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Mahony unbound.

Remember how in January, after nearly a decade of legal filibustering, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles finally made public the priest-personnel files it agreed to release as part of a 2007 settlement with abuse victims, except the files were heavily redacted, and remember how those files contained damning memos detailing the lengths to which archdiocesan officials -- including Cardinal Roger Mahony -- went to shield abuser-priests from civil authorities, and how soon after those memos made news, Archbishop Jose Gomez garnered praise for announcing that Mahony would "no longer have any administrative or public duties," and how several media outlets reported that Mahony had been "barred from public ministry," except he really hadn't, and then he took to his blog to dress down Gomez for "not once over these past years...[raising] any questions about our policies, practices, or procedures in dealing with the problem of clergy sexual misconduct involving minors," yet, as Mahony's then-spokesman explained, he had "cleared his calendar" of confirmation appointments this year? Well, he's doing them again. The Los Angeles Times reports:

Since Easter, he has officiated at eight services, including one last week in which he anointed more than 120 youths at a Wilmington parish. His presence has caused controversy, with some parents threatening to pull their children from the liturgies and at least one parish priest asking that Mahony not attend. It has also raised questions about why Gomez's rebuke of Mahony, an unprecedented move that won him praise from victims and their supporters around the world, had so little lasting effect.

You don't say. Gomez's letter did not include anything specific about the alleged change in Mahony's status. And, as an archbishop, Gomez does not have the authority to restrict the ministry of a cardinal. (Only a pope can do that.) But he does have the authority to say who presides over confirmations in the archdiocese. Have a look at the letter. Sorry, is that link broken? It seems the letter is no longer available on the website of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. (The L.A. Times cached a copy here.) Odd that the archdiocese's archive of press releases includes a January 22 apology from auxiliary Bishop Thomas Curry, who played a part in archdiocesan efforts to conceal accused priests from the law (and who really did cancel confirmations this spring), along with Gomez's statement on the release of the priest-personnel files, dated January 31 -- the same date on his statement on Mahony. Did that document disappear down the memory hole?

Perhaps amnesia is going around the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. When an L.A. Times reporter approached Mahony after a confirmation he presided over, the cardinal claimed he didn't know that his former spokesman had said he was done doing confirmations for the year: "'That's news to me.... I've been doing them every week and I'm going to be doing them every week,' he said, adding, 'So go home.'"

Strange that Mahony would be so confused, considering the pains he took to defend himself after Gomez published the letter promising that the cardinal would no longer have any public duties. Certainly the cardinal could not be surprised that some parents would not be pleased to have him confirm their children -- not after his series of blog posts cataloging his Lenten challenge to love his enemies, which, oddly, included a meditation on the virtue of remaining silent in the face of false accusations, and a promise to pray for God to forgive those who have expressed anger over his role in the sexual-abuse scandal.

Evidently the cardinal feels he's been unfairly treated by the media, but if his rehabilitation tour is to have any chance of success, he's going to have to start answering some tough questions. He might start with these: Why did you work so hard to block the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops-commissioned investigation of the sexual-abuse scandal, and why, long after the church knew of the dangers posed by abusive priests, did you attempt to hide accused priests from civil authorities? Was it about church resources? Money? If so, why was that more important than justice for victims of sexual abuse -- and the safety of children?

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I object to the cathedral mainly because, if the photographs do it justice, it's not beautiful. Spending a lot of money on a beautiful church can be justified not just for the middle class and rich but for the poor, Being poor generally means not having anything beautiful things to call your own -- unless your church is beautiful. A beautiful church is a beautiful place where a poor person can feel at home, and I've known poor black people who have loved their churches for their beauty and who sacrificed to keep it up.But not every big, expensive church is beautiful, expecially avant garde ones. There's the rub. Maritain's little work "Art and Scholasticism" has some very wise words about religious art. He was much in favor of a lot of avant garde art and was even close friends with some of the great 20th century avant garde artists. But he said that church art should not be experimental because avant garde stuff is not always beautiful and/or people will not be open to it, while certain tried and true styles generally produce something worthwhile. That's what a great style is, I think -- a set of rules which are such that if you follow the rules you're very likely to get at least a worthwhile result. There are great styles of church architecture, e.g., the Gothic, that rarely seem to miss. I know that most architects wouldn't be caught dead doing something in a recognizably old style (except Gaudi, I'd say), but what do they know? Even they admit Gaudi's greatness and the basically Gothic style of the Cathedral of the Holy Family.

