Letters written by Terrence W. Halloran to bishops, archbishops and cardinals

From letters written by Father Terrence W. Halloran in May, 1965 to Cardinal Timothy Manning, then auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles:

Several disheartening events have occurred since 1963: the hypocrisy of forbidding a priest to speak before a local human relations group and then forbidding him to say why he could not appear; the vengeful persecution of the seminarians who met with John Howard Griffin in a classroom on a Sunday afternoon; the injustice of ordering Father Coffield out of the Archdiocese for inviting Father Norris to speak to a group of priests; the blasphemous TIDINGS editorial in which His Eminence, accused by Father DuBay of suppressing Catholic participation in the civil rights movement, was compared with Jesus before Pilate; the inexcusable failure of the TIDINGS to report the work of Catholic leaders throughout the state in the campaign against Proposition 14; the full-blown lie by which Father Berryman's removal from St. Philip's was passed off as a routine transfer.

Is not the present situation of our minority citizens in Southern California a grave violation of social justice and Christian charity? Have we not been urged to do our part to see that voting, jobs, housing, education and public facilities are freely available to every American? Was not Father Berryman removed from the pulpit and then transferred at his pastor's request because he preached a moderate sermon on racial brotherhood? Are we not disloyal to the author of truth and justice if by our silence we permit so scandalous an act to go unchallenged? Do not the many indignities inflicted on Fathers Nagle, Ara, Coffield, DuBay, Beaman, Ingrisano, Soto, Whitehead, McFadden, Sherman and Kramer violate human decency? Would it not be falsehood for me to deny that I was transferred at the insistence of my pastor because I deplored racism from the pulpit? Must we not stop short of evasion and lies to preserve the order of charity and the principles of honor and loyalty? Will not men be repelled by the Church which fears to show to the world its true self with its human conflicts and imperfections? Should it not be made clear to everyone that there are many priests in this Archdiocese who give active assent to the Church's teaching that racial barriers are an affront to Christian morality?

The condescending tokenism that pervades the integration of our Catholic institutions and the racist-pleasing vagueness of official pleas for harmony have helped convince everyone that the views of His Eminence are more or less as follows: that Negroes and other persons of dark skin are intellectually and morally inferior to white people; that they prefer to regard themselves as inferior and to be treated as such; that anyone, white or brown or black, who says or acts otherwise is subverting the proper relationship among the races; that non-whites do not deserve to associate with white people as their equals; that no person in his right mind would sincerely question the validity of the color line; that the present protest against white superiority is entirely the work of self-seeking or deluded men.

We know that many Catholics, some of them priests, agree with these views. The scandal of division caused by those who choose instead to teach and implement the Church's doctrine of racial brotherhood is trivial compared with the scandal of silence and inaction that would result from unquestioning conformity.

Questions for Cardinal Roger Mahony, from a letter written to him in April, 1990:

You've achieved far more good than harm since you became archbishop of Los Angeles five years ago. We all thank God for this blessing. But many of us were disheartened by four things you did in 1989.

You wrote a lengthy public statement on abortion, calling it the overriding moral issue of our time. Why are you so passionate about abortion and so calm about the death penalty? Is our sending soldiers to kill and be killed any less evil? Would laws against abortion be any more effective than laws against drugs, prostitution or pornography? If you really want to identify the overriding moral issue of our time, why don't you name the arms race, world hunger, apartheid in South Africa, death squads in Central America or the sufferings of the homeless?

Some of your wealthy friends gave you a jet helicopter and you accepted it. Why do you put such a burden on our faith? Can you imagine a more elegant symbol of worldly success? Couldn't these funds be used in a more constructive and human way? Is it so important for you to avoid traffic congestion? Don't you need to make sacrifices like the rest of us? How can you preach justice for the poor if you live like the rich?

You sent a letter to our brother priest Terry Sweeney and his wife Pamela, telling them not to receive communion when they attend Mass. Are you trying to say their married love is more holy than your priesthood? Do you really expect them to request a dispensation, knowing it won't be granted? Haven't you noticed the Vatican has curtailed its service and no longer cares to bless marriages like theirs? How can you choose to support this unloving and insensitive official attitude?

You refused to attend the annual Labor Day breakfast of the Catholic Labor Institute. Are the friends of unions so offensive to you? Are you so determined to keep unions out of our Catholic cemeteries that dialog with labor organizers is impossible? Are you afraid of disturbing the business owners who help support our parish schools? Has the archdiocese ever before scorned this yearly event, even in the darkest days under Cardinal James Francis McIntyre? Didn't Jesus dine with tax-collectors and sinners?

The wrong you did in 1989 may not be as bad as what you've failed to do for five years. You haven't applied the Gospel to the nuclear weapons industry, where so many of us make our living. Do you oppose first strike or first use of nuclear weapons? Do you condemn targeting of or attack on civilian population centers? Do you see the arms race as a curse and an act of aggression against the poor of the world? Why have you fallen silent on this topic? Are you no longer interested? Are you afraid to stir the consciences of our aerospace and defense corporations? When will you teach peace as you should?

Enclosed are some words I wrote to Bishop Timothy Manning 25 years ago, during the restless and memorable decade before he became cardinal archbishop of Los Angeles. The topics are different now, but the tone and urgency are similar. I pray you will accept, with less reluctance and more imagination, the challenges offered in this letter.

