Posts Tagged “archbishop jose gomez”

Cathedral of Our Lady of the AngelsPity the poor archdiocese of Los Angeles. It’s beset by huge bills which have racked up during several years of legal gamesmanship over its complicity in the abuse of children by its own clergy. It’s in dire financial straits, as the Los Angeles Times reports, and needs big money to pay it all off (WebCite cached article):

In the midst of renewed public outrage over its handling of clergy sex abuse, the Los Angeles Archdiocese is considering a $200-million fundraising campaign that could erase debts brought on by the scandal.

The archdiocese has hired a New York company, Guidance In Giving Inc., to study the feasibility of a large-scale fundraiser that would shore up a bottom line hit hard by costly abuse litigation. It would be the archdiocese’s first capital campaign in 60 years.

The archdiocese’s $660-million settlement in 2007 with more than 500 victims was the largest in U.S. history. According to a December financial report, the archdiocese is still paying down loans it used to cover the settlement, and its liabilities now outstrip its assets by $80 million.

Attempting such a massive fundraising campaign may be especially difficult, just now:

If the new fundraiser occurs, it would place Archbishop Jose Gomez in the potentially difficult position of seeking large contributions from people whose anger at the abuse scandal has been stoked anew. Files released in a court case last month showed how Gomez’s predecessor, Cardinal Roger Mahony, and a high-ranking church official, Thomas J. Curry, plotted to hide molestation from police in the 1980s and 1990s.

How a fundraising push would resonate with parishioners remains an open question.

What a wonderful, moral way to handle a scandal: Spend years, if not decades, allowing clergy to abuse children; whenever there’s a risk the abusers may be caught, shuffle them around to keep it quiet; when you’re found out, issue denials and hang up the cases in court for years; when that runs out, blame the abuse and the intentional thwarting of justice on everything and everyone else you can think of; and finally consent to pay off your victims, but turn around and demand the money from your parishioners, because you staunchly refuse to cough up any of your own. Yeah, that’s the way to handle it. No doubt!

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Retired Cardinal Roger Mahony, former archbishop of Los Angeles / Los Angeles Times photoThere’s been some fallout over the release of documents a few days ago by the archdiocese of Los Angeles showing its complicity in the abuse of children, going back decades. The Los Angeles Times reports the current archbishop, José Horacio Gómez, has handed down punishment to his predecessor, Cardinal Roger Mahony and one of his lackeys (WebCite cached article):

Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez on Thursday announced dramatic actions in response to the priest abuse scandal, saying that Cardinal Roger Mahony would no longer perform public duties in the church and that Santa Barbara Bishop Thomas J. Curry has stepped down.

Gomez said in a statement that Mahony — who led the L.A. archdiocese from 1985 to 2011 — “will no longer have any administrative or public duties.” …

Gomez wrote in a letter to parishioners that the files would be disturbing to read.

“I find these files to be brutal and painful reading. The behavior described in these files is terribly sad and evil. There is no excuse, no explaining away what happened to these children. The priests involved had the duty to be their spiritual fathers and they failed,” he wrote. “We need to acknowledge that terrible failure today.”

Mahony and Curry were in this scandal right up to their eyeballs, as the records make evident:

The records contain memos written in 1986 and 1987 by Mahony and Curry, then the archdiocese’s chief advisor on sex abuse cases. In the confidential letters, Curry proposed strategies to prevent police from investigating three priests who had admitted to church officials that they had abused young boys.

Curry suggested to Mahony that they prevent the priests from seeing therapists who might alert authorities and that they give the priests out-of-state assignments to avoid criminal investigators. Mahony, who retired in 2011, has apologized repeatedly for errors in handling abuse allegations.

I’m sure Mahony and Curry have both forgotten this, but Jesus had a bit to say about children, according to the gospels:

Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Mt 19:13-14)

And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Mk 10:13-14)

And they were bringing even their babies to Him so that He would touch them, but when the disciples saw it, they began rebuking them. But Jesus called for them, saying, “Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Lk 18:15-16)

While this kind of ecclesiastical discipline of a Cardinal is rare and remarkable, it’s not much of a punishment. Mahony’s life won’t change appreciably, as the L.A.T. explains in an update to the original story:

An archdiocese spokesman, Tod Tamberg, said that beyond cancelling his confirmation schedule, Mahony’s day-to-day life as a retired priest would be largely unchanged. He resides at a North Hollywood parish, and Tamberg said he would remain a “priest in good standing” and continue to celebrate Mass there.

So in the end, Gómez’s “slap down” of his predecessor, is really more of a light tap that carries no significant weight. It seems Gómez merely wished to appear to throw Mahony under the bus, without actually doing so. I have to congratulate the Archbishop for contriving the appearance of punishing Mahony without actually punishing him at all. Well done!

What’s more, keep this in mind: Gómez has been archbishop of L.A. since early 2011. He’s had nearly 2 years to read the documents in question and become outraged over Mahony and Curry’s behavior. But he didn’t choose to do so, until now — when the documents went public. Pardon me for being completely and thoroughly unimpressed by this useless show of inadequate piety.

Photo credit: Los Angeles Times.

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The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles, California / kkmd at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia CommonsHere’s a news story of a sort that I’m surprised is not more common than it is. The Los Angeles Times reports on the fall of a Roman Catholic hierarch in California (WebCite cached article):

From humble beginnings in southwest Mexico, Gabino Zavala entered the priesthood and embarked on a remarkable journey that landed him squarely in the corner offices of the nation’s largest Roman Catholic archdiocese. …

Popular and approachable, Zavala was widely known by his first name. To many, that sensibility made the Vatican’s announcement on Wednesday unthinkable: For more than a decade, Zavala had harbored a dark secret. He is the father, church officials said, of two children, and had resigned his post.

Zavala’s fatherhood, a violation of canon laws of celibacy for priests, was the first controversy to rock the local church during the tenure of Archbishop Jose Gomez, who succeeded Roger Mahony last year.

As usually happens with such revelations, this triggers the LA Times to ramble into a discussion of Catholic clerical celibacy:

Zavala’s resignation is likely to spark renewed debate over the ecclesiastical laws of celibacy. The earliest popes — St. Peter himself, under some interpretations — were married men and fathers. Later, in the fourth century, church officials concluded that men who were not celibate “shall be deprived of the honor of the clerical life.”

The idea was to mimic the sacrificing, chaste life of Jesus — for priests to be married, in a sense, to the church. But in recent years, hundreds of theologians have argued that the rules are dated and needlessly restrictive.

Actually, in spite of efforts beginning in the 4th century to make all clergy celibate, the fact is that this was not universally observed. By the 11th century, clerical marriages were still taking place, among the “secular clergy,” and the matter had to be addressed as part of the Gregorian Reforms.

And while the Catholic Church’s stated reason for priestly celibacy is to emulate Christ’s chastity, the actual reasons are a bit less spiritual and more mercenary than that. Clerical celibacy meant that priests no longer were having children (legitimate ones, anyway), so that church offices no longer passed automatically down from father to son; this in turn meant that church office appointments were made explicitly by the bishops and the Pope, giving them greater control over the Church and permitting them more nepotism. Another reason is that celibate priests don’t have families to take care of or worry about, eliminating the possibility that a priest’s loyalty to the Church might be diminished.

This last is the chief reason the Church will never willingly do away with priestly celibacy; it would cease to be a closed club of bachelors with few external influences. It would fundamentally change as an organization, in a way that would — almost by definition — reduce the hierarchs’ control. There’s no way they’d forfeit that, at least not without a fight.

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