Friday, March 1, 2013

An Open Letter to Cardinal Mahony

The Los Angeles Times published an article on Wednesday about your social media efforts of the last few weeks. I am one of the Twitter users anonymously quoted in that article. While the quote itself was accurate, I fear the context of it was not.

You sent out a tweet on Monday about your blog post on "loving your enemies." I sent two tweets in reply, intended as commentary on your blog posts of the last few weeks. As the article points out, your "blog doesn't allow readers to post responses." So my tweets, the first of which was partially quoted in the article, were these:
I've met you. You're a good man. But this online pity party is unseemly. Don't just praise the "silent Jesus", act like him. *
And please give up denial for Lent. Your enemies aren't all judgmental haters and you aren't a persecuted scapegoat-martyr. *
You probably don't remember me, but we spoke a few years ago at the Cathedral one Sunday. My wife and I had brought her parents to Mass and we decided to have lunch on the Cathedral plaza. As we ate, you came up to say hello. It was late afternoon, the plaza was pretty deserted, and you were by yourself. You didn't just shake hands and move along, you chatted with us for a few minutes. You never acted like the Cardinal-Archbishop of Los Angeles, you were simply a pastor getting to know some visitors to your church. It was just a brief encounter, but it spoke volumes to me about the kind of priest and bishop you are in your heart of hearts.

Your ministry to immigrants is noble. I greatly appreciate the gift to the Church that is the Religious Education Congress. I love the Cathedral, especially the Communion of Saints tapestries. I worked with one of your former close aides, who shared stories, good stories, about his time working for you. The point is, when I wrote that "You're a good man," it wasn't just a line, it is a truth I know from direct experience.

Yes, your legacy is much more than just the sexual abuse crisis. I take you at your word that you made every effort to fix the mistakes of the past. But you made those mistakes and you need to stop trying to spin them.

Yes, our social media culture promotes instant judgmentalism. But it also promotes a sort of knee-jerk self-defensive denialism. "Loving your enemies" should also involve taking the time to thoughtfully discern if our "enemies" grievances are warranted and just. That would be a genuine imitation of the "silent Jesus."

I cannot begin to imagine how humiliating it must have been to be so publicly rebuked by your successor. But you had an opportunity to teach us something noble and you blew it. What might have been, had you proclaimed respect for Archbishop Gomez's decision and chosen to spend Lent in private prayer and reflection? Pope Benedict has just shown us that we need to put our family, the Church, before ourselves. Can you honestly say that you have been doing the same lately?

At the beginning of February, Elizabeth Scalia wrote, "Mahony tells the truth when he says the world and its experts supported some of his responses. But Heaven never could have. And he should have known that." I suspect you agree with her, and that your acts of denial are an attempt to push away not only the humiliation others have heaped upon you, but also that which you place upon yourself. But none of this denial and spin is going to get you any closer to the forgiveness you crave.

My sincere hope, as your brother in faith, is that you will take off the suffering servant scapegoat-martyr hat, and use the remainder of Lent, especially the imposed solitude of the upcoming conclave, to humbly reflect on all that has happened.

I also ask that you perform one small penance. Please read the following two essays by Joanne McPortland. If you've already read them, please read them again.

I was proud of the man that I met on the Cathedral plaza on that Sunday so long ago, proud that such a man was our bishop. I want to be proud of you again.