A year after arriving in Los Angeles, the youngest archbishop in the U.S. Catholic Church had a schedule and an agenda befitting a presidential candidate. Roger Mahony raced around the city in a chauffeured sedan, exhorting labor leaders to support immigrant rights and rallying hundreds against a proposed prison in Boyle Heights.And how does his Eminence view his current predicament?
Where his predecessors had talked up praying the rosary, Mahony touted his positions on nuclear disarmament and Middle East peace, porn on cable TV and AIDS prevention. No issue seemed outside his purview: When an earthquake struck El Salvador, he cut a $100,000 check. When a 7-year-old went missing in South Pasadena, he wrote her Protestant parents a consoling letter.
Reporters took notes and the influential took heed. The mayor, the governor, business executives and millionaires recognized a rising star and sought his company.
Among the thousands of papers that crossed his desk in September 1986 was a handwritten letter.
"During priests' retreat ... you provided us with an invitation to talk to you about a shadow that some of us might have," Father Michael Baker wrote. "I would like to take you up on that invitation."
"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," he wrote on his blog. He added, "To be honest with you, I have not reached the point where I can actually pray for more humiliation. I'm only at the stage of asking for the grace to endure the level of humiliation at the moment."After Cardinal Bernardin passed away and the Bernardin Machine was no more, Cardinal Mahony took his place as the face of progressive Catholicism. My four loyal readers know how I feel about progressive Catholicism. But what rankles the most is Mahony's talent for shifting the focus onto himself. He's not being called to serve Jesus in humility, eh? That explains much about his career. Notice how he's portraying himself as a martyr figure here. Poor pitiful Roger, he's being humiliated and disgraced and rebuffed. It's not his fault you see. Everyone is just being mean to him for no good reason. Doesn't that make him sound Christ-like?
If I didn't know better, I'd swear that Mahony was a caricature invented by anti-Catholic polemicists like Jack Chick and Christopher Hitchens. He should have been jailed years ago. Getting fitted for liturgical orange might have been the wakeup call he needed for true public repentance. Instead, he's enjoying a cushy retirement punctuated with the occasional public displays of self-pity and martyrdom syndrome.