Chapter 7: Pike
Introduction by Robert Blair Kaiser: At the beginning of Chapter Seven, Mahony woke in a hospital room in Los Angeles. He had been in a coma for days, but the doctors decided that, though he could remember nothing of his ordeal, he had survived physically. His chancellor Msgr. Jeremiah Hawkslaw took him home to recover in seclusion. After reading accounts in Time and Newsweek about his ordeal, he began to feel a curious compassion for his captors, and he had recurring dreams about a beautiful young mystery woman calling for his help. Now here's Chapter Seven...
Chapter 7: Pike
IN THE DAYS THAT FOLLOWED, Roger Mahony gave few other clues to indicate where he intended to lead the Church of Los Angeles. He was still under his doctors' orders to take some time off, and to stay away from the archdiocesan headquarters. He followed those orders, and gave some orders of his own—mainly that he wanted to be left alone. He told his finance council they should proceed, of course, with all deliberate speed, to settle—generously—with the victims of clerical sex abuse whose cases were still in a legal limbo. The archdiocese had gone $13 million in the hole in 2007, and would probably do the same in 2008, but he told the council what had been a guarded secret. As corporation sole of the archdiocese, he had $15 billion in assets that he could borrow against if he had to. "We aren't poor," he told them. "let me know by January fifteenth how much borrowing I have to do. By that time, gentlemen, I'll be back at my desk. I can and will bite the bullet—as unappetizing as bullets are."
He told his aides that he'd be taking no phone calls, or making any other major decisions. Advent was approaching. A good time for all to do penance and prepare for Christmas. Until the New year, he said, he wanted his chancellor to handle the day-to-day administration of the archdiocese and his pastors (and their parish administrators) to run their parishes.
"In the meantime," he wrote in a brief pastoral letter carried in the Tidings on Thanksgiving weekend, "I am going to rest, to read, to pray—and look for ways of doing something about this Church of ours."
HE DIDN'T TELL ANYONE that he was still having nightmares—not until that Monday morning when, after answering Dr. Bill Sargent's usual questions about his diet, his exercise, and his sleep patterns, he confessed he was still having a recurring wild dream. It was about a very pretty young woman in distress.
"Is it a woman you can recognize?"
"No. That's the disturbing part."
"How does this dream make you feel?" asked Sargent.
Sargent waited for the cardinal to expand on sad. Mahony said nothing. "Just sad, huh?"
It was a relic of his Irish-American Puritanism, perhaps, but Sargent felt uneasy pursuing the subject—a cardinal-archbishop of the Holy Roman Catholic Church and a pretty young woman. Sargent skipped right over the erotic possibilities. He said, "I think it's all a fallout from your ordeal in Mexico. Something happened there, something that made you challenge many of your assumptions—about yourself, about the Church, about the world."
"I know that, Bill," said Mahony. He said he believed the young woman in his dreams might provide some clues—if he only knew who she was, or what she symbolized. "I think I need to do some detective work."
Sargent raised an eyebrow. "About what happened to you in Chiapas? You might be better off if you didn't remember."
"I don't remember," Mahony reminded him. "But something inside me makes me want to."
Sargent nodded. "Uh huh. So, what do you want to do?"
"For one thing, I want to watch the trial. I have a friend bringing over a videotape of the entire thing."
Sargent, who had seen highlights of the trial in a CBS documentary, expressed some alarm. "Some of it is pretty rough. It made you sick, literally sick to your stomach, if you'll recall."
"I don't recall. That's part of the problem, isn't it?"
The doctor was embarrassed. "Sorry. I forgot. you don't remember. Of course. Of course."
Mahony said, "I will tell you what I can remember, after I've seen the tape."
PETE NOYES SHOWED UP at the cathedral rectory with a single DVD, not a tape. "We put the entire Fox feed on this disk," he said. "You can pause it at any time. You can freeze any frame, zoom in on a part of it, do slow motion, fast forward. You know the technology."
Mahony nodded. Indeed, he did. Despite the accelerating pace of technological change, he had always found the time to keep up to date on every new electronic toy. "Thank you, Pedro. I'll get this disk back to you."
Noyes said that wouldn't be necessary. "Our little local contribution. Maybe it will make up for the fact that Fox was the network that put your trial out there for the world to see."
