Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Shaming of Cardinal Mahony: Betty Clermont and Jerry Slevin on Political Background

And, as a companion piece to what I just posted about the shameful way in which the U.S. Catholic bishops have chosen to behave regarding one human rights initiative after another at this point in American history, I'd like to recommend two good essays that provide critically important background information about the choice of the Vatican to shame Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles, while it leaves convicted criminal Bishop Robert Finn in place as bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph:

At Open Tabernacle, Betty Clermont writes, "Mahony Rebuked: PR, Politics and Who Is Really in Charge," and at Christian Catholicism, Jerry Slevin asks, "Why Did the Pope Shame LA's Mahony, But Not Brady of Ireland?" The short answer both outstanding essays provide: politics. It's all about politics.

As Betty points out, the censure of Mahony by the current archbishop of Los Angeles, Jose Gomez, is unprecedented in U.S. Catholic history, and is exceedingly curious when "other notorious U.S. prelates"--Law of Boston, Rigali and Bevilacqua of Philadelphia, Brom of San Diego, Franklin of Davenport, Grahmann of Dallas, Coleman of Fall River, McCormack of Manchester, Egan  of Bridgeport, Cote of Norwich, Murphy of Rockville Centre, and McDonnell of Springfield, MA--who all "did pretty much the same thing," were not disciplined as Mahony has just been disciplined. Betty's conclusion: what happened to Mahony "tells us about who is really in charge of the Catholic church."

As Betty notes, like Finn in Kansas City, Gomez is an Opus Dei bishop. He belongs to the secretive, wealthy, right-wing movement in the Catholic church that wields enormous influence inside the Vatican. Gomez has been right in the middle of the move of the USCCB to more or less open support of the Republican party as God's own Catholic party, while Mahony publicly invited Democratic candidate John Kerry to receive communion in the Los Angeles archdiocese in 2004 after Cardinal Ratzinger, the current pope, instructed U.S prelates to bar Kerry from the eucharist.

As Jerry underscores, given the top-down hierarchical way of doing business in the Catholic church, no lower prelate would ever take a step like the one Gomez has just taken to censure Mahony without explicit papal approval. It's impossible to understand what's happening in Los Angeles except as a Vatican maneuver. 

Jerry notes that Mahony has been targeted for some years now by influential U.S. Cardinals in the Vatican who are closely allied to the Republican party, including Raymond Burke, Bernard Law, James Stafford, and Justin Rigali. Like Irish cardinal Brady, who has also never been shamed by the Vatican in the way Mahony was just shamed, these cardinals want to assure domination of the Vatican in perpetuity by their right-wing clique in which Opus Dei (and American economic elites) enjoy disproportionate influence.

And so Jerry concludes,

The signal is clear. The Vatican is prepared, it appears, to use selectively the criminal prosecution risks inherent in the worldwide abuse scandal to intimidate voting Cardinals who oppose the current Vatican clique’s candidate to be next Pope. 

Nor, in the final analysis, does the hand-slap that Mahony received from Gomez, accomplish anything effective for victims of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic clerics. As David Clohessy of SNAP has noted, Mahony's shaming "is a nearly meaningless gesture." Or as Jerry notes, 

Instead of being made to account for child endangerment on their watch, leaders like Cardinals Mahony, Law, Levada, Rigali, Egan and, earlier Bevilacqua, sail off into well funded retirements, leaving high priced lawyers behind to clean up the mess they leave behind. Abuse survivors often must fend for themselves. Trusting Catholics, whose children were at risk of priest sex abuse and whose churches and schools are ruthlessly being closed, are expected to fund the billions spent by the Catholic hierarchy on a flawed and shameful legal strategy aimed mainly at protecting the hierarchy from prosecution.

Politics, then. Sordid politics. Sordid politics involving cardinals who regard themselves as little lords and kingmakers, and who are richly backed by wealthy right-wing elites as they play politics across the globe. 

And as they play ugly games with the lives of human beings who have been raped by priests under their supervision, never allowing the cries of those tormented human beings to reach their hearts, since power is what counts above all for these princes of the Catholic church. Not the cries of the poor.

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