The audacity of Cardinal Mahony (along with others of his status) is mind-boggling! Only an arrest warrent (and is there any even pending?), would be enough to stop (maybe for a few hours), Mahony's free rein in the LA Archdiocese.I doubt if a mass protest of a few thousand people outside of the Chancery would even stop him.

But I thought we believe in a God of second chances and even third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth chances.

While it may be true that Archbishop Gomez can't restrict the ministry of a Cardinal, he certainly has the authority to regulate the sacramental life of his diocese. Cardinal Mahony can't waltz into a confirmation liturgy of his own volition and start confirming. There is just no way that these appearances aren't being coordinated by the archdiocese.Confirmation season is a huge crunch time in any diocese, as there are only so many bishops available, and every parish has kids who need to be confirmed. So there may be some logistical reason that Mahony has been pressed into service; one possibility is that Mahony was scheduled to preside at these confirmation liturgies before he was sent to the doghouse, and the archdiocese couldn't figure out a way to juggle the other bishops' schedules and get the kids confirmed when they were supposed to. If that is the case, then I think the people of the archdiocese are entitled to that explanation.I can think of worse possibilities. Hope there is no need to go there.

Little Bear... There is always a new grand jury .. An indictment would stop the merry-go-round. What a shame/disgrace that only an OUTSIDE force can bring reforms and justice to the Church/Faith we love. Canon Law is a joke and canon lawyers are the comedians.

The real wrogndoer here is Gomez. Publicly, he promised to keep Mahony out of public ministry. Privately, he quietly is violating that promise. David Clohessy, Director, SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, (7234 Arsenal Street, St. Louis MO 63143), 314 566 9790 cell (SNAPclohessy@aol.com)

The new book, Mortal Sins: Sex, Crime, and the Era of Catholic Scandal. by Michael D'Antonio, contains 34 references to Mahony. http://www.amazon.com/Mortal-Sins-Crime-Catholic-Scandal/dp/0312594895/r... in Books > Christian Books & Bibles > Church History#2 in Books > Politics & Social Sciences > Sociology > Abuse#7 in Books > Biographies & Memoirs > True Accounts > True Crime

Should not the parents of the children being confirmed refuse to have their kids participate in the ceremonies being conducted by Mahony? If they are upset about his history, there is no one forcing them to present their children as confirmands to him.People who continue to participate in actions to which they object have no reason ... nor right ... to complain. Even sheep bleat when they are unhappy. Should we accept no less from sheeple?

In "The power and the glory", there is a scene in which a woman coming to confession says to the priest: "You're a bad priest!" - but that does not prevent her from going to him for confession anyway.

Jim McCrea,Were it that simple. I don't know how confirmations are scheduled in LA, but in our little corner of the world in Connecticut, we get about a month's notice of the date the Bishop (or his Vicar General or Chancellor) is available and will be there. It is one thing to be opposed to the Cardinal, but entirely another to pull a kid who has been preparing for 2 plus years from the ceremony at the last minute. I guess if everyone did it that could force the issue, but I'm not sure if effectively denying your child the sacrament to protest the crimes of his Lordship is the best way to go. There are perhaps better ways, though I don't exactly know what they would be. Also I would like to think that Jim Pauwels' reasoning is correct as to why His Lordship is continuing his farewell tour. I would also like to hope, that it is indeed a farewell tour.

I'm grateful for Jim Pauwels's comment, because I had the same reaction - who's scheduling Mahony to do these Confirmations in the first place? The story in the L.A. Times does point out that while Gomez can't punish a cardinal, "he does control administrative assignments in his archdiocese, including the confirmation schedule." And if "one parish priest ask[ed] that Mahony not attend," it seems unlikely the parishes are inviting him without Gomez's involvement.

