YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Mahony Apologizes to Parishioners, Offers New Plan : Religion: Cardinal temporarily brings back Spanish-speaking priest to St. Thomas Aquinas. Committee will be set up to work on outreach to Chinese Americans.


After a weeks-long struggle between a prideful Latino parish and an unmoved Roman Catholic archdiocese, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony has temporarily brought back a popular Spanish-speaking priest to a Monterey Park church.

In another concession, he also announced that the church will give members a voice in planning outreach to the Chinese American community via St. Thomas Aquinas Church, a parish of 1,200 families, most of them Latino.

Last month, the archdiocese announced plans to bring more Chinese Americans into the Catholic Church, in part by replacing St. Thomas Aquinas' one Spanish-speaking priest with two Chinese-speaking priests, as well as by moving a Chinese school to the church grounds and opening a Chinese community center there.

The plans, which were made without consulting church members, outraged Latino parishioners and many in the Chinese American community, who said the moves would stir up trouble between two ethnic groups that have been striving to live together peacefully.

Mahony appeared Sunday before St. Thomas parishioners to read a prepared apology and the revised plan. His action was a turnaround from the position the archdiocese had taken earlier this month when it rejected pleas for a meeting and chided the congregation for stirring up controversy, saying that the Catholic Church was not a democracy.

"We must be willing to admit when we have made mistakes, and to take action to correct those mistakes in a spirit of humility," Mahony read to the parish. "Once again I apologize for the hurt and pain this has caused your parish community."

But some parishioners said Mahony's actions fell short. They also were angry that the cardinal delivered his address on Sunday without answering their questions or seeking their comments.

"This could have been resolved so long ago if Cardinal Mahony had sat down with four members of the parish council and we could say with dignity and respect what we were expecting and avoid media," said Eddie Ramirez, 71, a leader in the fight to meet with Mahony over the church's future.

"But to this day, he is stubborn. He will not speak to us," Ramirez added.

Mahony's letter said that instead of proceeding immediately with its plans, the diocese would appoint Bishop Gabino Zavala, the new regional bishop for the San Gabriel Valley, to serve as chairman of a church planning committee.

Nine parishioners--three Latinos, three whites and three Chinese Americans--will be appointed by Zavala to serve on the committee. The move includes the parishioners in the planning for any Chinese American outreach.

In addition, Father Brian Cavanagh, the Spanish-speaking pastor transferred this month, will be returned to St. Thomas for the rest of 1994 to aid Father Delos Humphrey, the new pastor. But Ramirez said he was told by Cavanagh that the priest would be transferred at the end of the year to a Covina church.

Mahony said he hopes that the committee's work will be concluded by the fall, with a new Chinese American outreach program in place by the end of the year. St. Thomas' parishioners include 840 Latino families but only 20 Chinese American members.

Parishioner Monty Villajin, a Filipino American, said Mahony fooled no one by transferring Cavanagh back temporarily.

"The reason he did that is to pacify parishioners," said Villajin, a 57-year-old Monterey Park architect.

Villajin said many older Latinos in the church do not speak English and want to receive the Eucharist from somebody who speaks Spanish.

The archdiocese could not be reached for comment Monday.

Monterey Park City Councilman Sam Kiang, who had earlier criticized the archdiocese's plans, said he was pleased that Mahony moved before tensions escalated between the parish's Chinese American and Latino members.

"A lot of Chinese-speaking brothers and sisters are caught in the middle, but it's only for the time being," he said. "I'm glad Cardinal Mahony is trying to do something."

Los Angeles Times Articles