Have Catholics finally had enough?
Has the critical mass of scandal, pedophilia, lawlessness, sexism, and homophobia finally driven the honorable members of the flock to stand up against church leaders whose integrity has been irreparably corrupted?
Looks like it.
As the most recent Pope scurries off in abdication of his vaulted position (though remaining Vatican-bound for fear of prosecution should he leave), the 117-member College of Cardinals assigned the task of electing the next pope will gather in conclave in Rome next month to commence their sacred responsibility.
And Catholics from around the world are rising in protest against the inclusion of certain corruption-tainted cardinals in this most respected of Catholic traditions.
In particular, Archbishop Emeritus of Los Angeles, Roger M. Mahony, has raised the hackles of many by his insistence in remaining involved in the conclave, despite his involvement in and cover-up of pedophile priests Peter Garcia, Michael Baker and others. In a stunning legal development last month, a cache of documents was released in compliance in a civil suit brought by victims against the now-deceased Father Garcia, who admitted to raping at least 20 children. Mahony was revealed to have not only been aware of the molestation, but went out of his way to protect Garcia from legal action, often at the expense of the victims. I wrote about it in a piece titled, Newly Released Letters Expose Decades Of Shocking Cover-Ups Of Child-Molesting Catholic Priests, inclusive of Mahony’s “too little, too late” written apology, and followed it with, UPDATE: LA Cardinal Roger Mahony Is Stripped Of Duties Following Abuse Revelations. Thought the response of the current Los Angeles Cardinal, Jose Gomez, was unusual as a public rebuke, the fact remains that it’s essentially punishment in name only; Mahony is still allowed to say Mass, distribute the Holy Communion…and participate in the conclave to elect a new pope.
…as the Vatican prepares for the pageantry of the occasion, survivors of the church’s sex scandals and everyday Catholics are raising concerns about whether it is appropriate for certain cardinals to be allowed to dictate the church’s future. “In our view, it’s very safe to assume that almost every one of the prelates who’ll pick the pope … have ignored, concealed, or enabled child sex crimes,” Zach Hiner, a spokesman for SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests), tells The Daily Beast.
While many cardinals have been stained by the extensive clergy sex scandals, Archbishop Emeritus of Los Angeles Roger M. Mahony has become a poster priest for the corrupt cardinals of this conclave. [… ]
Since Benedict’s resignation, a not-so-subtle storm has been brewing outside Vatican City calling for Mahony to stay in California. Signs have been posted (and quickly removed) along the perimeter walls of Saint Peter’s Square warning that cardinals, like Mahony, who have been embroiled in the sex-abuse scandals are coming to town. Even the ultraconservative Italian magazine Famiglia Cristiana, which is distributed for free in many Catholic churches each Sunday, has been weighing in on the topic. The influential magazine conducted an online survey among its faithful readers about whether Mahony should be allowed to participate in the election of the next pope (the overwhelming response was no). They then ran a damning op-ed piece called “Cardinal in Court” in which they called on Catholics to voice their opinions about the case.
This has led the group, Catholics United, to organize and post a petition called, bluntly, “Cardinal Mahony: Stay Home!” Their petition site asks the question:
If a Cardinal is stripped of public ministry in his diocese, why should he be rewarded with being allowed to vote for the next pope? Cardinal Mahony would further increase the scandal and shame in our Church by attending the Papal Conclave. Sign our petition today asking Cardinal Mahony to stay home during the Papal Conclave.
This is followed by a direct entreaty to Mahony:
Dear Cardinal Mahony:
Your further implication in the Church sex abuse scandal and being barred from public ministry in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles should be an indication to you that you should not attend the next Papal Conclave.
As faithful Catholics and people of faith who love the Church, we ask that you refrain from attending the Papal Conclave and recuse yourself from voting for the next Pope.
Please do not bring further scandal to our Church that has already been rocked by the sex abuse crisis by attending the Papal Conclave. You have been disciplined and you have lost your ability to have a voice within our Church.
The point is made, however, that it’s not only Mahony. New York’s archbishop, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, recently spent time answering questions under oath about pedophile priests under his management in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in the years 2002-2009.
Dolan, who has not been charged with any crime, will also head to Rome next week to prepare for the conclave. His name has been circulated as a potential pope, though that was before his deposition was made public this week. He is certainly not a favorite among the church abuse victims’ groups. “Dolan has been particularly adept at evading responsibility for his wrongdoing in clergy sex cases, having moved twice since the scandal started gaining international attention more than a decade ago, and having worked, three times, in states with especially archaic child-abuse laws that favor defendants,” says David Clohessy, head of SNAP. “Civil justice can expose predators and their enablers, but only criminal justice can imprison and deter them. So while these depositions represent progress, it’s crucial to remember that the best way to prevent and discourage future crimes and cover-ups is for secular authorities to investigate, charge, and convict Catholic officials who hide and enable heinous crimes against kids.” The Daily Beast
Certainly that’s true. Yet Dolan, too, is planning to make his way to Rome to join the conclave. From the standpoint of transparency, morality and ethics, the disconnect here is profound. And many Catholics are no longer feeling the forgiveness.
In fact, a church so impacted by decades of egregious crimes against its children; crimes overlooked, hidden and dismissed by church leaders such as Mahony and Dolan, is not wise or self-preserving to allow those same leaders to participate in choosing the next papal authority. This moment is time is an opportunity for new leaders of integrity to move forward to speak up, shake off corruption and decay, and denounce the continuing involvement of those who’ve so betrayed every principle of honor. Or, in an even more provocative direction, perhaps its time to eschew the whole idea of the “infallible pope,” as theologian and former Catholic priest, Matthew Fox, suggests in his Huffington Post piece, The Dark Legacy of Pope Benedict XVI:
Unfortunately, because he [Pope Benedict] and his predecessor appointed only yes men as cardinals, one should not expect any improvement in the next pope.
Instead, we should recognize that history has passed the papacy by. Now is the time for the Holy Spirit to push the restart button on Christianity — both Catholic and Protestant versions — so as to strip down to the essence of Jesus’ teaching and the Cosmic Christ tradition.
Christianity can be rebuilt without basilicas on our backs but mere backpacks. Travel lightly. Walk humbly. Do justice. And peace will follow.
That likely sounds like a balm to a great many disillusioned Catholics weary of the hypocrisy of men whose credibility has been destroyed by their complicity in crime. But if change as transcendent and reimagined as Matthew Fox suggests is still further in the offing, which it inevitably is, at least the demands of Catholics United and others like them must be heeded. The only way to stand against corruption is to refuse to accept the involvement of those who are corrupt.
In other words, Mahony, Dolan, any of the rest …STAY HOME!