Robert Blair Kaiser's summary of last week's chapter: In the Chapter 23, Cardinal Mahony and Cardinal Grandeur met in Phoenix at the solemn high requiem mass of Bishop Thomas Olmsted. In the procession, they have a meeting of minds. Mahony says he will destroy the incriminating photos of Hawkslaw and Grandeur together as long as Grandeur will fight fair at the Fourth Council of Baltimore. Grandeur agreed, but he will battle against a people's Church, insisting the pope will never approve of an autochthonous Church in the United States. Mahony asks Grandeur if he saw Ian Fisher's story in the New York Times that morning about the pope's encouraging an autochthonous Church in China? From that story, Mahony has a notion that the pope may want to see American Catholics rebuilding their Church, American-style." Grandeur demurs. "I'll believe the pope will approve an autochthonous Church in America when I read it in an encyclical. He will never give you permission for that!" Mahony says that if the Fourth Council of Baltimore wants the American Church to go autochthonous, it won't need permission. And the pope will then be faced with a choice, to accept a people's Church in America, or say we're all in schism. "Cardinal Ratzinger might have been capable of doing that. As the pope, I don't think he'd do that. Seventy-five million Catholics? You think he wants to lose them? Seventy-five million affluent American Catholics who provide almost half of the Vatican's annual support?" Now here's the Final Chapter...
"WELL, I NEVER WOULD HAVE believed this, folks." It was ten in the evening in New York, Thursday, July 2, 2009, and Bill O'Reilly was trying to give his audience an update on the battle raging in the American Catholic Church. "The Catholic Church has looked like a feudal monarchy for more than a thousand years, but on Saturday afternoon the forces of monarchy will meet the forces of democracy in Baltimore to determine the future of the Church in America. Or, rather, the future of the way the Church is governed in America—no matter what the pope says."
He reminded his audience how the battle began, right here on The O'Reilly Factor, when O'Reilly had one of the first reports about the kidnapping of Cardinal Mahony by a group of liberation theologians who looked like terrorists putting him on trial for his sins. "Millions of you saw that trial right here on Fox. Incredibly enough, many of you sympathized with the terrorists. They came off as gentle souls who were only conducting that trial to win support for a people's Church. You sympathized with them even more when U.S. Special Forces tracked them down and the Mexican commandos killed them all—all except Cardinal Mahony, who underwent a conversion when he was taken back to LA and started leading the charge for a people's Church in America."
The camera pulled in here for a tight close-up on O'Reilly, and he assumed an intimate tone. "I'm not at all sure I like the sound of that. 'A people's Church in America' sounds like the People's Republic of China. Red China is still red, folks. Bunch of communists there, still communists, despite their new affluence and their new prosperity.
"Now I'm not saying Roger Mahony is a communist, far from it. But I fear this outpouring of populism and all this politics in the Church of God. Mixing up politics and the sacred—well," he shrugged, "I just don't know."
"And, not to oversimplify too much here, but just look at the kinds of folks who are coming to a preconvention rally on Friday night." His camera pulled back to reveal a huge in-studio television screen displaying news footage—a dozen stars of stage, screen, and the music world arriving that evening at the Downtown Hilton in Baltimore—while O'Reilly launched into a rant. "Look, folks, there's Ellen Degeneres! She's going to emcee the rally at the Baltimore Arena. They expect a crowd of more than forty thousand there to support a revolutionary movement of Catholics who are agitating to—well, they have an organization called the Campaign for a People's Church, which is pushing for 'a voice and a vote and ownership' in their Church."
The screen filled again with a tight close-up of Bill O'Reilly while he told his audience how he really felt, as a lifelong Catholic and former altar boy, that he was not used to this kind of revolution inside the Church. In the past, he said, Catholics who weren't thrilled with the Church as they found it just left the Church and found other places to say their prayers. "Martin luther, for instance. He just started his own Church. Me, I go along with the Church I've always known, the Church that stood on the side of discipline and devotion. Now, it looks like a bunch of radicals and gays and lesbians want to take it over."
O'Reilly's producers cut away here to their huge in-studio television screen—a photo montage of Phoebe McNulty in action, while O'Reilly's voice-over told viewers what they were seeing. "Take Phoebe McNulty, for example. Phoebe McNulty's the Wimbledon star who became a nun. Phoebe McNulty's the woman who started these people's liturgies all over the globe. Phoebe McNulty's the gal who made the cover of Time magazine in January. Phoebe McNulty's the one who produced this rally tomorrow night."
