The public spitting match between Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez and his predecessor, Cardinal Roger Mahony, must have been as uncomfortable as it was unusual.
But there are signs that maybe there’s been a reconciliation of sorts, or at least some couples counseling for the sake of their spiritual children.
Gomez publicly embarrassed Mahony last week with a reprimand after records were released (under court order) showing just how complicit Mahony, the longtime LA archbishop, had been in covering up for clergy abusers, thus allowing them to rape and molest other children.
(Gomez also demoted one of the LA auxiliaries and longtime Mahony aide, Bishop Thomas Curry; there was little Gomez could to do actually punish Mahony, who is retired and still outranks Gomez.)
Mahony responded with a PR counterattack, and the Vatican essentially washed its hands of the whole matter.
In his weekly column in the archdiocesan paper today (Feb. 8), Gomez starts by announcing that he has been “talking and reflecting with Cardinal Mahony and Bishop Curry, along with our other Auxiliary Bishops about the events of last week.”
“We are committed to moving forward in our ministries with hope and confidence in God’s grace,” Gomez continues — a phrasing that seems like a deliberate counterpoint to suggestions that Mahony (and Curry) had been somehow suspended from public activities as churchmen.
Gomez tied his reflections to Ash Wednesday next week and the start of the penitential season of Lent, a time for asking forgiveness and taking “concrete actions of healing and renewal.”
“All of us need the grace of a new conversion. This is what Lent is for.” He seemed to refer above all to abuse victims, but he seemed to be conscious of the brutta figura his spat with Mahony had caused.
“We can only change this world if we allow God to change us first. The lives we lead will always be the most credible witness we can give to the Gospel we believe in. People should be able to see ‘the Catholic difference’ — the difference that our Catholic faith makes in our lives.”
Reconciliation would probably be a good thing on several levels. As NCR’s Josh McElwee noted, the archdiocese is looking to start $200 million fundraising drive, possibly to erase debts incurred by its legal battles.
Of course it ideally takes two to effect a reconciliation, and Cardinal Mahony has not yet updated his personal blog since he posted his pointed riposte to Gomez a week ago. Maybe he is waiting for Lent.