Monday, January 28, 2013

Poetry, Absolution and the Disgraced Cardinal Mahoney

The Chinese word for poetry is made up of two characters: word and temple. That's what I'm thinking about as I sift through my poetry books, looking for something to memorize, to think about, to ring a bell, because before this, before the sifting, I had read of Cardinal Mahoney, the repugnant former archbishop of the Roman Catholic diocese in Los Angeles, the powerful Cardinal who shuffled the priests around, the priests who had preyed on the flock. The Cardinal, whose morality is less than the bird's, whose scarlet plumage (those robes! those ridiculous hats!) served as a cloak for hubris and his flock (those that weren't raped or sodomized, those that didn't retreat from his Church) bowing and apologizing, his and their words weak, as ineffectual as the index cards he professed to carry around with him (index cards!), the names of those he'd wronged on the faint blue lines, at his craven lips as he fingered his rosary beads in prayer.

I have no idea what the Chinese characters mean that symbolize absolution (above), but should there be absolution for this man and for those who defend him, still (both literally and figuratively?). He lives comfortably, somewhere, here in Los Angeles, for all we know cloaked in scarlet, fingering those index cards of names, surrounded by sycophants who live and work and breathe to protect him.

Cardinal Mahoney, Olvera Street April, 2007**

His Prayer for Absolution

For those my unbaptized rhymes,
Writ in my wild unhallowed times,
For every sentence, clause, and word,
That's not inlaid with Thee, my Lord,
Forgive me, God, and blot each line
Out of my book, that is not Thine.
But if, 'mongst all, Thou find'st here one
Worthy thy benediction,
That one of all the rest shall be
The glory of my work, and me.

Robert Herrick (1591-1674)

**I took that photo many years ago when I brought my children downtown to see the Blessing of the Animals. It nearly makes me sick right now, to have been so close to such a terrible, terrible man.


  1. I got chills reading "... at his craven lips as he fingered his rosary beads in prayer."

    So obscene. So very unholy.

    I think God is crying all the time.

  2. There is no absolution for those who injure children. For those who steal all that should be the birthright of a human being.

  3. I was so repulsed and incensed when i read a recent article about the church shielding those villains. It was within a day or so of about forty pro-lifers congregating in our town waving their Bible-quoting signs around indignantly.

    I haven't figured out a succinct way to put it on a sign, but i'd really like to add my opinion to the demonstration next time they assemble. Something like, Stop abuse by Catholic priests. Let's protect the children we already have before we worry about un-born fetuses. But yuck.

    I agree with K.E.- obscene and unholy. And also with Ms. Moon- no absolution. It's theft of innocence, security, and so much more you can't articulate. It's soul-shaking. It's my personal opinion these predators should be castrated.

  4. A certain Someone I know thought Mahoney walked on water.

  5. In the 1960's my brother was in the seminary, and arrived home one day with his trunk of belongings, silent and without explanation. Because he's ten years older than me, all I recall are the stories which skirted around this event, stories that for years clacked like wooden rosary beads around any version of possible truth.

    Nonetheless, we all made assumptions. And with the outing of the many priests guilty of these crimes, things began to make sense.

    I don't have the kind of relationship with my brother where I could broach this subject, and he's the kind of man who keeps his mouth shut.

    I will never fail to be astonished by any of this.

  6. I don't know Mahoney's story. But he and others in the church who concealed these practices simply lost sight of what was right -- somehow upholding the church, the organization, became their paramount goal, rather than the PEOPLE for whom the church exists. It's mind-blowing how deluded they were, how lost.

  7. My husband's father used to be a pastor, and I grew up in a church, and what I have learned is that something is nearly always corrupt and secret behind those gilded doors. Especially behind the doors of large, powerful churches with lots of money being handled.

    Your writing here is incendiary. (I was going to say 'on fire' but after Alicia Keys, I won't be able to take that phrase seriously again for a while).

  8. It is horrifying and deeply saddening and I can only hope that the admission of such awful, awful secrets is some small balm to those who suffered at the hands of these pedophiles for so long. I know enough to know that there is nothing that can erase or atone for such acts perpetrated on a child. I can only hope that those who were abused have found some measure of peace long before now and that this news does not open old wounds too deeply.

    My brother in law's parish priest in NJ growing up who traveled 3 hours to marry my sister and her husband 30 years ago and baptized 5 out of their 6 children. He was known as "Rusty" to us and attended all of our family celebrations after each event.
    A priest I remember well from my childhood who went on to sexually abuse boys further upstate. I remember as an adolescent,feeling sad when I learned he was being transferred as his sermons were much more interesting than the normal Sunday fare. One I still remember on the "necessity of pain" and the need for God to give us pain to uncover problems like appendicitis seem unusually ironic in light of the article above. I remember being shocked and deeply disappointed when I first looked at the list of priest accused of sexual abuse and finding his name.
    Unfortunately, there are more familiar names on the bishop site from surrounding parishes in my hometown but these are the stories that hit closest to home.

    If these are the stories that relate to my upbringing and Catholic bacdground growing up and only available because very brave victims had the courage to find their voices, I shudder to think of how many more stories there must be that are as yet untold? I hope this never becomes "old" news.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...