Catholic Culture Solidarity
Catholic Culture Solidarity

More Mahony

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Mar 17, 2004

When it comes to investigating priests accused of molesting children, Los Angeles Cardinal Roger M. Mahony is more aggressive than any other bishop in the country. At shielding priests, that is, not at safeguarding children from sexual abuse.

So begins a remarkably caustic editorial in this morning's Los Angeles Times -- the severest treatment the Cardinal Mahony has received from that ordinarily sympathetic paper. While it must be an embarrassment to the Cardinal's personal dignity, it's a considerably greater humiliation to those Catholics who have contempt for abusive clergy, who have not colluded in the cover-up, and who must admit the justice of the Times's accusation.

The focus of the editors' criticism is Mahony's claim that there exists a formation privilege which prevents him from turning over personnel records to the District Attorney, etc. The Cardinal insists that he has nothing to hide, but that, against his own personal inclination to openness, he is upholding a sacred trust in protecting the communications between his priests and their spiritual father.


Thousands of pages of the Archdiocese of Boston's records were made public, and secular reporters rushed in to feast on the kill. Was there a single communication that became public which betrayed anything like a spiritual confidence between priest and bishop? Is there any trace of evidence, however faint, that Cardinal Mahony's spiritual rapport with his clergy is tenderer, more familial, more intimate than Cardinal Law's? After all, we've read the hacked e-mails where Mahony discusses molesters with his inner ring. Has any document from either diocese stunned us in an edifying way, by revealing unsuspected piety, or honor, or genuine solicitude?

Look, it's a noble thing for a bishop to stand up for the spiritual privileges of the Church; Thomas à Becket was canonized for it. But this presupposes that the privilege is invoked sincerely and to protect an authentic spiritual good. The precedents of New Hampshire and Phoenix notwithstanding, keeping a bishop out of jail -- for crimes he really committed -- is not such a good. Costuming himself as a Defender of the Faith, in circumstances that are to his manifest legal and personal advantage, is hardly the first of Mahony's patently self-serving maneuvers; any benefit of the doubt he might expect to receive has been forfeited long ago.

Suppose the bogus "formation privilege" ploy crashes. Who loses? Not California's anti-Christians and anti-Catholics, who exult in the Church's mortifications and relish the spectacle of her enfeeblement. Not the liberal Catholics, who want the hierarchy replaced by committees of deputies of coordinators. Not the progressive ecclesiocrats, who don't believe in "spiritual goods" anyway and are buying their way out of real-world trouble with what they see as Monopoly money.

No, the folks who lose -- again -- are those whose voice has been most inaudible from the beginning: Catholics who believe the episcopacy and the priesthood are of divine origin, and that the men in Holy Orders should be required to keep the public promises they make.

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