O'Reilly looked pleased with himself, but allowed himself a moment of modesty. "I advised against this, but then management doesn't listen to me very much. So, I hate to say it, but Fox will televise this Baltimore rally— 8:00 PM Eastern tomorrow night. Phoebe McNulty says she has some big stars lined up. Even got Bob Dylan and Sting to warm up the audience. "Warming up the audience for what? Well, folks, the headliner at the rally, you guessed it, is none other than Roger Michael Cardinal Mahony, who will give a pep talk to this crowd—which will include a good many delegates already committed to what they are calling 'a people's Church.' You may wonder, as I do, why all this hoo-ha for a Church meeting? It sure as hell doesn't look much like a Church any more. I guess we'll have to get used to this—the new political climate in the American Catholic Church." He paused and cocked his head. "I wonder: whatever happened to the 6:00 AM daily Mass? In Latin!"
ON FRIDAY MORNING, Phoebe realized her team would have to move the rally. Advance intelligence from Catholic groups around the entire Baltimore-Washington area told them to expect at least four hundred thousand at the event—half of them kids who had heard that the American Dance Contest people had begged to hold its national finals competition on the stage at the Baltimore Arena as part of the rally for a People's Church. "The Arena's not big enough," Phoebe told Pike. "We have to find another venue."
Pike rang Mahony's room at the Intercontinental. "Roger, you know anyone in Baltimore with clout?"
"What kind of clout?"
"Political clout." He explained the problem, one they could solve if they could get the City of Baltimore's permission to take over the giant green in a large downtown park that had been the venue for many a rock concert.
"What's the name of the park?"
"Carroll Park. It's three blocks away from your hotel."
"Named after Baltimore's first Catholic bishop, John Carroll?"
"I don't know. Would it help if it was?"
Mahony said, "let me call someone with a little clout."
BALTIMORE IS A CATHOLIC CITY. It was the nation's first Catholic city, and the residence of America's first Catholic bishop, John Carroll, who was elected by a vote of the new nation's priests in 1789. Mahony imagined the archbishop of Baltimore, Edwin O'Brien, had a little clout. So he phoned O'Brien, asking him if he could help secure Carroll Park for the rally.
"I could, but I won't," growled Archbishop O'Brien. Period. End of call.
Mahony wasn't surprised. O'Brien was one of the Vatican's company men. In his previous post as head of all the chaplains in the armed forces of the United States, he had had Tom Doyle cashiered out of his chaplain's post in the Air Force, just months before Doyle might have qualified for retirement. And he had put his blessing on the war in Iraq.
Mahony turned to O'Brien's predecessor, William Cardinal Keeler, now retired and living in Palm Beach, Florida, to explain the problem. "O'Brien just hung up on me," he said to Keeler. "So I am asking you. You know some people on the city council?"
Keeler said, "I do. I will call you back." He did, three minutes later. "Roger,"he said,"if you—or your friend Nick Pike—can make an appearance at noon today at City Hall, I'm told you can have Carroll Park tonight."
MAHONY SENT PIKE to an emergency meeting of the Baltimore City Council, where he got the permit he needed for the rally—over the initial objections of one council member, an atheist, who objected to the use of a public park for a religious service.
"Not religious," Pike told the council. "It's Catholic."
After the laughter in the chamber died, Pike said, blushing a bit, "I mean, of course, catholic with a small 'c.' Catholics, as I am sure you know, believe in the sacramentality of everything. Which is why the rally will be a secular entertainment—secular in the best sense of the word, 'of this world,' the same world that God pronounced good when he created it.
"Except of course when Cardinal Mahony takes the microphone for five minutes to explain the historic significance of Saturday's meeting of the delegates to the Fourth Council of Baltimore. I won't call his talk exactly secular, or entertaining either. He won't mind if I don't call his speeches entertaining. I'm the guy who helps writes them.
"Other than the cardinal's talk, the whole program will be an entertainment. Pop music, three bands, Dylan, Sting, the men's glee club of the Naval Academy, who will be singing a medley of patriotic songs to commemorate the two hundred and thirty-third anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, plus the finals competition of the American Dance Contest. Fox TV will be there for a television special focused mostly on the men from Annapolis and the dancers. Most of the finalists, I am told, will be African American teenagers."
"African American teenagers?" said the council's atheist, a Baltimore politician with a sense of humor. He made the motion to give Carroll Park to the Campaign for a People's Church. It was seconded immediately and passed without discussion.
