An ego large enough to fill the Taj Mahony

An ego large enough to fill the Taj Mahony

LA Catholic reports that Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles has commissioned a biography of ... himself. What kind of man commissions someone else to write a biography of him? Does he think he’s a president or pope? Memoirs or an autobiography I can understand, but a biography?

The Cardinal has chosen the author: His own Cardinal’s Theologian, Dr. Michael Downey, professor of Systematic Theology and Spirituality at what’s left of St. John’s Seminary.

... The story says, “Downey described Cardinal Mahony as ‘the most significant and influential moderate voice in the American Catholic hierarchy. So many people all across the country, and in different parts of the world, look to him as a paragon of the middle way and of moderation, an embodiment of the Common Ground so dear to the heart of his brother bishop and good friend Cardinal Bernardin.’”

Now there’s an oxymoronic book title worthy of a Rush Limbaugh parody: “Great Moderates of History.” Yes, everybody loves someone who is moderate: Don’t get too passionate. Straddle that line. Don’t take a stand. Be lukewarm. Sure, the Lord says He’ll vomit you forth, but look at you staking a firm position right in the mushy middle.

Of course, self-professed moderates rarely are so, but are usually liberals with a guilty conscience. “No, no, I’m not liberal. I couldn’t be. Oh yes, that’s sort of a liberal belief and, yes, that is too, but hey I’m conservative on this one inconsequential other thing.” What does moderate even mean in the context of the Catholic faith? What part of Catholic faith and belief should we “moderate”?

Where in all of Christian history—2,000 years of inspirational teaching and writing starting with Jesus in the Gospels and St. Paul in the Epistles—did we ever hear a bishop admonished to “seek out the middle way of moderation?”

Pathetic. Your copy will be reserved for pickup in February 2011. That’s Cardinal Mahony’s 75th birthday.

Incidentally, Dr. Downey should make he doesn’t forget to include this information from the “Bishop Accountability” web site on Mahony’s actions with pervert priests, especially this transcript of emails among his inner circle during Lent and Holy Week 2002. That should make for some fascinating chapters.

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  • One wonders will there be footnotes quoting “The Rite of Sodomy” wherein the real story of his “dear friend’ Bernadin the sodomite is revealed?

  • “What kind of man commissions someone else to write a biography of him?”
        Well, the last American member of the Sacred College I am aware of having commissioned his own biography was Francis Cardinal Spellman.  As his biographer he chose Father Robert I. Gannon, S.J., then recently retired from the presidency of Fordham University.  Since Father Gannon was initially unwilling to oblige the Cardinal, His Eminence had the New York Jesuit Provincial order him to do it.  The result was “The Cardinal Spellman Story,” liberally larded with fulsome tongue-in-cheek praises of its subject’s wonderfulness.  So there is a precedent, and one which should perhaps be followed.

  • Mark:

    When you advocate the faithful not put money in the collection plate, you may want to consider the impact of that . . .

    Here in my city, we have two parishes, 1400 families between them. One pastor; one associate, who is dying of cancer; one retired priest, going on 88.

    One school between them, 300 students. The community is hurting economically, and so tuition at $1,550, which is pretty low by comparison with other areas, is tough for our folks.

    Sixty percent of the budget of both parishes goes to the schools. Every year, it takes more.

    The two parishes have deficits. In five years, all reserves will be gone. Then what?

    We share a music director for both; a youth minister/coordinator of religious ed for both; a business manager for both. Each parish has a secretary. They have families to support. They work hard. Only one maintenance man. No one gets a big salary. The maintenance needs of one parish, 151 years old, keep getting deferred. God help us if we have a big expense.

    The two parishes don’t even pay the full salaries of the priests. The retired priest gets expenses only; the retired priest took a cut in pay, because he gets social security. The pastor took a cut in pay—because of the deficit.

    So, what gets cut next? I guess we could do without a music director; I could tell the priest with cancer to go somewhere else; I could get rid of the religious education and youth ministry. We could stop answering the phones, taking Mass intentions, and helping people.

