"It is...Our will that Catholics should abstain from certain appellations which have recently been brought into use to distinguish one group of Catholics from another. They are to be avoided not only as 'profane novelties of words,' out of harmony with both truth and justice, but also because they give rise to great trouble and confusion among Catholics. Such is the nature of Catholicism that it does not admit of more or less, but must be held as a whole or as a whole rejected: 'This is the Catholic faith, which unless a man believe faithfully and firmly; he cannot be saved' (Athanasian Creed). There is no need of adding any qualifying terms to the profession of Catholicism: it is quite enough for each one to proclaim 'Christian is my name and Catholic my surname,' only let him endeavour to be in reality what he calls himself." -- Pope Benedict XV, Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum 24 (1914)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


It is meltdown time in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and when you think a scandal where hundreds of young people have been damaged by a Cardinal's mismanagement of his clergy and poor theology and even poorer Catholicism, there would be a way to bring things back to center and a healthy theology and Catholicism, it just gets worse rather than better.

Cardinal Roger Mahony on his own blog chastises his successor and tries to spin what has happened. I think at this point it would be better for him to go to a monastery to reflect just like what the founder of the Legionaries of Christ was made to do by Pope Benedict the XVI.

Before I go further, pray for the Cardinal and Archbishop Gomez and the people of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. This is a circus from the Twilight Zone they are experiencing. It is a nightmare and horror show for the victims in all of this.

You can read Cardinal Mahony's full statement from his blog HERE

In his defense, I'd like to comment on his last two paragraphs:

"I have stated time and time again that I made mistakes, especially in the mid-1980s. I apologized for those mistakes, and committed myself to make certain that the Archdiocese was safe for everyone.

Unfortunately, I cannot return now to the 1980s and reverse actions and decisions made then. But when I retired as the active Archbishop, I handed over to you an Archdiocese that was second to none in protecting children and youth."


I do believe that most people prior to the mid 1980's and in high places in the Church did not view the sexual molestation of children and teenagers as a crime but more as a sin and that the victim like the perpetrators may both have culpability. I think this is especially true when the victims were teenagers. I think that many bishops felt that these teenagers, boys or girls acted in a seductive way towards the priests and the priests couldn't resist. They dealt with perpetrators and victims as sinners, not as criminals. They dealt with them as having a pathology that could be treated and cured.

It is also true that parents of children abused and even abused teenagers did not want their abuse to go public and these parents and victims were content simply to have the offending priest transferred somewhere else, out of sight and out of mind. 

The blind spot in which they were either oblivious or thought nothing of was the ramifications of the molestation and/or rape of children and young people by a priest who represents God. There seems to be a callous disregard for the victims and potential victims and the old adage "Caveat Redemptor" or "let the buyer beware." (Please keep in mind that the vast, vast majority of cases were not truly pedophile cases or of young children, the crimes were against teenagers with adult looking bodies. But again, keep in mind that the biggest issue is how bishops handled each and every case and the recirculation of molesting priests back to unsuspecting congregations.)

In fact most bishops felt they had an obligation to protect their priests more so than their parishioners. They felt that their priests were married to the Church and that was indissoluble and so through thick and thin, in good times and bad, the bishop had to do all he could to preserve the ministry of a priest and make sure he could exercise it.

And this I know first hand. Bishops relied upon psychiatrists and psychologists who worked for the Church and ran the mental institutions that priests were sent to for therapy to advise them on what to do.

These professionals and the institutions they ran were for priests and religious. They were not concerned about victims.

As vocation director, I heard from some of the top professionals working for the Church at various conferences I attended to help us to screen candidates for the priesthood. (Again this was in the late 1980's and well into the 1990's.) They told us quite frankly that through medication, therapy and support groups, most priests could be returned to ministry if they maintained a the therapeutic
regimen that was prescribed.

On top of that, we were told that the prophetic ministry of the Church was to change the larger culture's attitude about child molesters just as our culture in the 1960's and 70's had changed its attitudes about alcoholics, that it wasn't their fault, they had a disease and that this disease could be treated. The Church's ministry is about love and recovery, not punishment and retribution. I kid you not! This was the triumphalism of the therapeutic model of recovery! It was also a product of the theology of escathology where we could bring heaven to earth and make people perfect here on earth and that heaven was on earth. Again, I kid you not, but escathology was a very strong trend in the seminary of the 1970's and 80's and in the Church too. It is a religious form of Utopianism. 

I asked a very prominent priest-psychiatrist at one of these conferences publicly, "But what about these priests' victims and/or their future possible victims???" I can't remember his complete answer, but I was not satisfied and found it circumvented what I had asked and he simply restated that medication, therapy and a support groups would help most of these priests who were recovering molesters to remain in recovery but no one could guarantee that they wouldn't relapse like some alcoholics do!

To be fair, these therapists also stated that it should be public knowledge in the parishes where these recovering priests were sent of their history in this regard and that they were in recovery, like alcoholics. This one aspect, which I think was tried in Chicago by Cardinal Bernadine, may have mitigated against future victims. And it is true that some priests molested only when they were drunk and the problem was more associated with alcoholism and the loss of personal control. Many priests where successfully treated and never committed further sins and crimes in this area. 

Because of this "I'm okay, you're okay" mentality, vocation directors and bishops in the late 1960's and well into the 1990's began to accept candidates for the priesthood that really should not have qualified for the seminary. These bishops expected the seminary to form new priests from broken men and to put into place a therapeutic model of formation to take care of their psychological issues.

Prior to Vatican II the seminary was primarily an academic institution and a spiritual house of formation. It was like a monastic community. That all changed after Vatican II and other formation concerns sometimes competed and diluted the spiritual and academic formation of the priest. And broken men were being sent to the seminary to be fixed before they were ordained.

I heard at one conference a Benedictine rector of a seminary say to us vocation directors: "Don't send us men who need psychological and psychiatric therapy. We are academic institutions, not mental institutions!"

Bishops, whether they be flaming liberals or ultra-traditionalists have always had to manage their priests and they have done so according to social custom and norms. Prior to the 21st century they did so as most other professional organizations would do, such as teachers and doctors and law enforcement. Avoiding public scandal for these professions was more of a priority than the victims and the victims could take care of themselves. Law enforcement usually worked with the Church and these other professions to lessen the likelihood of public scandal.

So, I would caution against applying our "tell-all generation mentality" that only developed with Phil Donahue and Oprah Winfrey and the talk show genre beginning in the 1980's to every previous generation where the mentality was not to air your dirty laundry whether that be in your personal life, your family life, or your particular institution's life, church or otherwise. And in the Catholic Church the only place to air your dirty laundry was under the seal of confession and in a most secretive and confidential way.

Somehow the tell-all generation is just as out of control today as the tell nothing generation was. Perhaps we need a happy middle ground here, no? And the tell all generation formed by the therapeutic generation of "I'm okay, you're okay" tell all not out of sorrow or for justice but for bragging rights.

Here is a good summary of the "Twilight Zone" mentality of Cardinal Mahony and other bishops in the Church during the 1960's through the 90's. This article is from the Los Angeles Times, Priests' ecclesiastical missteps treated more sternly than abuse. YOU CAN LINK TO IT HERE.

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