Jim P suggests there are not enough LA bishops to confirm. Priests can confirm now [ say hello to Brazil] I suggest that grandmas be the regular ministers of Confirmation.. that may 'save' the sacrament going the way of Reconciliation. [Canon law comics please copy]

Thanks, Jim and Mollie -- I'm going to drop in a line about Gomez's scheduling authority.

Priests could always confirm. In the early Church, confirmation was administered along with baptism. In later days, priests could be "extraordinary ministers" of confirmation. In 1947, a rule was passed allowing priests in various circumstances to administer confirmation.Those Catholics who are old enough to have learned about the sacraments from the Baltimore Catechism will remember the amusing (imho) "Problems and Exercises" at the end of each chapter. (If you've forgotten these, click on the link below and enter Problems and Exercises in the Look Inside box. Some of them were very strange. And the names of the children in the examples were strange, too: Edna, Orville, Atlee, Horace, et al.)http://www.amazon.com/dp/0965602400/ref=rdr_ext_tmbOne problem in the confirmation section was about a boy who received the sacrament while in the state of mortal sin. Should he receive the sacrament again with the new class? (Answer: No. Just as an unfit bishop may validly confirm, so may an unfit child be validly confirmed.)

Someone mentioned in a post I cannot find that Mahony knows how to play more political hardball than anyone. The gist was that Mahony's striking back at Gomez in his blog was essentially a reminder to Gomez, watch out, I've got elbows. Then all of a sudden Gomez seemed to disappear, and if memory serves, even spoke up for Mahony participating in the conclave.Grant, you score again! Your tone is perfect.This is just a taste of the dissembling that goes on. I am reminded of Jason Berry's description of the Church as a "culture of mendacity." Imagine being a survivor approaching the Church for affirmation and justice, then encountering this tissue of fabrications in a surreal world where "the real as it exists in God" is nowhere to be found. Crazy-making. What chance does anyone have against such a powerful self-protecting system? Time for a few cursing psalms.

"So go home" ?Another arrogant JP2 appointee. Another chop at the credibility of US bishops.

Jim Dunn: I don't have a child, but if I did, 2 years of prep or not, I just wouldn't stand by and let the likes of Mahony confirm said child.I'd find another way/place/time.But, then, I don't have a child ... but I do have a sense of indignation that these guys get away with what they want to do and the 99% just rolls over and says or does nothing.You'll have the church that you allow.

Jim McCrea,I get where you're coming from and I agree in principal. Frankly I believe that Mahony and by extension the Archbishop who seems to have gone back on his word, creates a very difficult situation for parents and children by doing this. Pastors, too I suspect. Rescheduling/finding another way/time/place is easier said than done, and I hate using kids as pawns in a situation like this. Quite honestly, this is a situation that ought to have been avoided, and one where it really is the pastor's responsibility to step in and say Cardinal Mahony is not welcome at our parish. As far as a priest who is not a bishop confirming anyone, as I understand it, that can only happen with the permission of the local bishop, though I don't pretend to know that for a fact. And I know confirmation by a priest regularly occurs during the Easter Vigil, but I always assumed that was a unique circumstance. I don't pretend to know though. It was merely an assumption.

Is confirmation lucrative? Does a bishop leave the parish with much more in his pocket than when he arrived before the confirmation? Is this why we don't see priests confirming?----I would guess that there are wide variations of practice around the country and the world, but it's just one more area of finances and customary "gifts" that I don't understand.Would anyone explain? Thanks.

We recently had Bishop George Pallipparambil, SDB, of the Diocese of Miao, India, confirm 5 adults, none of whom is of Indian extraction.http://www.gcatholic.org/dioceses/diocese/miao0.htmWe are VERY selective in my parish when it comes to the administration of the sacraments!];<]]

On this PDF, the minimum stipend for Bishop Lori and his MC in 2011/2012 were $400 and $100.http://www.bridgeportdiocese.com/files/thebridge/Confirmation_directives...