    After that, then we close the school.

    That’s what happens when people follow your advice.


  • Mark:

    Damaging the local parish is what YOU are urging, when you say, don’t put money in the collection plate.

    Of course, my consolation is I think most faithful Catholics understand the stupidity of punishing their local parish because they are angry at the hierarchy.

    If you’re ever in my town, stop by and check out my “palace.” I live in a poor neighborhood with a bar across the street. Very swanky.

    While you’re in town, maybe you’ll stay and help patch the ceilings in the vestibule? A leak is causing the plaster to collapse. We fixed the leak; but we can’t afford to have anyone fix the plaster.

    Oh, wait—you don’t give a damn. Silly me.

  • Michigan:

    Of all the money collected in my two parishes, would you like to know how much goes to the diocese?

    Six percent.

    Does some of that pay for nonsense? Oh, sure it does. Even in the very best dioceses, it will—you just hope, as nonsense goes, it won’t be so bad.

    My point is—and anyone who does any real analysis of the numbers, rather than merely rant (as understandable as that is) will discover that even most of that money is going for things I defy even you to condemn.

    A seminary; the salary for the retired priest here; the tribunal; health insurance; it paid to send me to a workshop on Gregorian chant; some of it goes to subsidize inner city parishes and schools. And so it goes.

    So, two points.

    First—I can’t do anything about the 6% I have to send. Maybe you want me to secede from the Roman Catholic diocese. Sorry, not gonna do that. Short of that, I send the money.

    Second—most of that 6% isn’t spent on the evil stuff you complain about, rightly. I mean, just how many “gay potlucks” do you think there are?

    I feel awful about the scandals, and what it’s cost. I don’t like that it cost so much money. But are you saying you don’t want the victims to get any compensation? Nothing? Zilch? If you do want them to get help, where do you (realistically) think that is going to come from?

    If your beloved parish burnt to the ground because of someone’s negligence, would you contribute to rebuild it—or would you say, “I’m not paying for someone else’s crimes!”?

    I don’t blame you for being angry. But you might want to think about getting over it. Being angry forever sounds like hell, not heaven.

    And I have no problem with you sending money to EWTN. Mark, above, takes the position that Catholics should not give to their parish, and you seem to side with him, so I don’t know where you stand on that.

    But those like Mark who refuse to support any parish—I bet when they or a loved one is sick, I wonder what happens when they call EWTN to send a priest to the hospital?

  • Michigan:

    This’ll spark howls of protest, but so be it:

    The “professionalization” that I lament, and you do, is being hastened by folks like you, and many others who love to comment online, who never miss a chance to kick and bash priests, coating them with bile, always viewing every priest with constant suspicion, ready to denounce them.

    It discouraged me, some time back, when folks here were howling that priests can’t be trusted—ever, no-time, no-how; even the slightest whisper of suspicion? Denounce them! Run them out of the parish till they prove themselves innocent! No place to go? They’re good name ruined? Who cares? it’s all about our anger, which must be assuaged above all.

    But the amazing part is this: that the very same people who endorse that program with gusto, cannot see how all that inevitably must hasten “professionalization.” They don’t connect the dots.

    Some people live on anger; they groom and pet it like a cherished pet. Only it keeps growing, and growing, and must constantly be fed.

    A better answer, I think, is to be constructive. I think the Knights of Columbus offered something constructive, a few years back, when their message was, “In solidarity with our priests.”

    Works better than the “priests are our enemy” message so popular here.

  • Michigan:

    Considering the bilious hatred you consistently spew at priests here, I can’t imagine why a priest wouldn’t just rush to cooperate with you.

    I am so sorry for whatever has turned you so mean and bitter and hateful. I really am.

  • Mark:

    Since you didn’t bother to answer my questions, and you clearly want local parishes to sink, since you advocate cutting off their money, I’m sorry, I don’t feel any burden to answer your questions.

    I am sorry that you’ve had a hard time. But advocating letting local parishes sink—that’s what you advocate when you say don’t give them money—then your anger, however justified as I am sure it is, it turned the wrong way. I don’t understand why you can’t see that.

