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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  • Posted by: Fr. William - Mar. 19, 2004 12:40 AM ET USA

    Cardinal Mahony might be wise to seek counsel from Mother Angelica. Then again... Well, we may want to pray for his Eminence, that Almighty God have mercy on him... and pray that Cardinal Roger would have the moral courage and integrity to do what Jesus would want him to do and behave in word and deed as a successor to the Apostles... for Christ's sake, for the sake of His sorrowful Passion...

  • Posted by: - Mar. 18, 2004 8:41 PM ET USA

    is anyone in the hierarchy saying anything to card. mahoney? are we just commenting to one another without anything really being done about this? Hubbard is another case. is there any other action that can be done? it's frustrating.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 18, 2004 1:21 PM ET USA

    I think there's room for legitimate concern about the First Amendment and the church-government problem in the U.S. The thought of prosecuting attorneys telling bishops where they can assign priests is not a pleasant one. There's room for concern in the threat to the Church's ability to run its affairs.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 18, 2004 9:53 AM ET USA

    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. Hmm. Nice dodge. Does that mean if he "feels" guilty, is actually guilty, convicted guilty, etc? What about technically guilty versus literally guilty versus guilty in the eyes of God, versus guilty under Positive Law, versus guilty under Natural Law. Can't wait to see the Amicus Brief.