After reading several diaries by Hunter and others, featuring Cardinal Roger Mahoney’s self-serving comments, I have been fuming. Actually, I have been throwing soft, squishy toys with painted-on eyes (I reserve them normally for election years, especially debates because you can bean the candidate you dislike without scratching the TV) at the wall and the TV and muttering. I would really like to be alone with His Eminence for ten minutes, because I have a lot to say to him. Since that’s about as likely to happen as now at Disneyworld, I’ll settle for putting what I’d like to tell him into a letter.
The letter is after the DKos Squiggle.
Dear Cardinal Mahoney:
I realize that a letter from someone like me is something you would ordinarily ignore. I am after all a woman, otherwise known in the Vatican as a uterus on feet and one which didn’t even produce offspring, as well as an ex-Catholic. Despite those drawbacks, I think I have a few things to say that you would do well to heed. I may only be a female. but I also had 17 years of catholic education at the hands of excellent nuns and some very competent theologians, acquiring a minor in theology along the way. Despite having left the church 40+ years ago because of men like you, I still remember a lot of the wise things they taught me about how to treat people--specifically the aprt about loving your neighbor as yourelf and doing unto others, something you seem to have completely forgotten.
And I don’t think you really understand what the word “humility” means. Recently, you blogged:
"Given all of the storms that have surrounded me and the archdiocese of Los Angeles recently, God's grace finally helped me to understand: I am not being called to serve Jesus in humility. Rather, I am being called to something deeper - to be humiliated, disgraced, and rebuffed by many," Mahony wrote.Newsflash: they didn't need your forgiveness. They did nothing wrong. You are the one who sinned.
He said in recent days he had been confronted by many angry people. "I could understand the depth of their anger and outrage - at me, at the Church, at about injustices that swirl around us," he wrote. "Thanks to God's special grace, I simply stood there, asking God to bless and forgive them."
If you were truly serving Christ in humility, you would have gone down on your knees to those angry people, whose anger is righteous. And if you had truly understood the depth of their outrage –more than that, of their feelings of betrayal at the hands of one who was supposed to protect them and their children from harm—you would have wept and begged their forgiveness, because you are the one who needs to acknowledge his sin before God and man, not them.
You haven’t got a clue as to what humility means. In your arrogance, you think it is you who have been wronged, you who have been humiliated, you who have been rebuffed. I have news for you, Cardinal. It is the children who were sexually abused by priests you protected and hid from view instead of turning them over to the police for the crimes that had committed—it is those children who were humiliated, disgraced and rebuffed by everyone from Popes John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI to you to the priests who committed the sexual acts. All of you cared more about the reputation of the institution of the church than about the welfare of the children. Jesus told you to allow the little children to come to him—but you turned away those children.
Not many things made Jesus of Nazareth angry. He even wept over the coming destruction of Jerusalem, even though the Jewish people would not accept him as Messiah. The only time he showed wrath was the moneychangers in the temple and the priests who had allowed them to turn his father’s house into a den of thieves. I have a strong feeling that he probably feels the same way about what you and the others like you have done to the church.
The nuns taught us that the first step on the road to penance is acknowledging that you have done wrong. If we were unkind to another child, we had to tell them we were sorry and try to make it up to them in some way. You could learn a lot from the Nuns on the Bus, I think, or the few nuns who still teach at parochial schools or who work in hospitals and medical clinics .
Start with a good confession. Thenm, whether it’s part of the penance or not, visit every victim and their families and , with an acknowledgement of how you have wronged them, beg their forgiveness. If they are angry, admit that their anger is righteous, just as was Jesus’ at the moneychangers—you have turned his church into a playground for child abusers, which seems to me to be much worse than merely ripping people off. If they refuse forgiveness, accept that with a bowed head, and promise them that you will try to atone for your sins.
The next step is calling a press conference and speaking gravely and humbly to the people of the diocese of Los Angeles. Admit publicly that you have sinned, and that you are heartily sorry for the wrongs you have done them. Tell them you have failed them as a leader and as a human being. Promise them that you will spend the rest of your days repenting of those sins and crimes—yes, crimes, because you were an accessory after the fact to child abuse, an enabler of pedophiles who helped them escape the justice system. And end with announcing that you consider yourself unworthy to participate in the selection of the next Pope, and thus will not be attending the conclave, even though you are eligible to vote. Most Catholics don’t want you to vote—even in Italy, where a poll showed that the vast majority of respondents wanted you to stay the hell away.
After that comes the hard par:;the learning of true humility by service to others. Put away those cardinal’s robes. Maybe even put aside clerical garb all together. Instead of enjoying a cushy retirement in pleasant rooms surrounded by good food and lots of leisure, find a small apartment in a poor section of your diocese, and volunteer at a homeless shelter or a soup kitchen or a hospice. Don’t serve as their chaplain. Instead, choose a role of physical service. Peel vegetables and ladle out food. Do the laundry for the homeless. Provide bedpans and change diapers for the dying. Do something really hard and subservient. Take St. Francis of Assisi who served the poorest of the poor and lived like them as your model, not the fatcats in the Vatican.
And every night, when you go to your bed tired from a hard day of physical labor, beg Christ’s forgiveness and that one day you might be worthy of the forgiveness of all those you sinned against. Then, and only then, will you truly understand service to your God in humility.