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Five top aides quit Mahony administration

Los Angeles

In an Oct. 30 e-mailing to the Los Angeles archdiocese’s remaining employees, five top executives to Cardinal Roger Mahony announced their resignations.

The resignations create the latest public cacophony to confront the cardinal in a steady drum beat of bad news that began 10 days after he opened his new $189 million Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral on Labor Day.

Since then, major outreach ministries to the ethnic Catholic communities of Latinos, African-Americans and Asian-Pacific Catholics, to persons with disabilities, to lesbian and gay Catholics, for pro-life activities and campus ministry, have been curtailed, with severe cutbacks in detention (prison) ministry and other outreach programs.

According to the Los Angeles Times Oct. 31, soon to depart are the vicar general, Msgr. Terrance Fleming; the chancellor, St. Joseph Sr. Louise Moore; the administrative services secretariat director, Msgr. Richard Loomis; the educational programs director, St. Louis Sr. Bernardette Murphy; and the director of the pastoral and community services secretariat, Thomas Chabolla (see NCR letters page, Oct.18).

This brings to eight the number of department heads to quit their jobs in the financially troubled local church’s central administration.

The chronology: When the new cathedral opened Sept. 2 the archdiocese stressed the cathedral’s cost was fully covered by donations. The next week all archdiocesan employees were told by Fleming, the vicar general, that due to a $4.3 million budget shortfall, there would be severe departmental cutbacks because the finance council refused to approve a deficit budget. Mahony did not attend the meeting.

Sixty staff have since been terminated, followed shortly after by the first three department heads submitting their resignations.

On Oct. 7, the cardinal, at the archdiocese’s 1,100 priests’ annual meeting, was severely criticized by some for the lack of consultation. One pastor complained Catholics could not make sense of a situation in which the archdiocese could raise $189 million to totally cover the cost of a cathedral and not raise $4.3 million in a shortfall that had been signaled for more than two years.

Priests called for a moratorium on the cutbacks pending wider consultation. Mahony, to some skepticism, spoke optimistically of the ministries being re-rooted in the deaneries and parishes. But he said there would be no reconsideration of the cutbacks. Some departing employees believe threats of more legal suits in the sexual abuse scandals -- due to the California statute of limitations being lifted so that abusers’ employers can be sued in calendar year 2003 (NCR, Oct. 25) -- has the archdiocese husbanding money in anticipation of more payouts.

The archdiocesan media relations department said the Oct. 30 joint announcement came after Mahony “announced Fleming was stepping down as moderator of the curia [for] a much deserved one-year sabbatical. The secretariat directors had each been considering leaving the archdiocesan administration prior to the budget cuts. The [Los Angeles Times’] reporting that these resignations are in protest of the cardinal’s budget cuts is, therefore, incorrect.”

The cardinal, meanwhile, possibly now drums his fingers anticipating the noise when the statute of limitations shoe drops Jan. 1.

Arthur Jones is NCR editor at large. His e-mail address is ajones96@attbi.com

National Catholic Reporter, November 08, 2002