over so many would be to break up the L.A. Arch Diocese. Santa Barbara/Ventura would be a natural. So would Riverside/ San Bernardino. What is left would still be too much for Mahony but at least many faithful would be back in the fold. Then he could retire to some quiet little place like Alaska.

  • Posted by: Gil125 - Apr. 07, 2006 4:04 PM ET USA

    Well, where are the defenders? Usually, somebody chimes in in one of these threads to attack Diogenes and defend the miscreant he's caught. Is this one at last too egregious?

  • Posted by: Pseudodionysius - Apr. 07, 2006 3:21 PM ET USA

    Question: Which does more lasting damage to the Church in they eyes of the world? Cardinal Mahony gets lambasted by prosecutors in LA so badly that he makes Cardinal Law look like St Iranaeus? Or, Pope B16 yanks him and sticks him in a penal monastery? Think hard.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 07, 2006 3:08 PM ET USA

    Mahony’s behavior illustrates the greatest weak spot in JPII’s reign: his failure to call to account prelates who openly defied papal authority. Now, BXVI, even if he has a mind to do so, will have a hard time getting these scofflaws back into line. The appointment of Levada to CDF, the unwillingness to retire McCarrick, and the sheltering of Law do not inspire hope in me that the Church will soon recover from the many scandals of the past 40 years. We may be witnessing the beginning of the end.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 07, 2006 11:46 AM ET USA

    Mahony goes to Rome and plays the game. Then he comes home and does the opposite. End result -- He nullifies decrees of Rome in his own diocese at the same time he plays the Vatican game and talks the Vatican line. Is the Holy Father aware of this? Will he take action to require obedience? Or will Mahony be allowed to continue as a closet schismatic.

  • Posted by: Remigius - Apr. 07, 2006 10:42 AM ET USA

    I recall a veteran chancery priest telling me: "They lie all the time." My eyes were opened: falsehoods were uttered, and no one could contradict the purveyors because they were in charge. Lying also covers the refusal to admit problems, and then deal with them. Thus parents calling to report criminal priests were themselves the threat to the good order of the diocese, and they must be ignored or dismissed with a lying assurance that something would be done. Let us pray for our shepherds.

  • Posted by: Gino - Apr. 07, 2006 10:12 AM ET USA

    There must be some mechanism the Vatican can use to correct lies such as this one. Bishops seemingly are absolute despots in their diocese, without any accountability to anyone. It is sad to see a "Prince of the Church" knowingly lie. Let's all pray for the Cardinal.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 07, 2006 9:37 AM ET USA

    So much has been done within the Church to destroy its very roots and foundation. The answer always is that the people who want to destroy it are the people outside the Church while the very people saying this are the ones inside the Church destroying it for their own selfish reason. I think if they really knew prayer and let God instead of themselves, the Church would heal. Latin may again be the way back to the truth instead of cultural language which clouds the meaning for its own need.

  • Posted by: Canismater - Apr. 07, 2006 7:33 AM ET USA

    The courage to ALWAYS embrace the Truth comes from the Holy Spirit. This gotta make you wonder just what kind of spirit is being received at some of those "cutting edge liturgies" in southern California. If you’re not following the Way, the Truth, and the Life, then you’re heading for the bluff, and there’s not going to be an angel to catch you before you’re dashed against the rocks.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 07, 2006 7:13 AM ET USA

    Diogenes analysis is wholly correct.Mendacity has become a way of life for Mahony. It seems unlikely that church authorities will ever reprove him still less dislodge him.The likelihood is that his demise will occur when finally he has to face the music and be cross examined in a public court.Then Roger the Dodger and his machinations will be laid bare for all to see.It will not be a pleasant sight.

  • Posted by: shrink - Apr. 07, 2006 7:10 AM ET USA

    Here's another moment of truth: Fr. Ignatius Reilly: Why have you removed Our Lord -- present in the tabernacle -- from its proper place in the center of the sanctuary? CardinalMahony: I'm not sure what Fr. Reilly is referring to.

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