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eminence du jour

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Mar 18, 2004

Let's take a look at how Cardinal Mahony's Stonewall Doctrine has "evolved" in the past couple months. First, an AP story from last November:

Lawyers for the archdiocese say their effort is not a coverup, but rather a simple matter of law. They are asserting protection under the First Amendment freedom of religion, an extension of priest-penitent confidentiality to cover communications between priests and their superiors, and adherence to the grand jury process that requires secrecy. ... Lawyers for the archdiocese said Cardinal Roger Mahony had favored openness, but his legal advisers had overruled him.

Note here that it's the lawyers who are supposedly at the back of the privilege claim, and that they are championing a legal entitlement, i.e., a First Amendment freedom. Take note too of the bizarre spin whereby the lawyers claim that Mahony was overruled (!) by his legal advisers. On no possible reading does this make sense, but the picture we're meant to see is that of a frank and disarmingly naive Cardinal yanking open his file cabinets to show the contents to the world, only to have them slammed them shut again by his attorneys. His Eminence had favored openness, but ...

Fast forward to March 14th:

The archdiocese asserts that the privilege stems from a bishop's ecclesiastical duty to provide a lifetime of formative spiritual guidance to his priests. As claimed by the archdiocese, the privilege would require that sensitive communication between a bishop and his priests involving counseling -- including documents relating to sexual abuse of minors -- be kept confidential. ... "I cannot and will not jeopardize those privileged communications," the cardinal wrote in a Feb. 28 letter to Los Angeles priests and other church leaders.

Wait a minute, what happened to the "simple matter of law"? Now it's a bishop's ecclesiastical duty that's to the fore, and he's out to guard a spiritual bond: that sacred space -- so crucial to the functioning of a modern archdiocese -- wherein the priest seeks and receives a lifetime of formative guidance from his archbishop. Back in November, his legal advisers "overruled" the Cardinal. Four months later the Cardinal has repackaged himself as the bishop-and-martyr on the Tyburn scaffold, "I cannot and will not jeopardize those privileged communications ..."

What do Stonewall version 3.2 and 3.7 have in common? They both work greatly to the personal advantage of Roger Michael Mahony and greatly to the detriment of the Catholic Church. If such criticism of a sitting cardinal seems harsh, remember that it has an exceptionally worthy precedent:

Los Angeles' Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, asked to comment on [Cardinal Bernard] Law's future, said he would find it difficult to walk down an aisle in church if he had been guilty of gross negligence.

Not as hard as he thought, is it?

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