Monday, February 4, 2013


   In my "Guilty" post of June 23rd of last year, I wrote of the conviction of Msgr. William Lynn, of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.  Today's post will deal with another form of guilt, a stubborn, pernicious form of guilt that still festers within the church.

   By now we know that Los Angeles archbishop, Jose Gomez, has removed Cardinal Roger Mahony from all public duties, for protecting priests who sexually abused children.  From a legal viewpoint, Mahony committed serious crimes, but they are now beyond the statute of limitations, so he can't be convicted or go to prison for them.  Actually, his "punishment" means that the retired Mahony will no longer administer the sacrament of Confirmation.  He still remains a priest in good standing.
   Archbishop Gomez's small gesture is notable mostly because it had to be approved by the pope.  Benedict, however, has not removed Mahony from his three Vatican posts.  The Cardinal still remains in good standing at the top level of the church, and he could still vote for a pope.  

   The guilt that I'm referring to shows itself in the way Mahony failed to respond to clear reports that priests under his jurisdiction and control were abusing and raping children.  On January 21st, Mahony issued a statement apologizing for his failure to protect the abused children.  He also said that he did not fully understand the pain of the victims until he met some of them.

   What kind of person cannot understand the pain and suffering of a child who is abused or raped by anyone, let alone a priest?  Was Mahony born with such brutal insensitivity to this most horrible kind of shock and suffering?  Or was such sensitivity trained out of him in the seminary and in his later years as a bishop and Cardinal, living in a clerical culture isolated from basic human feelings and compassion?  The experience of the past few years shows us, of course, that the latter is true.

   Mahony went on to say that his understanding has evolved.  Let's hope so.  But the fact that he still remains a priest in good standing and still holds honored posts at the Vatican shows that the isolated-from-everyday-human-experience-and-suffering, clerical culture has not evolved.  Priestly training and the church authority structure still continue with business as usual within the church's impenetrable bubble.

   Despite the expiration of the statute of limitations, Mahony is morally and spiritually guilty  of horrific crimes.  And unless Benedict XVI wakes up and hands out punishments to bishops and Cardinals that are equal to their crimes, and also, unless he changes the church's clerical culture and operating structures, he and the church's culture will also be guilty before the world and before God.

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