Thursday, July 19, 2007

Even Priests Have Fantasies

So, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles agreed to pay $660 million to settle priest sex-abuse claims.

Oddly enough, this agreement was concluded just before the trial was set to begin. This trial would, almost certainly, have resulted in Cardinal Mahony being forced to testify. Just a coincidence, I'm sure.

This denouement to the Los Angeles situation led me to entertain the following fantasy:

Scene: Cardinal Mahony's office
Time: 9:30 AM

Cardinal's Secretary: "Your Eminence, the Holy Father is on line 1."

Cdl. Mahony: "He is? Well, I'll take it right away." (Picks up phone.) Your Holiness, to what do I owe this pleasure?"

Holy Father: "Pleasure? The pleasure's all yours, I'm sure. Surely you must have some idea why I'm calling?"

Mahony: "Well (sounding sheepish), I suppose I do. About the legal business, right?"

Holy Father: "You're very perspicacious, Roger. 600 million, is that right?"

Mahony: "Yes, Holiness. That's a lot of money, I know, but with this, the whole business is over. The archdiocese is spared a painful, ugly trial, the people are spared the lurid details of these allegations coming out in the press every day, and the Church is preserved from the spectacle of priests and bishops being hauled into court to testify."

Holy Father: "Of course, of course. With you being one of those unfortunate clergy spared from the indignity of testifying..."

Mahony: "Holiness, I assure you..."

Holy Father: "Yes, yes. I'm sure that thought didn't enter your mind. But on to the reason for my call. Now that you've assured your legacy, and, after all, $600 million is a small price to pay for the legacy of such an important man as yourself, I'd like you to do something for me."

Mahony: "Whatever you'd like, Your Holiness."

Holy Father: "I'm glad you're in such a pliable frame of mind, Roger. That's what I've come to expect from you. I want you to know that I am ready to receive, under Canon 401, section 2, your letter of resignation. Please be assured that, upon receiving it, it will be readily granted."

Mahony: "But, Holiness, I've still got three years until I retire. There's still so much I could do."

Holy Father: "You've done quite enough, Roger. Far more than many others could have done. It's time for someone else to lead the archdiocese into a new phase, to 'sing a new church into being', as it were. And I'm going to issue a special instruction to your successor in recognition of your legacy."

Mahony: "What's that, Holiness?"

Holy Father: "Since you have chosen your legacy in this way, I'm instructing, when you pass on to your eternal reward, that your tombstone, under your name and the dates of your episcopate, be inscribed with 660,000,000.00. In this way your legacy will be remembered for all the ages.

Mahony: "But you can't do that!"

Holy Father: "Ah, but I can, and I will. I have it mind to send young Dolan from Milwaukee to take over. He'll do a fine job, I'm sure. I'll make sure he gets all the zeros in.

Mahony: "I'll need time..."

Holy Father: "Of course, Roger. I'll be expecting your letter tomorrow morning. You have my fax number, I take it?"

Mahony: "Yes, Holiness."

Holy Father: "Excellent! 'Til tomorrow, then. Good-bye, Roger."

As I said, that's a fantasy. To understand why that's only a fantasy, and why it won't happen, read my article from This Rock magazine, "Why Doesn't the Pope Do Something About Bad Bishops?".