The appointment by Pope John Paul II of Roger M. Mahony as archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles is cause for celebration. Like the man he succeeds, Cardinal Timothy Manning, the new archbishop is committed to community betterment, with a particular concern for the poor and the disadvantaged.
For Mahony this will be a homecoming, the native son returning to fill a post of influence and leadership in the largest archdiocese in the United States. He comes as the youngest archbishop in the nation, 49 years old, but a man already with credentials as a vigorous leader in the community and within his church as bishop of Stockton.
His commitment to the cause of justice will be facilitated by the work of Manning in the 15 years during which he has served as archbishop. In a quiet, reverent way Manning led the archdiocese constructively through a period that for many other dioceses was destructive and divisive. He made Skid Row his home, living in the rectory of St. Vibiana Cathedral even after street violence forced him to curtail evening walks among the destitute and homeless. He made himself available "as much as I can to every segment, night and day, seven days a week," and often turned his vacations into opportunities to visit the mission field abroad. He was uncompromising in his fight against all forms of exploitation and moral indifference: "We must teach people that passivity in the face of exploitation and abuse is not Christian." And he preached the Gospel of reconciliation with the requisite tools of "courage and humility."
Mahony has been more visible and aggressive in his church leadership--a style that should fit well the needs of the archdiocese and the community at this moment in history. And he comes particularly qualified for leadership in this archdiocese--fluent in Spanish where more than half his membership are Spanish-speaking, familiar with the problems and needs as a native son and close collaborator with Manning, and already active in some of the major issues confronting the city, the region and the state.
His activism was perhaps most conspicuous when he took the chairmanship of the state's Agricultural Labor Relations Board, an agency that grew out of a statewide campaign for fairer treatment of farm workers--a campaign in which the Catholic bishops, including Mahony, played a major role. He has also been a step ahead of the national church with personal statements on peace and economic justice that anticipated subsequent pastoral letters drawn by the U.S. Conference of Bishops.
The religious leadership has, through the generations, contributed much to the strength and quality of life in Southern California. Manning has been one of the major contributors. So, doubtless, will Mahony be. He continues, with many others, the search for reconciliation--equipped, it would seem, with the requisite "courage and humility."