"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd." ~Flannery O'Connor

Monday, April 17, 2006

Is Cardinal Mahony a criminal?

Anybody who knows me, either personally or by my writings, knows that I do not raise such a question lightly or out of any deep-seated hostility to the Church. When I remember that Jesus Christ himself was condemned and crucified as a criminal, I do not want to use such a term for a successor of the Apostles, the majority of whom were martyred as criminals. But I can think of no way to avoid raising the question in the case of the Archbishop of Los Angeles, Roger Cardinal Mahony.

Leave aside my problems with his theological and liturgical predilections, which fall on what one might call the moderate left of the spectrum. I am thinking simply of his confrontations with the secular authorities about clerical sexual abuse and immigration. On the former, his record has not been encouraging. Until forced to do more, he arguably did almost as little as Cardinal Bernard Law did in Boston. Law was eventually forced by pressure from below and above to resign; yet Mahony has repeatedly stonewalled the efforts of local courts and prosecutors to gain access to diocesan records about such goings-on. The U.S. Supreme Court has just refused to let him continue to do that. We'll see what happens next. On immigration, he has effectively taken the line that current Congressional efforts to regain control of our borders are immoral and that, in effect, any broad-based restrictions on immigration are immoral. That encourages parishes and church agencies to disobey even current laws. That the Church of Los Angeles is not prosecuted for that is testimony only to the political influence of Hispanics in California and on President Bush.

I do not want here to debate the wisdom of the aforementioned stances of Mahony or judge him personally. I think it's both a theological and a political mistake to draw the lines in the sand where he has, but that's beside the point. The question at issue is a purely objective one: is he a criminal or not? I wish I felt certain the answer is no.
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