Mahony approached Noyes, put a hand on each shoulder and looked down into his eyes. "Pete, you don't have to apologize for Fox. I am glad, in some ways, that Fox had a hand in this, uh, this project. I never would have owned up to my crimes. I've been programmed for more than fifty years, ever since I entered the seminary, programmed to put the institution first, second and third. That made me a very good administrator, but something less than a stand-up guy."
Noyes nodded. "Couple years ago, a Jesuit at Loyola told me, 'There are two things I don't like about Roger: his face'."
Mahony opened his palms.
Noyes said, "Sorry."
"No, don't be sorry. I am sure that every priest in town laughed over that line, but no one ever had the courage to come and repeat it to me. You did."
Noyes shrugged. "I have nothing to lose."
Mahony thought about the implications of that: anyone telling him the truth was subject to retaliation. He sank into a chair and shook his head. "Now I know," he said to Noyes, "that in my clerical culture, the biggest loser was me. I never expected to hear the truth. Worse, nobody ever expected me to tell the truth either." He consoled himself with the thought that every bureaucratic institution he knew was packed with sycophants. "When I went to Rome, I told the pope what he wanted to hear. At the consistory in May 2001, the pope asked the cardinals to tell him what the Church of the twenty-first century ought to be doing. I quoted the pope to himself. And when a reporter called me on it, I was so furious I sent him an e-mail and told him never to approach me again."
Mahony stood. "I am afraid, Pete, that I will be just as furious when I see who said what about me during that trial. But that will be good for me. Now that I don't have the truth hurdle to cross any more—thanks to Fox and the rest of the media—it will be easier to ask for forgiveness."
IT DIDN'T TAKE LONG FOR MAHONY to identify his mystery woman. She was on the DVD. She was not a major player in the trial, but he was sure she was the woman at his side during every break, and then, at the end of every session, leading him off—somewhere—acting like nothing so much as his nurse. He was distracted during the playback by some key points in the trial itself, masochistically marveling at the way this prosecutor, Juana Margarita Obregón, had skewered his conduct. But to him, now, the main show was only a sideshow. He wanted to study his young keeper, and was able to, by slowing down the action, stopping it, reversing it, freezing a frame, then zooming in on her lively face and flashing eyes. A name! What was her name?
He couldn't remember. Nor could he remember a single word she had ever spoken to him, or he, to her. He tried replaying the entire Fox feed, with the same result. Then, when it was time for lunch, he ejected the disk, turned off the machine and drifted over to his rectory kitchen. "What's for lunch, Monica?" he demanded of the cook.
"Eminence, we have some special chicken soup today, with rice."
The cook was a Chicana. But her accented words, about the chicken soup, with rice, and her speech rhythm triggered the spark the cardinal needed to remember the—name—of—his—keeper. It was María! María! María!
In his confusion, he almost stumbled over to the table. But now, suddenly, he remembered many of the things he and María had talked about, and many of the things she had done for him, starting with the time she gave him his Prozac when his hands had been cuffed behind his back in the chopper. He savored the memory, and remembered especially their conversation the morning of his arraignment, when she had spoken more boldly to him than anyone had ever dared.
He remembered her telling him: "We are putting you and the whole damn Catholic Church on trial." He remembered his response: "Now you're going too far! What has the Church done?"
And her sassy rejoinder: "Nothing. That's the whole point. Words, words, words, words. lots of say so. Very little do so. If Jesus visited the Vatican today, he would throw up. What you guys have done to his message! What your priests have done to little kids!"
And then his memory sped him to the end of the story—at least the end of the story as far as María was concerned. He suddenly saw the scene, when he had tried to cover her body with his as the soldiers opened fire, and failed to save her. That memory explained the unresolved conflict in his recurring dream. Now it wasn't so hard to figure out. Life had its mysteries, but it also had its epiphanies, if only we cared to look.
THE NEXT MORNING AFTER MASS, Mahony had an epiphany when he picked up the LA Times and found a Page One report that officials from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security had arrested a San Diego attorney and were holding him at Terminal Island in San Pedro on violations of the Patriot Act. His name was Nick Pike and he was connected, according to the Times' unnamed government source, to an organization called Para los otros, the group that had kidnapped Cardinal Mahony and taken him to Chiapas.
