On The Abdication of A Pope
Paying for the sins of the "Fathers?"
Guadalupe Gonzalez, Contributing Writer
Published on LatinoLA: February 12, 2013
"Oh, my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee..." These are words that I learned as I prepared to make my First Holy Communion at St. Alphonsus Church in East Los Angeles. They are sacred to me, as are all of the prayers I have spoken, recited, contemplated, whispered, sobbed, written or read.
I was baptized at the Church at La Placita, within view of Union Station, where my parents walked away from the train and into the sunlight, to begin their married life in La Ciudad de Nuestra Se??ora de Los Angeles. At the moment of Baptism, and probably as soon as I was born, my parents guided me toward a Faith that has always been singularly mine. My Mami taught me, as she did my sisters and brother, to pray in Spanish. Last week, as I drove way too fast toward a hospital in the San Gabriel Valley, I spoke those prayers in my silent car. Alone, I knew my Mami was being taken to an Emergency Room by my sisters, who had detected the symptoms of a stroke.
Ultimately, I simply begged, "Diosito, por favor. Diosito, por favor..."
Our Mami was promptly seen, tested, and we were given a diagnosis and prognosis for Mami. She was released later that day, as the symptoms abated, and with prescriptions called in to her pharmacy. We celebrated my youngest sister's birthday this weekend, and Mami was there with us. Gracias, Diosito.
Over the course of my own lifetime, religion has been highly emphasized. I received sixteen years of Catholic education, from first grade through university. The first step I ever took into a non-religious educational facility was when I began law school. (Oh, wait, there was a hilarious stint during summer after sixth grade. But that, Mi Gente, is another story.)
There was a day, when I attended Mass on a Sunday, with my Papi and the family. My Papi was so religious, he would kiss the hand of Padre Canseco at the Sanctuario of Our Lady Of Guadalupe, across from Calvary Cemetery. You know where it is, Mi Gente. He was so religious he named me, the eldest, Guadalupe.
It is said that Cardinal Ratzinger, the abdicating Pope, was appointed to head the office of The Society for the Propagation of the Faith. My Papi was so religious, that he and my Mami would host functions at our family home, for other members of THAT group. Nothing untoward ever happened there, and I am uncertain who attended the meetings. All I remember is making all sorts of appetizers with my Mami, and arranging them on silver platters. Then, as the doorbell began to ring, I would settle in, to read a good book, prayers and then, sleep.
On the particular Sunday, I recall the parish priest (not at St. Alphonsus) seeking out my Dad after Mass. Addressing my Papi by his first name, the priest walked up to him and said, "You have been a bad boy!" The priest went on to chastise my Papi for having called a Monsignor friend at the Archdiocese with a complaint about that particular parish school, where my brother and sisters were enrolled and attended. The complaint was about the admission of one of my sisters, who was a month shy of the regular acceptance age.
My fingers are trembling as I commit these words to paper. I was the sole witness to the conversation that ensued. The priest was angrier than I had ever seen him. And, my Papi, the most calm. Papi explained the situation and said that this matter needed to be resolved. My sister was ready to begin her own Catholic education.
It was at that moment that I, a Catholic high school student, realized the power of organized religion and, indeed, of the Catholic Church. It was at that moment that my Papi realized that priests and nuns were not perfect. And it was at that moment when I began to wonder, when we went to Church in Mexico, why there were people outside, begging for money, for help? Why were their feet bare, hard and dusty, when inside the Church, there were paintings in gold frames? Why was money sought from the Church-goers, when so many of the poor were being told to "wait for their reward in the next Life?"
On our honeymoon in Acapulco, I would make certain I had dollar bills, not pesos, American dollars, so I could give money to the needy. Someone once rebuked me for doing so, saying that I was wrong. It would only give "them" more power. WHAT? I understand that we all have differing opinions about religion. "Cada cabeza es un mundo." I understand that we all view the world with our own upbringing, life experiences, educations, cultural backgrounds. I understand and respect that.
I have hesitated, for months, if not longer, to write this article. And today, when mi querido awakened me, he said, "The Pope is abdicating." I thought, I must be going deaf. Huh? "The Pope is abdicating. It is all over the news." WHAT? In all my years as a Catholic, with the background I have, the tremendous life I have led, the amazing miracles Diosito has granted to my family, my friends, and myself -- I had NEVER heard of a Pope abdicating. NEVER.
And I taught religion on Saturday mornings in my parish Church. And I studied religion, my own and others, for years. This is a day that will be marked in history, religious and secular. February 11, 2013. This date will go alongside the last time a Pope abdicated: In 1415.