ACROSS THE NATION ON TALK RADIO, starting at 1:00 PM that day, Sean Hannity groused about the rally—managing to stir up thousands of the nation's rule book Catholics. Hannity said he had a few problems with what looked like "politics, pure politics, in the Church of God, the Church I knew as a kid," though he did concede, "The bishops have been getting away with murder. They've gotta be accountable, just the way we make our mayors accountable." But Hannity said he wondered about the entertainment that promised to dominate the rally. "I ask you what are Bob Dylan and Sting doing there? And what do all those hip-thrusting kids have to do with a reform of the Church?"
Those calling in to Hannity's show tended to agree with him. Josephine Rabert of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, said, "I'm afraid this new push for an American Catholic Church will drive an even bigger wedge between Catholics."
Steve Cronin of Missoula, Montana: "These people want to see democracy in the Church. Don't they understand it's not their Church, but God's?"
"Why don't all these protesters just become Protestants?" asked Joseph DeVera of Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Sean Rockfield of Chicago said, "I can't figure out if Cardinal Mahony is a liberal or a conservative."
"In response to that last caller," said Mary Hargrove of Scottsdale, Arizona, "I will help him figure it out. Mahony's not a liberal and he's not a conservative. He's just simply a heretic. That's all there is to it."
AT THE MAHONY CAMPAIGN HEADQUARTERS in a penthouse suite of the Intercontinental Hotel, Phoebe McNulty switched on a clock radio and brought the Hannity show to the attention of Nick Pike as he was wolfing down a club sandwich. "You want to phone in and make some kind of comment?" she asked.
Pike listened for a time to Hannity's rant, and to the yahoos that seemed to live on Hannity's airwaves, then, after he had finished his lunch, he picked up the phone in the suite and dialed in to 1-800-277-4653.
Hannity's screener put Pike on the air right away, once he realized Pike was who he said he was.
Pike was cool. He didn't argue with Hannity. He just tried to point out that—whatever else this movement for a people's Church was—it was bringing some fun into a Church that had been in a state of depression for more than seven years. "And we have to give the rally's organizers some credit for that."
"Who," asked Hannity, "are the organizers?"
Pike knew how to deal with a bully. "Me and Phoebe McNulty and the rest of Cardinal Mahony's team," he asserted. "you got a problem with that?"
Hannity backed off. He said he didn't.
Then Pike took charge of the show, if only for a minute. He said he had only one point to make—to Hannity and to his thousands of listeners across the nation. "Jesus told us to 'have life and have it more abundantly.' And that's what we're doing. Bringing in Dylan and Sting and the Annapolis glee club and the kid finalists in the American Dance Contest adds to the life here, you see, and the fun. There's something very proper about that. Saints are not sad."
Hannity sneered, "Who's a saint? Dylan? Sting? You? Saints do not go about leading the faithful astray." He looked at the clock on the studio wall. Only ten seconds left 'til signoff. He wanted to make the most of those seconds, with one last word that would fire up the rule book Catholics in his audience. "Saints don't go around," he said, "leading people into schism."
GOD ONLY KNOWS how many rule book Catholics got fired up after Hannity told them Pike and his high-profile cardinal were leading people into schism. But at least one sad, rule book Catholic in Baltimore named Barney Mulvey, a janitor and a former seminarian, took Hannity to heart and decided to do something about Mahony. That afternoon, he caught a bus downtown, bought himself a $79 Iver Johnson .22 revolver at K-Mart, took a taxi to a gun range near the bay, practiced shooting for two hours, then hung out for the rest of this Saturday afternoon in the storefront headquarters in downtown Baltimore of the Campaign for a People's Church. There, he picked up some campaign brochures, seven campaign buttons, and a red, white, and blue plastic bowler, along with the information that the Mahony people were staying in the Intercontinental Hotel on Fifth Street, not far from Carroll Park.
After a hearty meal, two Big Macs and a large Coke, Barney Mulvey wandered over to the Intercontinental, and watched Fox's coverage of the rally on a huge flat screen television in the bar. He felt sad that he wasn't a part of the happy crowd in the park, some half-million strong, according to the local television commentator for WBXY in Baltimore. Folks had filled up the lawn, enjoying the balmy evening and one another, schmoozing with their neighbors, feeling good about being with people who wanted to have life, as Jesus had advised, more abundantly, feasting on fried chicken and cold lobster and imbibing a great deal of wine.