By now, Mahony had persuaded his chancellor that he was recovering well enough to start using the telephone. He phoned Matt Riley, retired but still on active status as a federal judge in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. Yes, Riley told the cardinal, he'd seen the Times' story. No, he didn't know the status of this man named Pike. "Normally," he said, "the FBI would arraign the man and have a judge set a bail hearing within twenty-four hours. In these terrorism cases, I'm just not sure what they'll do."
"I want to see this man," said Mahony. "Before he posts bail, if possible."
An hour later, Riley phoned back. "Something funny going on," he said. "They haven't set an arraignment date. My source at the FBI says they're not likely to either, not until they find out more about Pike. There's no bail. He could be dangerous. He has a criminal record. Spent three months in federal prison several years ago. At Lompoc."
"Any chance I can see him?"
"No one can see this guy."
"Not unless he has a court order."
"How hard is that?" asked Mahony.
Riley laughed. "For you, not hard at all. I could sign one right now. But I will do better than that. I will drive you down to San Pedro myself, and we'll both see this guy. I am kinda curious. I found out why he spent time at Lompoc. For illegal trespass at Ft. Benning, Georgia, in 1996."
"Prison time? For trespass at an Army base?"
"It was his second offense—demonstrating to close the U.S. Army's School of the Americas. He got a three-month sentence."
Mahony said, "But that doesn't make Pike a criminal in any accepted sense of the word." He knew about the School of the Americas. Manuel Noriega and Roberto d'Aubuisson were trained there, along with thousands of other military men from various Latin American countries, then returned home to kill social reformers throughout the continent. For years, college kids across the land had been trying to close the school. They held annual demonstrations at the Ft. Benning gate to commemorate the martyrdom of six Jesuits in Nicaragua in 1989 who were killed by graduates of the School of the Americas. Those who crossed into the base during those demonstrations got arrested.
"Right," said Riley. "He was a political prisoner, sentenced by an old Southern judge. Everyone in that part of georgia calls him 'Maximum Bob.'"
Mahony's voice softened almost to a whisper. "Even more, Matt, do I need to talk to Nick Pike. I think he may be one of the good guys."
AT 1:00 P.M., THE SOUTHBOUND TRAFFIC on the Harbor Freeway was moving well. In fact, it took Judge Riley and Cardinal Mahony less time to drive from the cathedral to Terminal Island than it took them to get processed at the federal lockup.
"You may be a federal judge," said an assistant warden, nodding at gate 3 to Riley at the wheel of his Lexus. "And you may be the cardinal- archbishop of Los Angeles," as he pointed at Mahony. "But we gotta follow the rules here." The warden studied the court order, signed by Riley himself, and he examined their California driver's licenses. Then he directed them to a gray building about 100 yards ahead, where they would park their car and then be guided through a set of protocols.
Inside that gray building, in a windowless room lit by a flickering fluorescent lamp, they were each given a one-page list of rules. They were told to sign them, then directed to proceed to a cage enclosed in bulletproof glass where they deposited in separate metal drawers their wallets, their cell phones, the contents of their pockets and the leather belts holding up their pants. Two guards standing behind the glass examined the items, then waved Riley and Mahony on to a set of electronic doors that finally gave them entrance to a long narrow room. Two guards there ordered them to take seats behind one of a half-dozen wooden tables.
"We'll bring in the prisoner now," said one of the guards. His partner spoke into a sputtering walkie-talkie with a line of jargon that only he and the man on the other end of the line could understand.
"Fun, huh?" said Riley.
"It's like a bad movie," whispered Mahony.
NICK PIKE HAD A SMALL POT, a well-trimmed, salt-and-pepper beard, and bright, intelligent eyes. He shook hands, first with Mahony and then with Riley, looked up at the guard who had brought him into the room and said, "Thanks." When the guards had left the room, Pike took a seat across the table.
He pulled at the gray cotton jacket he was wearing and gave them an apologetic look, as if to say if he'd known they were coming, he would have worn a clean shirt and a tie, then asked, "To what do I owe the pleasure of this visit?" His tone was soft, respectful, even deferential.
"We're curious," said Riley. "We'd like to know more about you."
Mahony said, "We'd like to know what you know about Para los otros. I have a special interest in the group."
"I imagine you do," said Pike with a knowing grin. "Well, look, first thing I want you to know, your Eminence, I had nothing to do with your kidnapping, or with the action at Chiapas."
