Catholic Culture Overview
Catholic Culture Overview

obedience school: Mahony & the rainbow

By Diogenes ( articles ) | May 16, 2005

The annual Rainbow Sash Repentecost seems to have flopped yesterday, but the RSM's Joe Murray claims to enjoy the support of Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony, posting a letter from his flak.

May 13, 2005

Dear Joe,

Just a note to say that, as in the past, members of the Rainbow Sash Movement who come to the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels this Sunday will be most welcome to attend any of our Masses. Over the years, Cardinal Roger Mahony has consistently spoken to the faithful in Los Angeles about being respectful and inclusive of our Catholic brothers and sisters who are gay and lesbian. All of us struggle to be better Christians, but I think a good number of our parishes in the archdiocese are places where people feel welcome and included, regardless of their sexual orientation.

Tod M. Tamberg
Director of Media Relations
Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

OK, this is an invitation to attend Mass, and (if we have the full text of the letter) it burkes the question of whether the Sashers can or cannot receive communion, so Cardinal Mahony hasn't technically defied Cardinal Arinze's directive to the contrary.

You teach obedience to others by offering the obedience owed to your own superiors. Military officers know that the men under their command watch them constantly to see how punctilious they are in carrying out orders received, especially uncongenial orders. Forget frank defiance: the officer's slightest departure from his instructions -- even body language that suggests reluctance or dismay -- sends the signal to the troops that permission has been given for general (if discreet) insubordination.

So let's admit it: Mahony has an out. But what example has he given his flock, what has he taught the faithful about obedience? Do what thou wouldst -- provided thou hast plausible deniability.

If Mahony were just another example of an over-promoted buffoon, fibbing his way out of embarrassments visited on him by his own incompetence, Catholics could treat him as figure of fun -- an ecclesiastical Colonel Klink -- and laugh it off. But it's not that simple. Even where we wish it were not the case, even where Mahony himself wishes it were not the case, he is a successor of the Apostles, charged with the care of souls in his diocese. And, like it or not, there are still Catholics who find themselves under fierce temptations and for whom obedience to the laws of the Church is so painful that the only reason they continue to struggle at all is their belief that it is God's will, not man's, that obliges them. For these people, wink-nudge episcopal cynicism can be heartbreaking.

Perhaps the Cardinal might object, "My pastoral tasks would be a lot easier without the insolent carping and ranting from the right-wing Catholic fringe." No doubt. Tell you what, your Eminence: give us a model of Christian docility in your implementation of the directives of the Holy See, the ones you find personally distasteful. You're the instructor here. Don't simply ask for obedience, show us how it's done.

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