Barney couldn't quite understand them—why they felt so good listening to Bob Dylan and Sting, singing their heretical songs, Dylan belting out his hit song, "American Catholic," and Sting up there on the stage, too, singing the songs that had made all the charts that spring: "It's Our Church, Too," and "God's Human Hands." Or why it was that almost everyone in the crowd knew the words to those songs (he didn't), and why they all wanted to join in, especially on the choruses.
We lift up our hands. Me and you. our human hands. Me and you. our loving hands. Me and you. our helping hands. Me and you. They're God's hands, too. They're God's hands, too.
Barney had three highballs—Jack Daniels and Seven, as the bartender later told the police—then left the bar after the rally was over and took up a position on the sidewalk in front of the hotel, looking for all the world, with his bowler and his buttons, like an avid fan of the people's Church. He noted that those leaving the rally had jammed the downtown streets, eager to mill around and continue partying with—anyone and everyone who didn't want the night to end. He kept an eye on some one hundred prune-faced protesters who were marching in front of the Intercontinental with banners and sandwich boards attacking Cardinal Mahony as a traitor and a schismatic and a heretic. Barney was happy to see the police roust the protesters down the sidewalk and away from the hotel—happy because he was not among them. His disguise was working.
NOW NICK PIKE AND HIS WIFE, ANNE, have become separated from Cardinal Mahony and his entourage, walking the three blocks from Carroll Park to the Intercontinental. They have missed a traffic signal a block back, and are headed to the Intercontinental on a parallel course with the Mahony party on the other side of Fifth Street. Anxious to catch up to the Mahony group before they hit the hotel entrance, Pike tells Anne he will see her later in the campaign suite, then sprints ahead, laughing to himself at how well the evening had gone.
A half-million at the rally in the park, a spectacle that would surely put part of the Mahony speech on the networks' late news shows. And, now that the fundies have been rousted—he can see the cops shoving them farther south on Fifth Street—Pike knows there will be no embarrassing confrontation in front of the hotel, where television news teams have already taken up a vigil, ready to capture the cardinal on camera as he enters the hotel. He wants the cardinal to get a good night's rest, maybe even sleep in before the gigantic liturgy on Saturday morning. What a coup, he thinks, to open the Council with the black gospel choir—a hundred heavenly voices—from St. Augustine's Church in Washington, D.C.
Pike is still on the wrong side of Fifth Street when he notices one of the cardinal's fans, wearing a red, white, and blue People's Church bowler on his head and We Are Church buttons pinned all over the front of his denim shirt. Even in the relative darkness, there is enough light from the surrounding neon signs and the passing cars for Pike to note something freaky about him, something suspicious. And when he sees the man step out of the crowd and make an awkward move up the sidewalk toward the cardinal with both hands in the pockets of his baggy overalls, he is sure of it.
In his mind's eye, in fact, Pike does not see Barney Mulvey, but, flashing all the way back to the Los Angeles Ambassador Hotel in 1968, Sirhan Sirhan.
God damn it! Not again! Here is Pike's chance to redeem himself for failing Bobby Kennedy way back in 1968. He leaps into the street, sidesteps two passing cars and is slammed to the ground by a braking taxi. In a second, he bounces back on his feet and continues his rush toward the cardinal.
"STOP!" Pike shouts, hoping to distract the freaky figure with his hands in his pockets.
He does, for a moment.
Barney turns on Pike, now ten feet away, pulls out his revolver, and fires, hitting Pike in the palm of his raised right hand. Then he does a quick about-face and, from a squatting position, pops off five more rounds toward Cardinal Mahony before Pike tackles him down.
THE COPS GRAB BARNEY, of course, but, by then, Roger Michael Mahony lies on the sidewalk, one bullet lodged close to his spine and another in his neck, a thin trail of dark blood running down the sidewalk. He can speak, but his words cannot quite keep up with his racing thoughts.
On the threshold of, of wherever he is going, he is sure the Trinity father son and holy mother will attend his arrival, nothing in this world Los Angeles California Baltimore Maryland where is he United States of America planet Earth nothing means very much now funny how your perspective changes on your deathbed only it isn't a bed it is a gritty piece of concrete in Baltimore Roman Catholic Church autochthonous American Church and all the ships at sea. Nothing's that important.
Except, of course, Juana Margarita Obregón. When he opens his eyes he sees her there, kneeling at his side and holding his head while the emergency medics are hooking up an IV for him, taping a needle to his left arm and raising a bottle of clear fluid. He smiles at her presence there and he wonders where are the others, those happy few, those brothers and sisters who fought with me it has been less than a year battling in a beautiful, laughing, crying cause show me a man (or a woman) without a cause and I will show you a man (or a woman) who is less than a man (or a woman).