"Go on," said Mahony.
"As far as I knew, Para los otros was working to reform civil society in Latin America—principally in Mexico and Central America." Pike told Mahony and Riley that its members were post-conciliar Catholics, mainly, with ties to the Jesuits in Latin America. Their name was adopted from a statement that was hacked out at the Jesuits' Thirty-Second General Congregation by their General, Father Pedro Arrupe, and others, who set down new directions for the order—and all the people working with them. "They would be 'men and women for others.'"
Mahony asked, "How have the members of Para los otros been 'men and women for others?'"
"In general, they were trying—are still trying—to help people in Latin America be all they can be. In this life, not the next. They do this in a lot of ways. They are teaching kids—even girls—how to read. In Third World countries, teaching girls how to read is a subversive act. And they are helping the people get organized. That's subversive, too."
"Organized for what?" asked Riley.
"For bread and justice. They are busy promoting a people's government. In other words, a democracy that would supplant the plutocracy that has ruled in Latin America for centuries."
Pike paused and looked around the room and up to the ceiling vents. "This room is probably bugged. But I never tried to hide this. So I might as well tell you. I helped found Para los otros. I have, in fact, raised a lot of money on their behalf. But I raised money for a lot of other people, too. I never knew, until recently, that Para los otros had turned from a reform of civil society to a reform of the Church itself."
"You're against a reform of the Church?" said Mahony.
"No. I just didn't think the folks in Para los otros had gotten around to it, yet. In retrospect, I shouldn't have been surprised. They were John XXIII Catholics trying to survive in a John Paul II world. They wanted to change that world."
"In Los Angeles?" asked Mahony.
Pike said, "More and more of their members and supporters turned out to be Latinos living in Southern California, I shouldn't have been shocked—to think that they'd want to reform the Church of Los Angeles. Or that they'd get so creative."
"'Creative?'"said Riley."You mean kidnapping the cardinal-archbishop of Los Angeles and putting him on trial? On international television? That's what you mean by creative?"
Pike said, "you'll have to admit it was a brilliant action."
"So," snapped Riley, "these were not just a bunch of dumbass Mexicans?"
"That's a stereotype, Judge Riley. Latinos are in public life all over the state of California. College professors, doctors, accountants, businessmen. Even some judges. When a third of the population in this state are Latinos—Well, I needn't belabor the obvious."
"But they had to have a leader," said Riley. "Who masterminded this affair?" Pike didn't respond. "You telling us you didn't?"
"You saw the man," said Pike. "You saw him on television, Judge Riley. He presided over your mock trial, your Eminence."
Riley and Mahony said in unison, "Díaz?"
"Yes, the late Iván Díaz. For years, he'd been teaching a political science seminar at UCLA, gathering a following there on campus, writing his iconoclastic books."
"Right under my nose," said Mahony. "And I never bothered to meet the guy."
"Well, you did, finally," said Pike. "Though not exactly in a way you might have preferred."
"Well, yes. Unfortunately, I do not have any personal recollection of those days of mine in captivity in Chiapas. What I know about Díaz is what I read about him a few days ago in the New York Times. And saw on a recording of the trial. And now he's gone."
"He put something new into play," said Pike.
"What?" asked Mahony.
Pike lowered his voice. "You, your Eminence. A new you."
Cardinal Mahony wasn't exactly stunned. Ever since he had started making his annual 8-day retreats, he had been accustomed to reviewing his life, and resolving to live it more in accord with his calling—first, in his younger days as an alter Christus, another Christ, and then, after he attained "the fullness of the priesthood"—after he became a bishop—he had looked for ways of becoming more and more a teacher and a leader. Trouble was, once he became an archbishop in the nation's largest Catholic diocese, and then given a Red Hat, along with all the adulation that comes with that eminence (they even called him "your Eminence"), he didn't spend a lot of his time thinking how much better he could be, how much more Christlike. He was already "all things to all men," so what more could he do? What more could he be? Now here he was sitting with this unlikely suspect in a federal prison in the Los Angeles Harbor who was telling him he had undergone a rebirth. He shook his head. What would a reborn Roger look like? If he was reborn, what would that mean to his, to his very identity? That frightened him, and, in his fear, he fell back into the identity he was sure of, the CEO of the Church of Los Angeles. As a good CEO, he had to know his men. At least that was his excuse when he changed the subject, from his supposed rebirth to Pike himself.
