Today's Topic



Calling for the
Resignation of
Cardinal Mahony

Natalia J. Garland

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Cardinal Roger M. Mahony has officially apologized to the 508 victims who were sexually abused in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The victims agreed on a $660 million settlement, following five years of negotiation. This settlement also follows a previous settlement in which the archdiocese paid $114 million to 86 sexual abuse victims.

In his apology, Mahony acknowledged the sexual abuse as a "terrible sin and crime," stated that it "should not have happened and should not ever happen again," and that he wished he could give the victims back their childhood. His apology also included remarks on his own struggle to cope with the situation. In fact, his self-disclosure seems to elicit more sympathy for himself than his apology does for the victims of the archdiocese.

Sometimes I honestly had reached the bottom. I didn't know what to do next. It seemed like everything I tried to do was wrong, somebody thought it was wrong. I think spiritually....when you are totally empty, the only way up--without your resources--is God. Spiritually, it's been an enormous time, times of frustration but also times of great spiritual strength, knowing that I don't have all the answers and relying on God to show us the way forward.
[End of quote.]

Despite his attempt to explain his inner turmoil over the situation, Mahony never actually accepted responsibility for the sins and crimes which were committed against any children for whom he was the spiritual shepherd. Those children are now adults. Had they not acquired the courage to reveal the hidden emotional scars of their childhood, would Mahony be apologizing today or reflecting on his own frustration? His loyalty seems to have been to the sexual predators.

It appears that Mahony and other clergy were involved in a huge cover-up spanning many years. The priority was the good reputation of the archdiocese--not the protection of children. Abusive priests were assigned to other parishes or sent to retirement homes, while hundreds of children suffered silently and needlessly. At any time any clergy member could have publicly exposed the offending fathers and brothers, could have joined with other caring clergy and confronted the Church hierarchy, could have called the police or contacted social services, could have warned a child or consulted with the parents.

If a child-welfare worker watched as 508 children were being sexually abused, that worker would be fired. If a clinical social worker failed to act on information that 508 children were being sexually abused, that worker would lose her license and job. In fact, the entire agency might lose its operating license and have to shut down. Why is it different for priests and the Church? Why isn't Mahony removed? Why isn't the Archdiocese of Los Angeles shut down? Why is total accountability unthinkable?

Granted, social customs were different years ago. Secret-keeping, unfortunately, was the norm for both victims and witnesses. Perhaps Mahony might be afforded some leeway if only his apology had been more empathic and his self-disclosure more expressive of true agony and repentance. This is not to cast the first stone. Judgment belongs only to God. Even so, the situation demands an appropriate response from within the system of the Church. An official apology is not resolution. The loss of $660 million will punish the archdiocese but, ironically, part of that sum will be drawn from funds which possibly could have served social programs. In other words, Mahony and the guilty priests are not being held personally liable.

Mahony should voluntarily resign from his position, and he should remove himself from all service to the archdiocese. He should get on his knees and beg forgiveness from all who were sexually abused under his appointment. If he wants to remain in the religious life, then he should seek entrance into the humblest monastery in the humblest village in the world, and spend the remainder of his life doing the humblest work. Let him scrub the toilets, do the brothers' laundry, and clean out the chicken coop. If he did this in a state of constant prayer, relying on God to show him the way forward, then perhaps he could grasp the magnitude of harm done back home in Los Angeles and truly repent. (Written 07/18/07: bibliography available.)

Until we meet again..............stay sane.

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Copyright 2007 Natalia J. Garland