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Cardinal Mahony Speaks of Being Humiliated

Cardinal Mahony Coat of Arms

The coat of arms of Roger Cardinal Mahony

Cardinal Roger Mahony has written on his blog that God is calling him to be disgraced and humiliated in the face of revelations from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles regarding his role in the priest sex abuse scandal.

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.

I was not ready for this challenge.  Ash Wednesday changed all of that, and I see Lent 2013 as a special time to reflect deeply upon this special call by Jesus.

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.

Cardinal Mahony says he was not ready for this challenge. I am not sure that I am ready, this morning, for the challenge of offering opinion on his blog post, and I am certainly not up to the task of opining about his spiritual status, but I do think I should say something about humiliation in general. Humility requires understanding exactly who you are.

Humility — The moral virtue that keeps a person from reaching beyond himself. It is the virtue that restrains the unruly desire for personal greatness and leads people to an orderly love of themselves based on a true appreciation of their position with respect to God and their neighbors.

One should not consider himself to be either less than or greater than he really is in the sight of God. Many will have opinions about who Cardinal Mahony is in the sight of God, but it is God alone Who knows that with all certainty. It is Cardinal Mahony’s job to figure out whom God has called him to be, and to become that person, just as it is the job of each of us to figure out whom God has called us to be, and to become that person. It’s pretty clear that Cardinal Mahony is at least thinking about these things. For that, I am grateful.

It’s clear, also, that his job as a Cardinal is to be an example to the faithful. Many there are who say that Cardinal Mahony has already utterly failed in being a good example and that he deserves humiliations at this time. It’s not for us to say, though, how much or how little humiliation is deserved here. That is God’s arena, not ours. Our job is not to judge hearts, but we must make judgments about overall character and/or competence that has become manifest, for the sake of our children. While we cannot truly judge Cardinal Mahony’s level of culpability (or humility) before God, we would be failing in our duty if we allow people who have not shown themselves to be trustworthy to be in charge over our children. There is a difference between being judged and forgiven by God, being forgiven by human beings, and being worthy of the trust of parents. We should be able to forgive all of those who have done harm while not being open to placing them in positions where they may fail again in the same manner, particularly when our children may be at risk.

The manner in which Bernard Cardinal Law conducted himself in the midst of public revelations about the sexual abuse scandal in Boston is very different from the manner in which Roger Cardinal Mahony is conducting himself today. Personally, I admire the way that Cardinal Law conducted himself. He took responsibility and resigned. He lives today in Rome in a state of quiet acceptance of the public humiliation that continues to be poured out on him, even to this day. I have corresponded with him, in the spirit of compassion and forgiveness, and he has exhibited gratefulness to me for what he seems to feel he does not deserve. That is humility. I have no concrete opinions about Cardinal Mahony. It is important that we all pray for him. We should be grateful that he is thinking about the subject of humility. Whether his blog post is an act of humility or of pride, I don’t really know, and I’m not sure I have the capacity to know.

Hat-tip: The Deacon’s Bench.

Photo: JR Salazar.

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