the suffering servant

By Diogenes (articles ) | Mar 16, 2005

Jason Berry has a lengthy and balanced piece in the current NCR in which he reviews Cardinal Mahony's surprisingly successful legal/PR coup, whereby he portrays himself as a pioneer of openness on the sex abuse front, while burying his own appalling record and continuing to stonewall law enforcement agencies. Especially valuable is an interview on the subject Mahony gave to the NCR last month, partly woven into Berry's article and to be posted in full March 18.

There's lots worthy of discussion here. I was especially impressed by Mahony's marvelous ability to paint himself as the victim of the disaster, the suffering servant who's endured more than any man should have to:

Mahony spoke of his own "terrible journey" in a Feb. 12 telephone interview with NCR. "It's easy to look back through lenses of today to 15, 20, 30 years ago. You just wish you had known then what I know now" about the way sexual offenders behave.

"I've met a very large number of victims," he continued. "I've also looked at the taped interviews [of victims] the plaintiff attorneys here have developed. Dozens of interviews on DVD. I've listened to those, every single one of them. They just cause you to cry. You simply are in disbelief at what has happened to the lives of these people. It has been a very humbling experience. Spiritually, I was absolutely at the bottom, which means total vulnerability to God's grace.

Not bad, is it? Not only does Mahony remind us of his humility, he throws us a learning curve, he mentions his thoroughness, his tears, his self-abasement, and his vulnerability -- to prosecution? -- no, to God's grace. His was a "terrible journey," but if mistakes were made, he's not owning up to any.

Berry gives a lucid and fair account of Mahony's fortuitously irregular memory, which, by happy coincidence, works or fails on precisely those occasions where his personal interests are best served by each. He also presses Mahony on the inconsistency of his refusal to hand over personnel files.

If the documents do not contain incriminating information, why fight to withhold them? "Because it's the principle, the privilege," Mahony told NCR. "You've got to keep in mind the priests involved -- it's their files. The priests have protection under the California Evidence Code." He cited "strong privacy privileges" in state law that protects psychiatrists and the media from disclosing confidential communications.

It's the principle of the thing. Berry quotes a deputy DA who can see through the smoke:

"We are not asking for permission to eavesdrop on a prisoner talking to a priest ... We are asking for the evidence of crime that is being held in the files of the Catholic church."

Bingo. If the matter belongs to a sacramental confession, it's not written down anyway, hence the fiction of archbishop-as-analyst. I wonder what privileges of confidentiality, by the way, obtain for communications with the prefect of the Basilica of St. John Lateran. There may be an opening soon.

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  • Posted by: TheJournalist64 - Mar. 16, 2005 7:21 PM ET USA

    I recently learned that the reason Mahony was given the important archdiocese of LA is that during one of the papal visits, he gave an impassioned pro-life sermon. Kind of reminds one of Henry of Navarre. "LA is worth a homily I have to give only once. . ."

  • Posted by: - Mar. 16, 2005 2:28 PM ET USA

    It's interesting that Cardinal Mahoney is such an expert on the legal issues regarding "privilege" and how it is protected under the California Evidence Code. I recall a couple of months ago that in a deposition, the Cardinal explained that as a Cardinal he's not an expert on Canon Law and doesn't really have to deal with it very much. I guess Cardinal Mahoney's been too busy studying the California Evidence Code to know about Canon Law. But, I suppose that may keep him out of jail.