I'd Like to Visit Cardinal Mahony in Prison

Bad Writing

I'd Like to Visit Cardinal Mahony in Prison

In light of the cold, documentary proof that has emerged of retired L.A. Cardinal Roger Mahony conspiring to hide pedophiles from the cops, I'd like to share the relevant section from The Bad Catholic's Guide to the Catechism. In a just world, mine would be one of the books Mahony would be reading in a very small cell at Alcatraz.

 

Q: So I'm guessing that bishops' policies toward priestly sex abuse don't partake of infallibility?

Tragically, they don't. It's important that faithful Catholics not blow smoke up their own skirts, or pretend that the scandal that erupted in 2002 and has dragged on for another ten years was somehow invented or exaggerated by anti-Catholic journalists. In this case, and perhaps this case alone, those anti-Catholic journalists were doing their jobs and thank God for them. (Did the Hebrew prophets thank God for the Assyrians?) While only a tiny percentage of priests—no higher than occurs in other groups that deal with young people—proved to be offenders, The Dallas Morning News documented that year the fact that two-thirds of U.S. bishops were involved in cover-ups of sex abuse. Most of those bishops are still in place, and only one (far from the worst) Cardinal Bernard Law, was forced out of office for this kind of blatant disregard for the safety and souls of children. The rest will retire in peace, and go off to play golf until they meet their eternal reward. (So will the many prosecutors and cops who refused to investigate parents' complaints.) Which just goes to show that the pope's day-to-day decisions aren't infallible, either.

Another unspoken, tragic aspect of the sex abuse crisis is the negligence of prosecutors. That is the only explanation why at least a few of those faithless shepherds aren't wearing their proper garb: bright prison orange.

There were several factors at work in the sex abuse crisis—including misguided compassion for abusive priests, a “magical” attitude toward the effects of repentance and confession, and a misguided faith in the power of pop psychology to treat incurable diseases like pedophilia and deadly sins like Lust. But the main driver of the scandal, as the fearless Catholic journalist Philip Lawler explained in his authoritative book on the abuse crisis, The Faithful Departed, was simple worldliness: A vast and powerful Church infrastructure was built up by heroic missionaries and fiercely faithful, impoverished Catholic migrants—who came here legally when the U.S. needed an almost infinite supply of strong Sicilian ditch-diggers and chaste Irish nannies. The kind of men who founded the American church were a lot like the men who founded the U.S. government—heroes willing to risk life and limb, to face ridicule and thankless toil in a cause most people thought hopeless. (Imagine George Washington in a mitre.) The Church continued to grow as faithful men sternly schooled in Jesuit spirituality and Thomist theology faced down hostility and anti-Catholic mobs, to build a massive network of Catholic parochial schools, and resist evil laws imposing Prohibition and eugenics. (You might think of these men as the Andrew Jacksons and Abraham Lincolns of the episcopate.) As time went on, and Americans began to accept that Catholics really weren't filling their church basements with dynamite and scheming to make the pope our king, life for bishops became a lot more comfortable. It started to attract a different kind of man, with another set of priorities—glad-handing, ward-heeling power brokers, more in the mold of Lyndon Johnson. When a crisis of faith erupted over birth control, it turned out that the upper ranks of the clergy were largely composed of men like Richard Nixon or William Jefferson Clinton. Those were the kind of men who were faced with the tough choice of turning an abusive priest over to the police—and facing the public scandal and possible lawsuit—or covering up for him and either bribing or intimidating the victims into silence. The scandal was the love-child born of the world and the flesh, but the Devil did play his part. He served as matchmaker.

 

Q. So the offending bishops are guaranteed jobs for life?

Most will stay in office until they turn 75, unless they “check out” prematurely. There's little lay Catholics afflicted with such a bishop can do—apart from pray, give his money judiciously to reliable pastors or solid religious orders, and send his bishop cartons of cigarettes and tins of tasty, smoked meats.

 

The above image of Cardinals Law and Mahony golfing, by Carla Millar, is from The Grand Inquisitor, by Carla Millar and John Zmirak.

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