From a letter written in April, 1990 to Bishop Norman McFarland, bishop of the diocese of Orange, California:

Thank you for answering my recent letter about enlisting the help of married priests in the service of the church. And thank you for sending me a copy of your April 9, 1990 letter to the Orange County Register.

Unfortunately, you mentioned only two kinds of married priests:

1. Those validly married by way of dispensation.

2. Those living in an invalid marriage that can't be rectified by the church.

The church could decide to dispense its own law on celibacy and still not receive married priests back to active ministry. You didn't point that out. You didn't mention the many priests whose marriages the church can but won't bless. I think that's why your words sound like judgments on other people's state of soul.

Please don't blame the vagaries of newspaper reporting if your observations appear in print the way they sound to careful listeners.

From a letter written in January, 1993 to Bishop Stephen Blaire, auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles:

I read a copy of your letter of January 8, 1993 to Rabbi Bernard M. Cohen of Woodland Hills. Maybe you agree you should have written the letter more carefully or not at all.

I'm sure Rabbi Cohen neither lacked nor requested the information you gave him. How could he possibly imagine that a married priest is "authorized to speak on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church?" Why would he ever suppose Father Charles Ara "officially represents the Roman Catholic Church?" Do you really think Rabbi Cohen can be unaware of Cardinal Roger Mahony's attitude toward married priests?

I'm very disappointed that you chose to refer to Father Charles Ara as "a former priest of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles." Isn't priesthood forever? Couldn't you use language that more accurately describes Father Ara's priestly status? Doesn't our faith in the permanence of God's gifts deserve a better choice of words?

I think you misstated the facts when you said "Charles Ara identifies himself as 'Father' and functions on his own initiative." Does any divine or human law say some priests may be called "Father" and others may not? Doesn't Father Ara function as a priest primarily by being a grace-filled spouse and parent and a grace-giving marriage counselor, author and speaker? Are you trying to say this is his whim and not his true vocation?

I believe letters like yours to Rabbi Bernard M. Cohen harm our church's image in the community. I pray you'll be more thoughtful in the future.

From a letter written in August, 1996 to Cardinal Roger Mahony:

Thank you for working so hard to get a new cathedral built for God's people in downtown Los Angeles. Your process for choosing the architect was admirable. Your handling of the old cathedral conservancy and safety issues has been masterful. But you need to be more sensitive to our friends in the Catholic Worker community.

Have you always had problems with the Catholic Worker? Why do you tell them they need the poor? You don't even think they're Catholic? Does this remind you of Cardinal James Francis McIntyre in the 1960s, fuming at the members of the Catholic Human Relations Council? Do the Catholic Worker people deserve to be called negative, confrontational and uncooperative? Are you convinced they're troubled people filled with rage, just wanting a confrontation with the hierarchy? How can you say they work with the smallest population of the poor in the city? Are you referring to the 5,000 homeless poor who live virtually on your very doorstep? Didn't our friend Bishop John Steinbock celebrate Mass every Sunday at the Catholic Worker hospitality house when he was their pastor?

As you plan the new cathedral, please include a soup kitchen, health clinic, showers and other facilities for those less fortunate than us. This will honor our heavenly Father and Our Lady of the Angels, in ways just as important as the Eucharistic sharing of God's word and the bread of life. Then our friends in the Catholic Worker community will probably no longer say you're a cold, heartless technocrat.

From a letter written in April, 1997 to Bishop Norman McFarland, bishop of the diocese of Orange, California:

Thank you for greeting me in front of the cathedral before the chrism Mass two weeks ago. I'm honored that you asked me about the sign I was carrying. I'm sorry I spoke rudely to you. Please accept this apology. I was nervous.

My sign asks "Does Bishop Norman McFarland oppose the death penalty?" Thank you for telling me that you do. Unfortunately, almost no one in Orange County knows what you believe on this issue. They've never heard it in church, not even in the cathedral. They've never seen it in writing, not even in the diocesan bulletin.

During your ten years as our spiritual leader, you've said practically nothing for or against the killing of criminals. I pray my sign will help end the silence. May God bless you and your ministry.

From a letter written in February, 2013 to Archbishop José Gomez, archbishop of Los Angeles, California:

In your statement dated January 31, 2013, you pretend to be shocked, yes shocked, to discover that Cardinal Roger Mahony failed "to fully protect young people entrusted to his care." Like his predecessors and many other U.S. Catholic bishops, he committed great evil by covering up sexual crimes against minors committed by priests.

But are you denying that since 2011 you have had access to the documents that recently became public? Why have you said nothing until now? Why did you wait two years before ending Cardinal Mahony's administrative and public duties? Why did you decide to publicly shame him in this way? Did the Vatican order you to do this?

Wasn't Cardinal Mahony doing what you would have done, if you had been Archbishop of Los Angeles in the 1980s and 1990s? Wasn't he doing what the Vatican wanted him to do under the circumstances? Haven't you been a participant in the cover-up since you became Coadjutor Archbishop of Los Angeles in April of 2010? Isn't your statement simply a hollow symbolic gesture? What have you done to promote true justice for the victims?

I pray that you may find conversion of heart, and that you may behave better toward Cardinal Mahony and all of us than you have during the past week.