Isn’t it amazing what you can do when you have no sense of shame? Take the Clintons, the Enron and World Com execs, Jack Welch, and Tyco’s Dennis Kozlowski, to name only a few. And while you’re at it, take Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony. Please.
Even self-proclaimed spinmeister Michael Sitrick, hired by the archdiocese at a rumored $500,000, won’t be able to put a happy face on the latest misstep orchestrated by our clueless cleric.
Exactly two weeks after the grand opening of the $189 million Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, the archdiocese announced austerity measures, aimed at closing a $4.3 million deficit. At least 60 employees will be laid off, and several ministries will be shuttered. Moreover, there is no plan to restore the programs, even when the financial situation gets better.
Of course, it remains to be seen if it WILL get better, considering that most LA Catholics are not exactly impressed with Mahony’s stewardship. The grotesquely overblown Cathedral (dubbed Rog Mahal or Taj Mahony), featuring $12 parking, a way over-commercialized gift shop, crypt space for sale at up to $3 million, and a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, that depicts her as a female Jedi warrior, would have been bad enough. Combine that with the multimillion dollar settlements on sex abuse cases, with many more still to come, and it’s no wonder that collections are down.
Not admitting one iota of responsibility, the Cardinal blames the deficit on the stock market, and reminds the faithful every chance he gets that the Cathedral was built with funds that were raised separately from parish and other activities. While that statement is true on its face, it betrays a lack of financial acumen that would be grounds to dismiss a volunteer parish administrator, much less than the Cardinal archbishop of the largest diocese in the country.
Money, we must instruct him, is fungible. More to the point, that which is raised for cause “A” is not available for cause “B”. Unlike God’s grace, which is infinite, money is quite finite, as he is now discovering.
Money is also something more. It is the most objective criterion in the entire world, as it can be used to place a value on nearly everything.
Evidently, building a gigantic edifice–designed to be exactly one foot longer than St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City–rather than restoring venerable earthquake damaged St. Vibiana’s, is of greater value than the programs that are being permanently eliminated. For those unfamiliar with Los Angeles, the comparison to St. Patrick’s is telling. Located in the heart of Manhattan, St. Pat’s is within walking distance of hundreds of thousands of residents and commuters, and with New York’s exceptional transit system, is but a short ride (no parking needed) for millions more.
Downtown Los Angeles may appear to be “central” on a street map of the city and its suburbs, but is the “heart” of the city only to the extent that City Hall, the Courts, and the Music Center are located here. Downtown’s Convention Center perennially loses money, and is a joke compared to the Anaheim Convention Center, located near Disneyland.
Simply put, most Angelenos don’t go downtown unless they have to. Even with new attractions such as the Frank Gehry designed Disney Hall, only the Westside arts and croissant crowd will be regular visitors. With arguably the worst traffic on earth, who else would want to make the commute?
Roger Mahony is from Los Angeles, and should know this. His archdiocese is huge in scope, containing more than 200 parishes. Restoring Vibiana’s was the prudent thing to do. It was downtown, it was old, and it was symbolic. It most assuredly was not an ego trip, however.
Ford took tremendous criticism for making a purely financial decision regarding the Pinto exploding gas tank matter. Management knew that a certain number of fatalities would occur, and calculated that paying out the lawsuits would cost far less than recalling all the vehicles, and replacing the flawed tanks.
By his complicity and cover-ups, Mahony may have prevented larger damage awards in the sex abuse cases, although that remains to be seen. Ford’s excuse is that it is a business, and all decisions come down to money. The Church, whose founder embraced poverty, and whose greatest saints did not prize material wealth, is supposed to embody a higher standard. It still does, even though one of its most prominent cardinals does not.
In their haste to finish the Cathedral, neither Mahony nor any of those around him noticed that they had given the facility the wrong name! The full name of our city is El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles de Poriuncula: The Village of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels of Little Portion. The cathedral should have been called “Our Lady Queen of the Angels.”
I guess they all forgot their basic Catechism.