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Mahony Rebuked: PR, Politics and Who Is Really in Charge

(As posted on DailyKos)

I am not defending Cardinal Mahony’s record of aiding and abetting the sexual torture of Los Angeles children. I am explaining why, for the first time in the history of the American Catholic Church, one hierarch was publicly censured and other notorious US prelates (Law – Boston MA, Rigali and Bevilacqua – Philadelphia PA, Brom – San Diego CA, Franklin – Davenport IA, Grahmann – Dallas TX, Coleman – Fall River MA, McCormack – Manchester NH, Egan – Bridgeport CT, Cote – Norwich CT, Murphy – Rockville Centre NY, McDonnell – Springfield MA, et al) who did pretty much the same thing were not and what this tells us about who is really in charge of the Catholic Church.

Mahony used to be a well-regarded champion of Latino rights and undocumented immigrants. His successor, Opus Dei Archbishop Jose Gomez, was supposed to take up Mahony’s mantel as chief Catholic defender of Latinos (today‘s post “Archbishop Gomez hails Senate immigration reform plan”) so that Gomez can persuade them to vote Republican. Yet California Latinos weren’t listening to Gomez and voted Democrat.

Since Gomez’s announcement on Thursday that he was relieving Mahony of “any administrative or public duties” (which is bogus as I will explain below) over his mishandling of clergy sex abuse, Gomez has been widely lauded as “brave” and “courageous,” the grand protector of children.

As the LA Times noted: “The release of the records and the rebuke of [Cardinal Mahony] in LA’s molestation scandal signaled a clear desire by Gomez to define the sexual abuse crisis as a problem of a different era – and a different archbishop” and substantially increase his own prestige.

Mahony’s public disgrace is also a warning to any US hierarch who might publicly opine that his fellow bishops are too blatantly joined at the hip with the GOP or otherwise go his own way. In 2004, Mahony publicly invited Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. John Kerry, to receive communion in his archdiocese even though Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) had instructed the US episcopate to bar Kerry from the sacrament. Neither has Mahony’s public feud with Mother Angelica, founder of the right wing, pro-Republican Catholic media empire, EWTN, ever been forgiven.

Under the terms of a 2007 settlement with more than 500 victims, the archdiocese was required make public the personnel files of every cleric accused of abuse. Since Gomez was assigned to the LA archdiocese in May 2010, he fought as hard as Mahony to keep hidden the 12,000 just-released pages of 122 personnel files on sexually abusive priests. On Thursday afternoon, a judge signed the order requiring the archdiocese to hand over the records and an hour later Gomez’s statement relieving Mahony of “any administrative or public duties” was released to the press.

[A]ccording to diocesan spokesman Tod Tamberg, Mahony’s daily routine will remain largely unchanged. Mahony retired in March 2011. As Tamberg told me, since that time Mahony “has had no administrative duties.” Tamberg explained that in response to Gomez’s letter, the cardinal “is reducing his public profile.”…Yet Mahony “remains a priest in good standing, and a cardinal of the church,” Tamberg said. “He can celebrate the sacraments with no restrictions.”

What is also startling is this exposure that the plutocrats are running the Catholic Church and not the Vatican.

First, it is almost unheard of for a lower cleric or prelate to reprimand a cardinal or even (symbolically) limit his activities. These are actions reserved solely to the pope. Second, Gomez’s statement was made without prior approval from the Holy See. On Friday, Vatican spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi, said “that although he has received several requests for comment from news agencies, there are no plans at this time to issue a statement. Among other things, he said, the Vatican needs time ‘to better understand the situation,’” according to the American Vatican expert, John L. Allen Jr.

The only news I could find from the usual Italian “Vatican watchers” so far about this was yesterday’s article in La Stampa “Los Angeles: The sad duel between Cardinal Mahony and Archbishop Gomez,” which indicates that the Vatican has not yet backed Gomez.

If there is any criticism being leveled at Gomez in the Catholic press, it is the failure to similarly censure Bishop Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph. In September 2012, Finn was convicted for failure to report the criminal sexual activity with a child of Fr. Ratigan to the authorities. But then, Finn was also ordained into Opus Dei.

Or perhaps Gomez can’t draw attention to the sex abuse scandal as a current and on-going abomination and needs to foster the public perception that the sex abuse scandal is not only a thing of the past but also that the US episcopate is “taking action.” A common complaint has been the lack of “fraternal correction” among the episcopate for one of its own.

In addition to all of the above, Gomez’s statement can be used to counter the damaging publicity sure to come after tomorrow’s HBO premier of the documentary “Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God.” Per the press release:

Oscar-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney exposes the abuse of power in the Catholic Church and a coverup that winds its way from our hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, through the bare ruined choirs of Ireland’s churches, all the way to the highest office of the Vatican. By investigating the secret crimes of a charismatic priest who abused over 200 deaf children in a school under his control – St. John’s School for the Deaf in St. Francis – the film shows the face of evil that lurks behind the smiles and denials of authority figures and institutions who believe that, because they stand for good, they can do no wrong.

The film, the release of the LA documents, the attorneys-general and grand jury investigations throughout the country, the tenacious and thorough reporting – none would have been possible without the incredible courage of the victims to come forward and tell their stories of the most unspeakable and intimate violations. Many did so even facing ostracism and worse from their families, their friends and communities – not to mention the persecution and humiliation heaped upon them by Catholic officials and attorneys.

We can thank them that people like Jerry Sandusky are no longer protected and that many states are revising their statutes of limitations to make all our children safer. 

4 Responses

  1. “Gomez’s statement was made without prior approval from the Holy See.” I’ve read the reverse elsewhere. Very few prelates ever “go rogue.”

    I suspect this was all very carefully choreographed. . .

    • I don’t know how else to interpret Lombardi’s response to John L. Allen Jr. “the Vatican needs time ‘to better understand the situation.’” Perhaps it’s because the Vatican had other problems to deal with last week:

      ANSA) – Rome, January 31 – The former head of the Vatican bank, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, was questioned on Thursday by prosecutors investigating suspect operations at the troubled Monte dei Paschi di Siena (MPS) bank.

      The prosecutors wanted to talk to Gotti Tedeschi about MPS’s nine-billion-euro acquisition of Antonveneta in 2008 from Spanish bank Santander.

      Gotti Tedeschi was in charge of Santander’s operations in Italy before becoming president of the Vatican Bank, the Institute for Religious Works (IOR), in 2009.

      http://www.lifeinitaly.com/news/en/168060

      ROME

      , Feb 5 (Reuters) – The Vatican on Tuesday denied an Italian newspaper report linking its IOR bank to Monte dei Paschi di Siena’s 2007 acquisition of smaller rival Antonveneta, a deal which is now the centre of a widening corruption investigation.

      The Corriere della Sera reported on Monday that the chief executive of the Vatican’s Institute for Works of Religion (IOR) had “delicate and important meetings” with Monte Paschi’s adviser for the 9-billion euro purchase of Antonveneta.

      It also listed several sets of numbers it said identified IOR bank accounts used to transmit funds to Monte Paschi for the acquisition. Prosecutors are looking into allegations that bribes were paid to secure the deal.

      Here is another indication of internal fissure: “Abp Chaput Throws Gauntlet at +Dolan’s Feet” http://ncronline.org/blogs/distinctly-catholic/abp-chaput-throws-gauntlet-dolans-feet

  2. Thanks, Betty, for your incisive and effective analysis. Jerry Slevin

  3. I appreciate your comment, Jerry. Thanks.

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