Glancing at a clock on the wall, he turned to Riley. "We've got twenty minutes. I think I'd like to know a little bit more about Mr. Pike here."
"We can ask him."
Mahony said, "Maybe we can help him out of jail, too. Get the U.S. attorney to drop any pending charges against him?"
"We may be able to do that, too."
"I'd appreciate that, Judge Riley," Pike said, then turned to Mahony. "I really need more than twenty minutes to tell you about me. But here's a short version of the Nick Pike story. At seventeen, I entered the Jesuits. When I was twenty-six, I left."
"Because?" asked Mahony.
"So I could grow up. I did that. When I left the order in 1968, I signed up in the Bobby Kennedy campaign in California. Not a big job. But it helped me grow up. They hired me to help get out the Kennedy vote in East la."
Riley asked him if he was at the Ambassador Hotel on June 5, 1968.
Pike gave him a pained look. "No. Not one of the million Angelenos who claimed they were there the night Bobby was shot. I wish I had been. In fact, I fantasized about that for years. Told myself that if I'd been there in the pantry, I'd have taken the bullet that was meant for Bobby. Not sure I ever got over it. I'd been invited to the victory party, you see, but I didn't go. I was on top of Mulholland Drive that night, making out in the front seat of my Chevy with this smart nun I met in the campaign, and I felt guilty for a long time afterward. Not for making out. I soon married that smart nun, Anne Murphy, and raised a family with her. I felt guilty because I wasn't in the pantry, where I might have helped Bobby Kennedy avoid an assassin's bullets." He paused, reflecting on what might have been, then refocused on his visitors.
Pike said, "I have had some success in the law. Three years ago, I made almost twenty million. Just my one-third share of four huge cases, that's all—though three of them were years in the making.
"All this time," he said, "I never lost touch with the Jesuits. I helped found an active group of former Jesuits. We're called the Compañeros. Most of us still believe we can make a difference in the world. Some of us are bolder. We say we want to change the world. The general of the Jesuits once told me we are Jesuits who are just a little ahead of our time, the kind of men who can help re-create the kind of Church we had in the beginning."
"What kind of Church is that?"
"A nonclerical Church. A people's Church."
Suddenly, it dawned on Mahony that he'd heard of Pike. "you're from San Diego, right?"
"You're the one who built the Newman Center at the San Diego campus of the University of California?"
"Me and my wife, Anne Murphy. She runs the law firm. I just work there. Otherwise, I wouldn't have time to volunteer all over the place. I couldn't have done the actions at Ft. Benning every year—to confront the guys who were training the military goons in Latin America to kill priests and nuns."
"Or fund Para los otros?"
"But why did you want to take me on?"
"I didn't. Remember? I knew nothing about that. That was Iván's idea."
"Okay. Okay. But why did he go after Los Angeles?"
"Why not? He was living in la, right? Biggest archdiocese in the country? Because of Hollywood and the media, potentially the most influential Catholic city in the U.S. Maybe in the whole world."
"Yes. Except Rome, of course."
Riley shifted in his chair. Time was up. In fact, the guards had just come into the room.
"All right then," said Mahony. "I just have one more question. Did you know Juana Margarita Obregón?"
"Not well. I met her, once. And then, of course, I saw her performance on TV, out of Chiapas. Too bad she had to die."
Mahony said, "Death isn't the end of the story, you know that. It is just the beginning of a new chapter."
"I know. I know," Pike said. "But she was so vital. The one time I met her, I found her so—bright."
Mahony agreed. "Yes, that describes the woman I saw in that mock trial. And what about the young woman who was my keeper in Chiapas? Her name was María. Did you know her?"
Pike frowned. "I'm not sure."
"She said she was from East LA."
"Maybe," said Pike. "We had some volunteers from East LA who signed up to work in Chiapas."
"Anyone named María?" Mahony repeated her name and his voice thickened. "María. Never got her last name. I fell in love with her."
Pike was startled, but gave him a silent nod, encouraging him to go on.
"We hardly touched," said Mahony. "But she touched me. It's hard to explain. But I will never forget her. I would like to meet her folks, and tell them." He got a far-off look in his eye. "I'd like to tell them—something."
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