Cardinal Seeks 'Repair, Restoration' of Church and Spirit

By Michelle Gahee
The Tidings
April 18, 2003

At the first Chrism Mass celebrated in the new Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Cardinal Roger Mahony pledged to work toward restoration and repair of the spirit following a year of great challenge in both church and society.

"Even as we gather to celebrate in our Cathedral, completed and dedicated in the months since the last Chrism Mass, we remember that the Body of Christ, the church, is in such need of healing and, yes, of repair, restoration and rebuilding," the cardinal said in his homily April 14.

Speaking indirectly of the past year's turmoil generated by revelations and allegations of sexual abuse committed by clergy, the cardinal acknowledged the need for healing of both priests and parishioners.

"Here we see that through anointing, what is wounded and fractured is restored; what is devastated, rebuilt. By our anointing we are enlightened, enlivened, strengthened and healed so that we might repair and restore what has been broken and fractured - in the church and in the broader human family," he said.

The Chrism Mass, celebrated annually on Monday of Holy Week, includes the blessing of the oils used in the year-long sacramental life of parishes. In addition, the priests of the archdiocese recommit themselves to their priestly vows and ministry. Many of the more than 300 priests in attendance appreciated the cardinal's message of healing and say that it is time for their focus to return to their parishes.

"[The sex abuse scandal has] not been much of an issue in my parish," said Father Bill McLean of St. Athanasius Church in Long Beach. "There have been no incidences of abuse in our parish. People are generally very forgiving and understanding. They love their church and work hard to improve it."

Father Marc Trudeau of St. Pius X Church in Santa Fe Springs said the church scandals have taken much needed resources and energy away from the parishes. He would like to spend more time "re-focusing on what the church is really about."

"Catholics are really waking up and recognizing the part all of us have to play in the church," he said, acknowledging that the reports of sexual abuse scandals over the past year have made life difficult, but have also brought forth pledges of support from parishioners.

"My parish has been wonderfully supportive," he continued. "In the midst of the worst of the scandal people would stay after Mass to reassure me and send supportive notes. It's been very humbling. You get a real sense of how holy God's people are. They're facing extreme pain but also rising above it."

In his homily, Cardinal Mahony promised to focus his full energies on healing the damage the scandals have wrought.

"This evening I pledge that I shall do all that I can to rebuild and restore what has been strained and shattered," he said. "As the Chrism is blessed in our Cathedral.and then poured forth and held in trust in each of our churches, let it be for each one of us a sacrament of soothing, healing, strength, but also of restoration and reparation. It is this for which we have been anointed. It is this to which our deacons and priests recommit themselves in a particular way this evening. As do I."

The evening did not pass without protest, albeit isolated. One man who says he was abused by a religious order priest when he was a boy began an eight-day vigil and fast of the sidewalk in front of the Cathedral on Palm Sunday, and vowed to remain until Easter.

Manuel Vega, a 36-year-old police officer from Oxnard, said he wants the church's promises of openness and assistance to sexual abuse victims to be more visible and concrete.

"Some of us have been living with this [memories of being abused] for decades and there's never a closure to it, but there could possibly be some type of resolution and that's what we're looking for," he said.

At the Chrism Mass, Vega garnered little support or acknowledgement from the priests and parishioners in attendance, but Cardinal Mahony did come to speak with Vega about his concerns and offered an apology for any suffering caused by the church.

Vega said he appreciated the apology from the cardinal, but added that he hoped in the future there would be "better lines of communication" among church leaders and priests to eliminate the possibility of abusive clergy or church employees remaining in ministry.

As the church seeks to move beyond the sex abuse scandal, parishioners find themselves balancing their compassion for the victims with their love and devotion to the Catholic Church. Many said Monday that Cardinal Mahony is leading the church in the right direction.

"The cardinal has been upfront with no hidden agenda," said Noel Wychico of St. Louis of France parish in La Puente. "It's all been said and done and handled well. The Catholic community is healing and moving on."

"I came tonight because the Chrism Mass is very important and very deep in my faith. I love to see the gathering of priests and people with the same feelings as me," said Mary Lumedina of St. Athanasius in Long Beach. "I thought the cardinal's homily was very timely. The sex scandals are being handled well and we're all healing, parishioners and priests. Now people see their priests as human beings, not living saints and that's a good thing."


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