Carolyn, Maybe you were thinking of the many posts Rocco Palmo has had about Mahony, like this one ... http://whispersintheloggia.blogspot.com/2013/02/nothing-prepared-me-to-d... don't think we can rely on the church to deal with this, but instead the civil authorities. According to this post at Verdict, it will be the loosening of SOLs that will make the difference .... http://verdict.justia.com/2013/05/02/who-is-afraid-of-justice-for-child-...

Yes, priests can confirm when that is delegated to them by the bishop. In my archdiocese, this is the standard practice on Easter Vigil, when hundreds of adult Catholics are confirmed during parish celebrations by priest celebrants.Here is how the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains it:"1313 In the Latin Rite, the ordinary minister of Confirmation is the bishop.130 Although the bishop may for grave reasons concede to priests the faculty of administering Confirmation,131 it is appropriate from the very meaning of the sacrament that he should confer it himself, mindful that the celebration of Confirmation has been temporally separated from Baptism for this reason. Bishops are the successors of the apostles. They have received the fullness of the sacrament of Holy Orders. the administration of this sacrament by them demonstrates clearly that its effect is to unite those who receive it more closely to the Church, to her apostolic origins, and to her mission of bearing witness to Christ."Besides its appropriateness/legal expectation, I would add that, in the US, it's traditional / customary that the bishop confirms children and teens. It's what the parents and grandparents experienced for their own confirmations, and it's natural that they'd expect it for their children. It would be viewed as a let-down if "just the priest" did confirmations. Also, it's good for bishops and teens to talk to one another. It's also good for the bishop to get out into the parishes and see what is going on. And from the bishop's point of view, even though it's a blizzard of confirmations at this time of year, it seems to be among the more enjoyable ministries they do, or at least that's what I've observed.Please note that none of this is to defend Mahony's participation. I don't think Cardinal Mahony should be doing confirmations. Just providing some thoughts on why it is the way it is in general with bishops and confirmations. If the reason for Mahony's participation is that it wasn't possible to find a bishop replacement for him, I think it's better that the local pastor receive permission, and that an explanation be given to the people.

I still say grandmas should be the Confirmation ministers and we won't have to hear "soldiers for Christ' stuff that was prevalent in my day.

Helen, if you had minor children in the Diocese of Los Angeles, would you let them anywhere near Mahony? I sure wouldn't.

Angela,Not having met the man, I don't know if he exudes creepiness as much as arrogance. For bishops, I don't think their problem lies to much in the likelihood of being a sex predator (which, admittedly is not zero), as it is an enabler of addicts. The percentage of bishops who have blundered in their handling of predator clergy dwarfs the percentage of clergy who have abused. Unless I knew otherwise, I would trust Cardinal Mahony around my daughter. But I wouldn't trust him as the ordinary of my diocese.

But at least we've been bequeathed the Cathedral of our Lady of the Angels, described as a "dynamic, contemporary Cathedral with virtually no right angles." I mean, come on, virtually no right angles, surely it's worth breaking a few eggs for something as awe inspiring as that.Nothing calls to mind the grandeur of God so much as an obtuse angle.

Yeah, the Cathedral of our Lady of the Angels ...The prices for some cathedral furnishings have also caused consternation. $5 million was budgeted for the altar, the main bronze doors cost $3 million, $2 million was budgeted for the wooden ambo (lectern) and $1 million for the tabernacle. $1 million was budgeted for the cathedra (bishop's chair), $250,000 for the presider's chair, $250,000 for each deacon's chair, and $150,000 for each visiting bishops' chair, while pews cost an average of $50,000 each. The cantor's stand cost $100,000 while each bronze chandelier/speaker cost $150,000.[9] The great costs incurred in its construction and Mahony's long efforts to get it built led critics to dub it the "Taj Mahony"[14] and the "Rog Mahal" - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cathedral_of_Our_Lady_of_the_Angels#Criticism

Spending other peoples money at the above rate for such items must have made spending $770 Million in abuse settlements easy as pie. If arrogance has a price tag ... that's it.

Crystal --Those charges are unreal. One has to wonder where the money really went.