As they are lifting him onto the stretcher, he tries to say their names. They come out in a mumble. "Nick, Sean, Ted, Phoebe."
Juana Margarita Obregón tells him, "They're right here, all except Sean Sunnyhill who's in Rome right now. Do you want to see them?" And of course he does, nodding yes, I want to tell them not to give up the fight, no matter what, because because well he doesn't have to tell them why—they are the ones who have had to tell him why in the first place.
Phoebe follows the stretcher on its short rolling run to the waiting ambulance. So does Rackham, who has somehow managed to angle his wheelchair next to the ambulance, a foot or two away from Phoebe and Anne and Nick Pike, holding his right hand high with an improvised tourniquet wrapped around his wrist, a strap from Anne's leather purse.
The cardinal is glad they aren't blubbering, not even speaking, but just . . . there. He doesn't have any more to say either. There is so little left to say—except thank you. Which he does. "Thank you and bless you." His final words, just audible enough for them to hear, and respond, "Amen" before the ambulance pulls away, its lights flashing, its sirens screaming.
ARCHBISHOP PIETRO SAMBI, the papal nuncio in Washington, begins working on a terna—a list of three candidates for the next archbishop of Los Angeles. The Catholics of Los Angeles, demanding the right to elect Mahony's successor, start to work on their own list of candidates.
THE FOURTH COUNCIl OF BAlTIMORE does not commence as planned on July 4, 2009. The American bishops postpone the Council indefinitely, possibly for another full year. Archbishop George Niederaurer tells a news conference at Baltimore Washington International Airport it isn't fair for the Council to proceed without Mahony. He says, "Cardinal Mahony was the leader of the change party in the American Church. That party represents something good in the American Church. It is not only leaderless now but pretty much in mourning and confusion."
Nick Pike is in mourning, too, but he is even more confused when Rackham wheels into the campaign headquarters in Los Angeles on July 15, shouting and waving his laptop. "Just happened to be browsing yesterday in the Hawk's old e-mail archive," he tells Pike. "Seems our friend had a friendly correspondence going with a Barney Mulvey at yahoo dot com. Not sure if this is the nut who shot Roger. But in April, look here, the Hawk got this Mulvey a janitor's job—at the archdiocese of Baltimore."
"Jeez," says Pike. "look at this story from yesterday's New York Times." He hands Rackham the paper and Rackham shakes his head over the headline:
FBI REPORT: MAHONY ASSASSIN ACTED ALONE DEFENSE TO PLEAD INSANITY IN MULVEY TRIAL
"We'll see about this," says Rackham, slapping the Times on Pike's desk. He points to his laptop. "I gotta go to the FBI with this." For a long moment, Pike cannot speak. Finally, he says, "Can you even go to the FBI?"
Pike frowns and shakes his head. "You gonna tell the FBI how you got the Hawk's e-mail correspondence? This will incriminate you. Could put you in prison."
"And if this is the same Mulvey who shot Roger, you gonna tell the FBI the Hawk had something to do with the shooting? This could put the Hawk in the gas chamber."
"And maybe some people in Baltimore, too!"
"Jesus!" says Pike.
"Is that a prayer?"
"Huh?" Pike looks dazed. "I guess it better be. Lord help us."
"CARDINAL MAHONY – A NOVEL" now serialised in Spanish HERE
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Other books by Robert Blair Kaiser:
A Church in Search of Itself
The Politics of Sex and Religion
“R.F.K. Must Die!”
Pope, Council and World
Co-author (with Tim Smith): Jubilee 2000, A Musical Comedy
ROBERT BLAIR KAISER spent ten years in the Society of Jesus, then, three years shy of ordination, left the Jesuits to pursue a career in journalism. He covered Vatican II for Time, worked on the religion beat for the New York Times, and served as journalism chairman at the University of Nevada Reno. Four of his eleven published books deal with Catholic Church reform. This is his first novel.
Kaiser won the Overseas Press Club Award in 1963 for the "best magazine reporting of foreign affairs" — for his reporting on the Vatican Council. Editors at three newspapers have nominated him for Pulitzer Prizes, and the book publisher E.P. Dutton nominated him for another Pulitzer for his exhaustive 634-page book on the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, which was revised and republished by the Overlook Press of New York in June 2008.
From 1999 to 2005, Kaiser was a contributing editor in Rome for Newsweek magazine and a Vatican consultant for CBS-TV. He lives in Phoenix, Arizona, USA.
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