By Judie Brown
As we await the conclave that will elect a new pope, we pray that the leaders of the Church will come together in harmony and peace and without distractions. Today’s commentary addresses the media’s involvement with some recent behaviors of the clergy and encourages us to pray that the successor of St. Peter continues to be the rock that Christ intended.
Now that Pope Benedict XVI has officially departed from the papacy, the news headlines are going mad, or at least suspiciously American, in the quest to raise the specter of a possible American pope. This sort of posturing calls into question the power of the Holy Spirit versus the alleged power of the media, leading the naïve or unschooled to believe that a conclave is a typical political election.
But as Cardinal Timothy Dolan remarked, the next pope should remind us of Jesus. He stated, “You look for somebody who just seems to radiate the love, the tenderness, the mercy, the truth of Jesus Christ.”
Indeed, such a man would be the proper selection to follow in the footsteps of St. Peter, our first pope, though he surely would inspire more derision than devotion from the media. The Catholic Church is accustomed to this sort of bashing, of course, and through the grace of God continues in His service.
The mainstream media worldwide does not seem to have much use for saintly qualities, but always jumps on the bandwagon if there is a scandal to be exposed or some kind of cardinal silliness to be reported.
Take, for example, the recent public comments made by Cardinal Roger Mahony, former archbishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. In his recent blog post, Mahony defined one of the groups of people he prays for as “individuals who cannot forgive me for my past hurts or offenses, those in the media who constantly malign me and my motives, attorneys who never focus on context or history in their legal matters, groups which picket me or otherwise object to me, and all those who despise me or even hate me. If I don’t pray for all of these people, then I am not following Jesus’ specific discipleship demand.”
The cardinal is right to be prayerful on every one of these counts, in addition to the many documented mistakes he has made during his tenure as the head of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. God knows that should keep him on his knees for a very long time, and we commend him for his honesty.
But we hasten to point out, lest the wrong impression be given, that those who have protested Mahony’s attendance at the conclave do so with complete justification. Covering up sexual abuse among his priests has left the cardinal wide open for public statements including Miguel Diaz’ suggestion that perhaps Mahony should reflect on the distraction he is creating and contemplate the reasons why his attendance at the conclave may create further distraction. Yet, I must point out that his old buddy from the Archdiocese of San Francisco, Cardinal William Levada, is Mahony’s number one fan right now. Huffington Post reports: “The former archbishop of San Francisco said Monday [February 25] that Los Angeles cardinal Roger Mahony has a rightful place among Vatican officials who will choose the next pope, even though Mahony has been battered in recent days by disclosures about his role in covering up clergy sex abuse.”
Publicity like this sickens me beyond words.
It leaves me wondering why princes of the Church appear, more often than not, to silence good priests while letting the errant run free to continue their wayward behavior. Why can’t such bishops deal honestly, quietly, and effectively with disobedient priests who have been found guilty of grave error? Why do so many bishops not deal justly with public figures who claim to be Catholic yet support the direct killing of the innocent by acts of surgical abortion? Clearly there is plenty of silliness to go around.
Bishops and cardinals who fail to lead the faithful but instead bring on needless pain, suffering, and dare I say loss of souls are the very ones the media prefers to report on with an agenda to further denigrate the Church in the process. Yet these are not matters for the media to manipulate, but rather challenges for the Church to address using canon law and respecting the laws of the state—doing so with confidence in the Lord, not the latest Pew survey or Gallup poll.
Thus it is that as Catholic cardinals gather in the Vatican we must pray for them and we must hold fast to the profound words of Christ to His first pope: “And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)
Judie Brown is president and cofounder of American Life League and a three-time appointee to the Pontifical Academy for Life.