If you take a look at the website, you can see that a lot of money was indeed spent there .... http://www.olacathedral.org/ .... but it sure disputes the church's preferential option for the poor.

Sorry Grant - you have the wrong target for your anger. There are many fine qualities in Cardinal Mahony even amidst his mistakes . If he's a 'demon' who must be hounded out of public life - how come that well known 'conservative' Eugene Kennedy could write this in his defence?http://ncronline.org/blogs/bulletins-human-side/los-angeles-archbishop-g... real issue was how so many bishops like Mahony were not allowed to laicise priests who were clearly pathological.That was the decision of JP11 who made this impossible for most of his pontificate.

Why do you have quotation marks around the word "demon"? I didn't call him a demon. And I'm not one of the people he's praying for because they shared their anger with him. And you don't have to laicize a priest to restrict his ministry. The Vatican didn't order Mahony to keep an abuser-priest out of state in order to shield him from California authorities. He and his advisers came up with that on their own.

When Rome won't do anything there's always the LAPD.

Cartman from South Park comes to mind: "Whatever. I do what I want!" Such is life for a princeling in a divine right monarchy. And so it will remain until the faithful cut off the money.

Were the quoted prices actual amount spent or targeted contribution amunts?It is not unusual to put a donation price tag on an item that doesn't reflect the true cost.

As for pricing particular items, Jim is right. A 228-ft long wall isn't nearly as sexy as having your name plaque on the leg of an altar. And somebody has to build that wall. And at least three others.Any cathedral is going to cost in the tens of millions. That's a given. And as a liturgist, I have no problem with expenses that contribute to the liturgical spirituality not just of the cathedral parish, but the diocese as a whole.On the other hand, stretching the building so it was one foot longer than St Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan, shuttering archdiocesan offices, and giving the cold shoulder to the Catholic Worker community in SoCal. That brazen arrogance we can do without.

In Peter Brown's great new book, Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550 AD, he tells of the mosaic tile floors of churches (and synagogues) unearthed by archaeologists that still bear the names of the donors. In some cases, the number of square feet they paid for was recorded as well. We can read their names and estimate how many solidi their contributions to the church cost. So maybe in another 1500 years the names of the donors to the L. A. Cathedral will be read and marveled at.http://www.amazon.com/dp/069115290X/ref=rdr_ext_tmb

Jim,The cathedral was finished in 2002 so I assume the Wikipedia article speaks of what it did cost, nut proposals. You can take a "tour" of the cathedral with Mahony here, and some costs are detailed at the link ... http://www.americancatholic.org/Messenger/Oct2002/Feature2.aspSorry, I don't understand why churches must cost so much. We were asked to give our money to the poor, not to the building committee.

There's so much in theology about the worth of beauty - the medieval transcendentals (goodness, truth, and beauty) and all the stuff from Aquinas (Aristotle) to Hans Urs von Balthasar and Alejandro Garcia-Rivera. But as far as I can tell, it has nothing to do with the gospels, and I'm pretty sure, being below the poverty line myself, that if you asked a poor woman if she'd rather feed her child or look at a work of art, she'd choose the former.

PS - I'm not saying beauty and art aren't important, but that's why we have museums (which usually have a free day a week).

Is Bishop Finn of Kansas City confirming?Is Archbishop Myers of Newark confirming?Is there any bruhaha over them confirming? (Maybe there is, I just haven't seen it.)After the Weakland scandal, there was outrage over him confirming and he was withdrawn from the circuit. Now there's outrage over Mahoney and calls for him to be withdrawn from the circuit. I agree that they should withdraw. It's not appropriate for them to go on as if nothing happened.But why is it that liberal Archbishops get the bruhaha, and conservative bishops go on as if nothing happened? Is there a double standard? Or is it all about the fact that those conservative bishops who passed on predators are reigning bishops and Mahoney and Weakland were retired? So we feel retired bishops can and should be disciplined but not reigning bishops? Or are we saying implicitly that Mahoney was worse than Finn or Myers? What's good for a retired bishop is good for those in office, istm. Apply the same standards to conservatives as to liberals. None of them should confirm. Now, will Gomez really discipline Mahoney? And if Gomez disciplines Mahoney by forbidding him to confirm in his diocese, will Pope Francis do the same to Finn and Myers? The answers, sadly, are no and no.

