Mahony at Congress: A Bridge Too Far

Mahony at Congress: A Bridge Too Far

Roger Cardinal Mahony is set to speak at the 2019 LA-REC in late March. (That is, the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, aka—if you’re really in the know—“Congress” for short). Yes, the face of U.S. episcopal malfeasance is scheduled as an honored speaker on the topic of “Connecting Junior High and High School Students with the Volatile Immigration Issues.”

If you think “the face of episcopal malfeasance” is a tad harsh, read on.

I seriously wonder whether the current Archbishop Jose Gomez and Bishop Kevin Vann of Orange are aware of the groundswell of anger over this honorific for the one prelate who best symbolizes episcopal cover-ups, stonewalling, and financial devastation. (The “L.A.” Congress thing actually takes place in Anaheim, just fyi, in the geographical jurisdiction of the Diocese of Orange.)

First, what is LA-REC/Congress? It’s an annual homage to left wing enthusiasms of the Sixties, increasingly fuel-injected by the permanent presence of LGTBQ2-themed talks. It’s large scale, too. Upwards of 40,000 catechists keep coming back to the event founded in 1970, when catechesis was at its lowest ebb in this country. One searches the speaker lineup in vain for, say, pro-life speakers, Theology of the Body seminars, addressing the scourge of porn, ways to foster strong (male-female!) marriages, or responding to the pederast scandal.

On the contrary, Congress showcases scores of mostly unknown dissenters, treacly liturgies featuring a homosexual couple with their adopted son presenting the gifts at the altar to Archbishop Gomez (start at 3:27), standard peace ‘n justice fare, and pro-LGTB Jesuits. The organizers shrewdly plug their noses each year and sprinkle in a tiny minority of orthodox presenters with a Father Mike Schmitz (definitely not talking about his fine book on Church teaching regarding homosexuality), a Robert Spitzer, SJ, and a Sr. Sara Butler to provide the appearance of balance.

You may be thinking: why single out Cardinal Mahony when so many overt dissenters appear in the marquee, like the high-profile Father James Martin, SJ, and the lesser-known but more extreme Dr. Arthur Fitzmaurice (who believes the language of The Catechism of the Catholic Church regarding homosexuality is “abusive and gravely evil”)? Isn’t the heterodoxy they hock more damaging than the non-binding Democratic Party talking points on which Mahony has staked his career?

Fair question. The answer is Yes, But. Since essentially the same band of dissenters are invited back over and over with the bishops’ blessing, asking for them to be removed at this point is, uh, fruitless. Also, Mahony is different in degree and kind. The Archbishop Emeritus was found to have deliberately hid his knowledge of priests in his Archdiocese guilty of committing sex crimes with youth; he transferred offenders after they had had counseling, which enabled them to repeat their crimes.

Please don’t believe me. Just google “Mahony + Father Michael Baker” and “Mahony + Father Michael Wempe” and “Mahony + Father Oliver O’Grady,” and “Mahony + Father Kevin Barmasse,” and “Mahony + Curry police emails” and—especially if you have sons—get back to me.

The gut-wrenching details of abuses like these, found in some 12,000 pages that the Archdiocese was court-ordered to release, were rightly described by his successor, Archbishop Jose Gomez, as “brutal and painful.” (His 2013 statement is no longer available on the L.A. Archdiocese website.) As a result, His Excellency forbade Mahony from exercising administrative or public duties in the Archdiocese. That move was as courageous as it was necessary, and it gave L.A. Catholics great hope for the future.

Mahony, though, has friends in high places. Someone in Rome put the kibosh on Gomez’s kibosh, and Mahony has since resumed engaging in whichever public activities he feels like. The good news is that whoever overruled Gomez forgot one thing: ordinary fed-up Catholics who are unafraid to stand against the flow of corruption.

Two hope-instilling examples. Pope Francis thought it would be a good idea to appoint Mahony as a special papal envoy in March, 2018, for the 150th anniversary celebration of the Diocese of Scranton, PA. Local fed-up Catholics disagreed, and their protests led to Mahony being removed. And last summer, former Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Oscar Solis thought it would be a good idea to invite his former boss to give a talk at a fundraising gala for the Diocese of Salt Lake City. Local fed-up Catholics disagreed, and this time merely the threat of protests induced His Eminence to cancel his trip.

If it can happen in distant Scranton and Utah, chances are even better it can happen in Southern California, where Catholics have witnessed first hand what happened to the Archdiocese under his 1985 to 2011 tenure, such as (for starters) falling vocations, the jaw-dropping $660,000,000+ payout to victims of priestly sexual abuse, and of course, the egregious acts listed above.

It’s time for lay Catholics to obey the Holy Father’s call to “make a mess” by insisting—as important step toward restoration of Catholic truth and justice for victims—that this scandal be averted. However unintentionally, giving Mahony a platform like this signals that the Catholic Church that is still unwilling—even post-McCarrick, post-Wuerl, post-Grand Jury Reports—to take a stand against demonstrably bad leaders.

A reasonable observer would have to conclude that this tone-deaf speaking gig is of a piece with the U.S. Bishops’ appalling Baltimore vote of 83-137 against encouraging the Holy See to release all documents on Uncle Ted McCarrick the molester. For the good of the Church and the dignity of the victims, let us show our support for the Holy Father by asking Archbishop Gomez and Bishop Vann to encourage Cardinal Mahony to step aside from this and all future public platforms.

Archbishop Gomez displayed courage and resolve in 2013 when he grounded his predecessor. By reclaiming both virtues now, he will be cheered loud and long by Catholics everywhere who love Jesus Christ and want His Church purified and renewed.

Enough is truly enough.

If you’ve read this far, you probably care enough to send a respectful expression of support and encouragement to the relevant decision-makers:

His Excellency Jose Gomez
3424 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles 90010-2241
(213) 637-7534 archbishop.gomez@la-archdiocese.org
Twitter: @ArchbishopGomez

Bishop Kevin Vann, Diocese of Orange
c/o Marianne Bungcag, secretary to the Bishop: MBungcag@rcbo.org
13280 Chapman Ave.
Garden Grove, CA 92840

LA-REC registration staff: congress@la-archdiocese.org

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