  • By “constructive” approaches, I have in mind:

    * Being supportive of priests when you can. I find it very hard to believe anyone here lives in a diocese in which they can’t find anything to support or encourage in their priests. I know folks here like Michigancatholic live in dioceses where virtually all the priests are lazy, stupid, and evil—and there is nothing to encourage—but most of us live in dioceses where priests are a mixed lot.

    * Propose things. I find it very hard to believe that if a group of parishioners wanted to form a Legion of Mary, or a prayer group, or a Bible study, or a Catechism study group, and you made it clear you’ll do all the work, that the pastor will oppose you. I suppose somewhere there are dioceses where virtually every church will be closed to you, no matter how sweetly you ask and how readily you do all the work; but most parishes the pastor is happy to oblige, when the folks proposing it say they’ll do the work.

    But let’s suppose the pastor really is the hateful you-know-what that some here paint them to be. Then what stops you from meeting in someone’s home? And invite everyone you want.

    * Start a Gregorian choir. Again—even if the pastor doesn’t cooperate, you can do it yourself. If you get good, you can offer to help at funerals. If nothing else, you’ve all learned some beautiful music. Over time, you might be surprised what happens. How can the pastor stop you?

    In most parishes, there are abundant opportunities to do good, worthwhile things, if you simply are ready to do them—without bashing the priest because he doesn’t measure up 100 other ways.

    Most priests would rather not have a fight if they don’t have to; so if you are reasonable about what you propose, odds are the pastor will decide it’s easier to give you what you want—at least some.

    So, I just don’t buy the narrative being offered here, by some, that where they are, the priests shoot down everything good, everything worthwhile, never do anything good, never say anything good—not only in their own parishes, but in all those around. Such that they have no real alternative but to kvetch online.

    Because let’s be clear: that’s the narrative being offered here by the most bitter complainers—that not only their parishes, but their dioceses are so completely awful that there is nothing constructive they can do where they are.

    It’s theoretically possible; but it seems vastly more likely that the folks offering this narrative are just very difficult, very angry people—and surprise! priests don’t warm to that sort of behavior.

    And I am sorry to be rough on someone like Michigancatholic, but I tried in the past to be friendly and courteous, and it was thrown in my face.

  • Michigan:

    In my parish, we have 24/7/365 adoration. We beg for people to cover the hours.

    I beg for help with the festival and bingo. Not exciting stuff, but it pays the bills, and that matters. Most of the work falls on a few.

    We’re cutting everything to keep the school open.

    We have an excellent music director who, this year, will teach the children Gregorian chant, and who is building a choir. We hope to have polyphony and all the good stuff. If we have enough voices. Always a problem.

    As mentioned above, we’re facing money problems. Main reason is the local economy. No jobs. People go elsewhere.

    Now, we have lots of good people in my two parishes who do get involved. But I can tell you, there are plenty more opportunities. I’ve got lots of ideas, and I love having people come to me with them. Pretty much anyone with a reasonable, sensible not-going-to-scare-the-horses idea—if they will run with it—then they have my blessing.

    My point is, there are plenty of opportunities for almost anyone to do constructive things. Want to help train servers? How about helping to recruit them? Sponsor a summer outing for them?

    How about serving on the vocation committee? Or on a liturgy committee? How about raising funds for various worthy projects. Would love to enhance the beauty of the churches. Lots of dreams, need cash.

    There are opportunities for folks who truly want to be constructive. And I simply don’t believe that my community, with two parishes, are all that unusual.

    So I do have a hard time believing the narrative you offered earlier that where you are, there aren’t any opportunities to be constructive. I find it far more believable that you probably treat priests in real life much the way you treat them online (and I don’t simply mean myself; I mean your wholesale hostility to all of them), then I do find it far more believable that that explains the lack of response, from them, that you complain about.

  • Margaret:

    What set me off was when Mark said don’t give—period. That’s what I challenged. If he’d said, “don’t give to bad parishes,” or, “don’t give to bad bishops, etc.—that would be very different.