Reports are that the Pope is aging. He is fatigued. He plans to re-take his prior post as a Cardinal and be named, again, Joseph Ratzinger. And he plans to live out his days, or weeks, or years, in a monastery within the Vatican.
As the "Saturday Night Live" character, "Church Lady", would say, "Reeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaallllllllly?"
What? Did Cardinal Ratzinger not foresee, when he was chosen to be Pope in April of 2005, that in eight years he might feel older and tired? As the white smoke began to emanate into that Vatican sky, did the new Pope not get the picture? As he was donning his new vestments, taking the Miter and the Staff, which bore a Crucifix, did that new Pope not understand what he was about to undertake?
Of course, he did. He had been waiting for this Office for his entire career. He had been Pope John Paul II's confidante and advisor. He had been appointed by Pope John Paul II to head the Office of the Society of the Propagation of the Faith. If anyone knew what this position meant, it was Cardinal Ratzinger.
Even a bride, as she walks toward her beloved, knowing the words she will say, "...In sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer...ALL THE DAYS OF MY LIFE", that bride does not know what that life or marriage will entail. She, too, is the center of the celebration. She, too, has donned special clothing for the ceremony. Although the bride has watched her own parents' marriage, she does not know what lies ahead. Not really.
Yesterday, as I looked at the paper, emblazoned across the L.A. Times was a headline, discussing the use of cemetery upkeep funds for payment of the many, many cases against the Catholic Church for child molestation and abuse by so many men. Cloaked in the Holy Vestments of the Catholic Church, granted respect and love by so many, sought out for advice in times of worry or anguish. Those people have hurt so many.
So why are they taking the money from Calvary Cemetery -- where my Abuelita and Abuelito are buried? Why are they throwing elderly nuns out of their homes, after they have toiled and dedicated their lives for God and the Catholic Church? Why are they still passing the basket and reminding us to tithe as much as we can? WHY, WHY, WHY? ??Diosito, por favor, por que?
I have a friend, who, every week, puts a note into the collection envelope: "I will not pay for your sins."
How many millions of dollars did the Archdiocese of Los Angeles pay for the stunning Cathedral of Our Lady of The Angels? Again, my hands are shaking.
God help us, God help me. How many transient people were thrown off that property, that used to be owned by the County of Los Angeles and known as "Lot 18"? The property that is sometimes, occasionally referred to by some "in the know" as the "Taj Mahoney."
And Cardinal Mahoney. I saw his lawyers in court, downtown, when the bunch of them would appear. Fighting motions to discover the damage that had been done. The victimization that had occurred. The breaches of trust that had been suffered by so many. Those lawyers fought, tooth and nail, speaking on the record, IN COURT TRANSCRIPTS, making solemn representations to the court. "Personnel files, Privacy rights, Beyond the Statute of Limitations...", they claimed. And for a while, they were winners. The massive game of worldwide "Hide and Seek" was a good deal.
And more information began to leak, undercutting the Catholic Church's position. That leak pretty much culminated in two events. First, the censure by Archbishop Gomez of Cardinal Mahoney's deliberate and knowing actions and activities. Moving priests around, sending them to Mexico and other countries, having them go to "counseling" and declaring them "cured".
Second, and this is so troubling, is the allegation -- yet unproven --t hat Cardinal Ratzinger, as the head of the Office to which he had been appointed, was privy to the "secret files" of the defendant priests. The Office to which he had been appointed by Pope John Paul II.
Pope John Paul II's portrait hangs in my parents' home. In our family home. My Mami prayed to him, as my husband lay in a coma for three weeks after heart surgery. My husband had every complication a first year medical student might study. For three weeks. The nurses would see me crying in the hallway, and would attempt to comfort me, in the Catholic hospital where I could look up at the wall and see the Crucifix. Where I held my beloved and treasured Rosary, blessed by Pope John Paul II, praying each bead, each prayer, as I looked at my husband, hooked up to all those machines.
So much has been taken away and done to us, Mi Gente.
I feel physically and spiritually ill, contemplating what has just happened. And what happened before this. And all I can do, is pray.
"Gracias, alavansas, Te doy, Gran Senor, por que me has dejado amanecer, con el alma en el cuerpo, para saber y creer, que hay Dios en el Cielo, en la Tierra, y en todo lugar..."
It is unknown what the future will bring. It appears that the Catholic Church may be confronting and dealing with terrible conduct. I hope and pray that these questions are answered honestly. I wonder how the Church can heal all of the wrongs that have been done, including those done to the poverty-stricken, the Gente that I love, and the nuns who taught me so much.
Only God knows.
Guadalupe Gonzalez (c) 2013.
Guadalupe Gonzalez, Contributing Writer:
Una Latina Catolica: A Lawyer in The City of The Angels