I got sick reading the front-page article detailing the unlikelihood that Cardinal Roger M. Mahony will face charges for concealing sex abuse by priests from law enforcement, Steve Lopez's column on the topic and, finally, the piercing letters to the editor criticizing the former Los Angeles archbishop. Every poignant piece contained what needed to be said and read.
However, the consequences for Mahony's failure to protect children were lightly touched upon, perhaps due to whatever influence he still has in the City of Angels.
In Ernest Hemingway's novel "A Farewell to Arms," he writes, "The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places." Mahony is now broken. Will he be among the many who become strong after failure? Time will tell, of course, as he nervously meditates behind closed doors on the Bible's admonition, "It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he would cause one of these little ones to stumble."
What those evil priests have done to some children is reprehensible, but those very angry at Mahony must understand another side of the problem.
As a Catholic, I have been raised since childhood to regularly go to confession, to come clean about my sins to the priest and ask for God's forgiveness, even though I have committed the same sins repeatedly.
In his lifetime as a confessor, Mahony has been asked to forgive and pray for many, many sinners and he knows that he was expected to keep those sins to himself. Mahony was also expected to isolate the sinner from the problem, but he might have thought that transferring those priests elsewhere would have been sufficient.
Whatever Mahony's dilemma, he was not free to talk about this in public. As a Catholic, I am able to understand why he did what he did. Mahony should be forgiven.
Many years ago, as a young social worker and an atheist, I was very impressed by pre-Cardinal Mahony and his emphasis on social justice issues, concern for the poor and working people. He was one of us: He had a masters degree in social work. For me, this trumped the tenets of the Roman Catholic Church, which I could neither understand nor embrace. I had nothing but admiration for his ministry.
Today, the fact that he was a trained social worker and yet professes to have had so little understanding of the effects of abuse on young people under his charge is impossible to accept.
I am glad that the sex abuse cancer within the church has come to light. If it were hidden, it would still be festering. Now we know that the victims and their suffering are paramount.
There has been a learning curve for all. Changes have been made in the way the church responds to this deadly "cancer within," and those changes are promoting healing. Priests have admitted mistakes and sought to correct them. How this plays out in public opinion and in the courts is yet to be determined. The media's response to this crisis is ongoing.
Victims, church folk and society must move forward with sober intentions to live in the light once again.