A Prayer for My Church

Article excerpt

Byline: Paul Begala

It may take a miracle to fix the Vatican.

As the College of Cardinals meets in a secret conclave to select the next pope, thoughtful Catholics are asking why Roger Mahony, the disgraced cardinal-archbishop of Los Angeles, is attending and voting. His successor, Archbishop Jose Gomez, has relieved Mahony of all public duties as punishment for mishandling numerous cases of alleged sexual abuse of children by members of the clergy. But apparently the private conclave is not a "public duty." And not a single cardinal has called for excluding Mahony.

In the National Catholic Reporter, Father Thomas Doyle, a Dominican priest and canon lawyer who advised attorneys for the victims, described Mahony's conduct as a "self-serving obsession to first shortchange the victims and then to protect himself and the archdiocesan administration from the exposure of their despicable actions in sacrificing the innocence of children for the clerical image."

When all things decent, moral, and Christian called for strength and truth and justice, Mahony dodged and denied. Archbishop Gomez called the conduct that occurred under Mahony "terribly sad and evil." Mahony pronounced himself "amazed" at the reaction to the release of thousands of pages of documents revealing the deep duplicity during his tenure. In an interview with Catholic News Service, Mahony actually had the temerity to defend what he did and what he failed to do. "People say, 'Well, why didn't you call the police?' In those days no one reported these things to the police, usually at the request of families," he said. That surely comes as news to the 508 survivors and victims who filed suit against the Los Angeles archdiocese. They wanted justice when they were abused; they demand it now. So much for mea maxima culpa.

Mahony's argument that he and other leaders did all they could at a time when folks just didn't know how to handle these complicated challenges is--how can I put this?--taurus cacas. The notion that the church itself cannot recognize evil, could not decide whether to confront it, would not choose to defend the innocent against it is heartbreaking to me. I am a cradle Catholic. My wife converted to Catholicism and now teaches religious education. We named our firstborn son John Paul and are sending all of our boys to a Jesuit high school. I pray every day for the church, and yet some days, as Pope Benedict XVI said in his final hours as pope, the Lord sometimes seems to be asleep. …