Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Cardinal Mahony: Should we call down fire from heaven? Redux.

Sometimes I think we know not of what spirit  are...

Mahony has never been a hero for me, but in his 'disgrace', he has helped me understand the depths of my own disgrace.  Some time ago now, I did things in my life that were very wrong.  I'm a big sinner.

I returned to the Church and the sacraments, and received many graces - some extraordinary.

My soul, once cleaned and tidy, became besieged by temptations, more terrible than before my conversion.

I fell and got up - helped by the sacraments and prayer.

I continued to struggle, falling and rising.

Sometimes the struggle was so intense, I compromised my faith.

I lived faithful to the Church but didn't remain faithful to prayer, and though I continued to 'practice' my faith, go to Mass and frequent the sacraments, there was set aside in my heart a reserve, if you will. I wasn't growing in virtue or love of God and neighbor. I wasn't as vigilant about the occasion of sin, and I was more than tolerant of the sinful lifestyles of others.

When your secret is all found out...

Eventually, Our Lady grasped me - once again, she is Mother of Mercy and Refuge of Sinners you know - and little by little I continue to recover.

However, with every sin there is some chastisement.

Old friends fell away, some scoffed at me.  Enemies I had made pointed out my sins, my dissolute life, and my dishonesty. They called me a hypocrite.  I am.

Yet remarkably, all along I believed I was doing God's will. Especially after my last 'recovery' - yet people still called me out.  While deep down, I am fairly certain I expected to be received like the prodigal son - esteemed for 'coming to my senses'... embracing a faithful Catholic life.   

I thought to myself, "They mocked Christ. They rejected the woman caught in adultery.  And they call me out." I pondered the narratives of the Suffering Servant, finding some comfort, imagining I was 'meritoriously' sharing in Christ's sufferings. Not yet understanding that it was He who took on my sufferings - not I his. It was an almost impossible lesson to learn - then and now - since self-love is so blinding, so relentlessly fixated on justifying ourselves.

Nevertheless, it was in and through pondering the rejected, wounded, Suffering Servant - who first identified himself with me, even while I imagined I was identifying with him - it was in and through that prayer, deluded though I had been, that I came to understand something of what the good thief may have finally understood. I was getting what I deserved. Christ though innocent, suffered all the same things, and much worse - before me and for me - and he deserved it not.

Repentance and conversion is a process... 'long and as hard as life.' 

Christ was mocked and scorned and condemned - and died.  Even upon the cross 'he was made a fool of before all whom he loved.'  That in our repentance we may acquire humility and not lose hope in his mercy.  Angela of Foligno said the book of Christ Crucified is the only book we need study for our complete conversion.  Even in the depths of our sin, we can see Christ, already descended there, waiting for us right there.

I can't help but wonder, even hope, that this is what Cardinal Mahony is doing now...  Charity hopes all things.  The Cardinal expressed the need to forgive those who attack him.  Wrong or right, when attacked, our human nature is angered - we all need to forgive as much as we hope to be forgiven.

That said, the Cardinal answers to God and the Pope in religious matters, and civil court in legal matters.  The fact is, the Cardinal continues to teach, and I suspect he continues to learn as well.

Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?
If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.
If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;
Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.
- Psalm 139


  1. excellent thoughts, mister nelson. we need to remember we are only getting what we deserve, worthless servants that we are.

  2. Good thoughts. Thanks.

    doughboy, you're right, but we also have to be careful not to see everything bad that happens to us as God actively punishing us.

  3. Merc - that is so true too.

  4. I pray for Cardinal Mahony, but when those in positions of authority commit egregious scandals, they need to publicly repent. And I'm not just talking about Mahony's enabling of the sex abuse scandals. He has undermined the faith for decades. He cast doubt on the Real Presence (his battle with Mother Angelica). He allowed the major scandalizing of the young through his west coast scandal conference. Gosh, I could go on and on. Jonah would have plenty to say to him and one wonders whether he would respond like the people of Nineveh.

  5. Thanks for this post.

  6. You are so kind and gentle always in what you write. I'm learning a lot about myself from you these past few years since I've come back to the Church after decades away. I am so grateful for your honesty always.

    I just wish that Cardinal Mahony would do his learning in a more private form than a public blog.

  7. Anonymous10:59 PM


    I refuse to call down fire from heaven and revel in a priest's downfall, unlike what you and half the Patheos bloggers did to Fr. Corapi. With your mocking and sarcastic tones.

    You really have some nerve..


  8. I have been thinking about this a lot lately. I went to confession a few months ago. After I said my sins, the priest proceeding to minimize all of them to the point where I had only committed a few venial sins. I knew this was totally incorrect- and starting thinking about how this was just another liberal priest, and how he didn't have a clue about sin and moral theology, and blah blah blah. Then it dawned on me- how AWESOME would it be if that is what Christ said to me at my particular judgment. I was overwhelmed with a sense of relief and hope. Ever since then, I have tried to be much less judgmental and severe, especially with priests.

  9. Thanks Bob for reminding me of my hypocrisy. God bless you!


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