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Pope's Firmness on Church Teachings Pleases Mahony

September 24, 1987|RUSSELL CHANDLER | Times Religion Writer

Los Angeles Archbishop Roger M. Mahony insisted Wednesday that Pope John Paul II's stern admonition during his U.S. visit that "good Catholics" must obey all of the teachings of the church will make his job as spiritual leader of the nation's largest archdiocese easier rather than harder.

"That is because I think he was able to . . . speak clearly about God's plan and design in a very loving and accepting way . . . which leaves people feeling important with their minds open," Mahony said in his first extensive comments on last week's papal visit.

During his 11-day visit to the United States and Canada, the Pope repeatedly and pointedly said Catholics could not "pick and choose" which beliefs they would follow.

At a closed-door session with 320 U.S. bishops in Los Angeles, the pontiff warned that dissent from church doctrine on "a number of questions, notably sexual and conjugal morality, divorce and remarriage" and abortion "is a grave error that challenges the teachings of the bishops. . . ."

A Los Angeles Times Poll taken last month showed that many U.S. Catholics do not accept the church's prohibition against such things as contraception, divorce, married priests and the ordination of women. Moreover, by a 10-1 margin, those surveyed believed they could disagree with such teachings and remain loyal members of the church, a position pointedly rejected by John Paul. Several other nationwide polls taken around the time of the Pope's visit reached similar conclusions.

But Mahony--known to strictly adhere to the Pope's positions--said Wednesday that "a number of things are simply unchangeable and don't reflect popular opinion." The Pope's words "called us to our basic faith tradition in a loving and helpful way . . . that defused confrontation," Mahony said after a press conference.

Meanwhile, speaking at the Vatican on Wednesday, John Paul said he had observed a "profound bond" between American Catholics and the Holy See and expressed hope for further spiritual growth in the United States.

The pontiff said the pivotal meeting with the prelates in Los Angeles had allowed them "to touch on the nerves of the problems, whether it be doctrinal or pastoral, in the life of the church in that great and varied society," the Associated Press reported.

Mahony said the meeting with the bishops was not characterized by "big battles of dissent" as some had predicted. "It was a very, very good exchange," he said. "We were looking very carefully at cultural aspects (of the faith) that can be supportive rather than destructive of the Catholic tradition."

The archbishop said he had told John Paul about the homeless people who had to be moved out of the Skid Row area around St. Vibiana's Cathedral for security reasons while the Pope stayed at the downtown cathedral's rectory.

"He was saddened that anybody had to be disturbed during his stay here," Mahony said. "He said that would never have been his wish. But he said something like, 'When I come to another country I'm in the hands of others.'

"But he also said, 'If my displacing them aroused the public need to respond . . . then I am pleased about that.' "

Mahony said the archdiocese's cost for the Pope's two-day Los Angeles visit was about $2.6 million. About $2 million is being raised by individual parishes with the archdiocese picking up the rest as needed, Mahony said.

Mahony called the press conference at the Catholic Charities office to announce one-year grants totaling $163,000 from the church's national Campaign for Human Development to five local agencies that work with low-income residents. They are the South Central Organizing Committee, $30,000; the East Valleys Organization, $40,000; the San Fernando Organizing Committee, $35,000; the L.A. Jobs with Peace Organizing Committee, $28,000, and the United Neighborhoods Organization, $30,000.

The archbishop also presented $65,000 to the National Union of the Homeless, a 4-year-old organization based in Philadelphia with nine regional chapters including Los Angeles. Ronald Darnaby, national vice president of the group, said the money will be used to train homeless people "how to organize" and "empower and stabilize their lives."

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