Ann @ 5:45 -- It's very beautiful, once you're there. Don't judge by the photographs. It's really an amazing space. And the tapestries are breathtaking. The mural behind the presbyterium is also profound; I was very affected by the whole thing when I saw it in person, whereas in advance I was not taken with it. Also, when you're there you realize what they did created space for lots of local people to use, indoors and out, all day, for devotional space and sacred art and family events, and places for downtown people to come and eat their lunch or just sit outdoors, around the peripheries of this great space. A lot of people are praying in there too; don't judge it too harshly from photos.

"But why is it that liberal Archbishops get the bruhaha, and conservative bishops go on as if nothing happened? Is there a double standard? Or is it all about the fact that those conservative bishops who passed on predators are reigning bishops and Mahoney and Weakland were retired? So we feel retired bishops can and should be disciplined but not reigning bishops? Or are we saying implicitly that Mahoney was worse than Finn or Myers?"Rita - the practical difference seems to be that in the cases of Mahony and Weakland, they were no longer in charge of their dioceses, so there is someone else in charge who was/is in a position to pull them out of these liturgies. That's not the case with Finn and Myers, whom only the Vatican can discipline.Perhaps this is an additional consideration? Of the four you name, three of them - Weakland, Finn and Mahony - have apologized. To my knowledge, Myers has not. The apologies of the first three make an interesting comparison - I'd rank the three apologies in the order I've written their names at the top of this paragraph. Whether each specific apology is adequate, perhaps would be for the people of their respective dioceses to decide. But it seems to be a base minimum effort to heal whatever hurts they're responsible for. It seems possible, at any rate, that if one of those bishops showed up at my parish, having apologized for his misdeeds, I might be able to find it in my heart to forgive him. Indeed, an argument could be made that it would be my Christian duty to try.

Looks like Gomez wanted to scapegoat Mahony to placate public opinion, but Mahony wasn't having it, and Gomez realized that he was just as vulnerable to the scapegoating tactic if Mahony chose to use it (see http://ncronline.org/blogs/bulletins-human-side/los-angeles-archbishop-g...). Result, Gomez falls silent and allows Mahony to proceed unimpeded. No explanation to the faithful.

"But why is it that liberal Archbishops get the bruhaha, and conservative bishops go on as if nothing happened?"Beg to differ on this point, Rita. Cardinal Mahony is far from a liberal. He was a JP2 appointee. He consented to being part of investigation teams on bishops that had a far more impressive progressive pedigree.Any number of liberals have disowned him over the years. Frankly, I don't want him.And yes, Robert Finn has had pushback on confirmations. And even a deacon candidate. The problem in my former diocese is that there's no alternative when there's no auxiliary. Until they chop Los Angeles down into manageable dioceses--perhaps something they should consider--there is a choice.Also, what Jim said.

"But why is it that liberal Archbishops get the bruhaha?"I don't think Commonweal is the best place for that, especially with respect to Weakland. Hasn't he been featured here, perhaps even more than once, post-scandal? I don't think any "conservative" bishops have been.

Todd, it's not that Mahony himself is a predator, because no evidence has surfaced that he is. My children were taught to be deferential to priests and nuns (their aunt is a nun), and I wouldn't want them to give Mahony any deference he doesn't deserve.

Angela,Good point. However, I think it's possible to be polite without being deferential. I don't think clergy and religious should be deferred to. Treated politely, with dignity: sure. Just like anyone else.As for bishops, one of the problems, perhaps, is that people, especially their allies, have been unwilling to call them out for bad behavior. Commonweal did feature Rembert Weakland once, as I recall. And I was more than willing to join in criticism of his piece, and the decision to give him a platform. Other people can say what he said, and say it with more credibility.

AB Myers: full-fledged Opus DeiBp Finn: affiliated with Opus DeiMahony: crypto-OD? (not to be confused with *crypt* as in cathedral crypt :-)

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