    But Mark gave voice to a sentiment offered by others, here and elsewhere—to punish the local parish, as a proxy for offenders . . . elsewhere. In addition to being rather a stupid way to go, that advice is something—as a pastor of a local parish—that I “take personally.”

    If I have been discourteous toward Michigancatholic, well, I dislike that too; however, I have tried courtesy in dialogue with her in the past and she has thrown it back in my face. For reasons I don’t understand, she prefers it this way.

  • Margaret:

    I can appreciate what you are saying; and I have no problem with people exercising “the power of the purse.”

    But I would say this: if you withhold donations, tell the person from whom you are doing so, that you are doing so, and why. That puts the ertswhile recipient on notice, and it also extends the offer of a response, and a correction—either of your perception, if mistaken, or of the offense at issue.

    Also, there are lots of ways to designate gifts, and still help your diocese and your parish. Pay attention to what your pastor says; I bet he’ll often talk about various projects or needs, although he may not say, specifically, “give me money,” because he doesn’t want to do that all the time. But if you look, you’ll see hints of what could be funded more.

    A lot of improvements to the physical structure of the church—whether routine maintenance, or adornment—come through specific gifts. Want a statue of St. (Padre) Pio? This is how it often happens. Sometimes people step forward and say, “I’ll donate this.” And the pastor has to decide if he will, or can, accept it.

    Now, about designations, some will say, “oh, but the diocese or parish won’t respect those designations.”

    Well, there is a tendency to extrapolate from extreme, isolated examples, and make them the norm. Sure, somewhere, the ethical, moral and legal barriers that prevent designated funds from being misused, by a parish or diocese were violated. My guess is that a lot of the time, people assume a fund was restricted, when it wasn’t. And no doubt examples can—and in response to this, will—be cited.

    But I will assert that in the main, these barriers are respected: i.e., if you designate a gift to a specific cause, it will be spent as you designate.

    I can offer, if you wish, several cautions about designations, but that would make this comment too long. Let me just say that it gets complicated.

    Here’s a brief example. A parishioner is raising money to help with our school gym.

    I said, “in everything you say or print about where the money will go, you have to specify what happens to any excess.” I.e., we think we need x dollars for this; what happens if, (a), we can do it for less, or (b), we raise more than x? If you say, “it will be spent painting the gym,” period, then, ethically, either you spend it all on that, or you give it back, or you now have a “school gym” fund that waits for the next time. If a pastor isn’t careful, he could have about 1,000 of those segregated funds to manage, and that’s crazy.

    So, we said that any excess would be used for exterior of the church, which also needs attention. I feel confident we won’t raise more than we need for that, so no problem.

    I’m sorry for all that detail, but I hope its helpful in illustrating what any pastor, or bishop for that matter, deals with in all this.

    If you ask, I’ll offer another cautionary tale—about the diocesan fund drive. Suffice to say, I tried an approach that was perfectly suited to the concerns you and others raise here. It bombed. Why I can only speculate; and if you ask, I’ll describe what happened.

  • Attorney-client privilege exists to safeguard from government intrusion. There is no legal requirement that I know of preventing anyone else from publishing them if they become available.

    How did these emails get out if not from one of the people involved? I have no ethical or moral qualms about them. In fact, I think exposing the corruption inherent in the Los Angeles archdiocese supersedes concerns about the legal system’s integrity.

  • As I said, as far as I’m aware, the attorney-client privilege affects only the government’s actions. Do you know of a law or precedent that says otherwise?

    Of course, I wouldn’t want my communication getting in the hands of my opponent—I want to win after all—, but is it illegal?

    Moreover, there are many ways this info could’ve been leaked, all of which, quite frankly, may be illegal.

    Now you’re saying it may be illegal. You don’t know. That’s a far different thing.

    Scott: This is very old news and these emails have been out there for years. If there were any basis to your claims that they are being posted illegally, Mahony would have sued to have them taken down. What’s done is done, especially four years on.