On February 16, 2001, Cardinal Mahony spoke with Beliefnet and AOL members about issues facing his diocese and the Catholic Church as a whole.

Moderator: Good afternoon! Today we will be joined by Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony. We'll discuss challenges facing the U.S. Catholic Church as it enters the third millennium and anything else on your mind. This is the Cardinal's sixth annual online appearance and one of the highlights for the more than 32,000 attendees at the Religious Education Congress in Anaheim, California.

Moderator: Good morning/afternoon, Cardinal.

Cardinal Mahony: Hi, everyone! How are we doing?

Moderator: Well, thanks. We're very glad you're joining us. Here's our first question:

Question: How do you keep track of all that is happening in the largest diocese in the US? Do you deal with much of the issues personally?

Cardinal Mahony: BLF: One depends on many, many folks to assist. Priests, laity, religious. Great collaboration. I deal with a lot of things personally, but with over 5 million Catholics, lots of folks help me.

Question: My question to the cardinal is about teens and religious ed--how do you keep teens interested?

Cardinal Mahony: Great challenge keeping teens interested. We need to have them know Jesus Christ in some personal way.

Question: Here in North Texas, the Bishops have issued a letter regarding Eucharistic Ministers washing the Cup after Mass. I noticed at the end that they are now to be "vested" again. Is this Letter on the national level or just North Texas?

Cardinal Mahony: It is up to the local Bishops to make those determinations. Vesting is a local issue.

Question: I'd like to know if the question of women priests is an "if" or a "when" issue?

Cardinal Mahony: The Church believes that it does not have the authority to make this change, that Jesus set up the Church in a certain way.

Question: Why is it OK for Episcopal convert priests to be married, but regular Catholic priests can't marry?

Cardinal Mahony: That's a good question. Our Eastern Rite Catholic priests also may marry. That is strictly a matter of Church discipline, and could be changed if the Pope so directed.

Question: Is there any movement towards a return to more classical Latin Liturgy, both in song and services?

Cardinal Mahony: Many of us want to retain the Latin traditions, hymns, etc., so that we don't lose that precious heritage.

Question: How much sleep do you get, Your Eminence? How do you make time for prayer? You must be so busy.

Cardinal Mahony: I am a morning person--up at 5 AM. Prayer early, then the rest of the day unfolds. But my tent folds at 10 PM.

What factors played a part in your decision to join the priesthood, how old were you when you made that decision?

Cardinal Mahony: I always thought about being a priest while in St. Charles grammar school, No Hollywood. God did the rest.

Question: How can historically English-speaking parishes change to accomodate newer ethnic groups?

Cardinal Mahony: It's really important that we welcome all of our new groups into our parishes. The diversity and richness makes the Church much stronger. But we have to work at it. All parishioners need to get to know one another, to meet each other, talk to each other, and share their fascinating stories. Once that happens, all kinds of barriers fall quickly.

Question: What is it like to be the bishop of Los Angeles ... a place more known for its celebrities than it's celibacy ;-)

Cardinal Mahony: Los Angeles is a great place, and there is a deep faith and sense of sacred here. Not everything is "Hollywood" shallow.

Question: What does Cardinal Mahony do to address the needs of Latino americans in his diocese?

Cardinal Mahony: Our Hispanic Catholics are a great blessing, and we are taking many active steps to welcome them, offer them worship in their own language, and recruit more Spanish speaking priests for them.

Question: Cardinal, are you worried that fewer people are attending Mass and that there are more lapsed Catholics?

Cardinal Mahony: Our churches are packed on Sundays, and most are too small. But we still need to reach out to the inactive Catholics. We need to do more to welcome them home.

Question: Cardinal, what are your favorite TV shows?

Cardinal Mahony: I mostly see TV news, not programs. I love the Discovery channel, PBS, and the History channel.

Question: Cardinal, what's the Mandatum?

Cardinal Mahony: The Mandatum is the official recognition and authority given by a Bishop to a theologian allowing that person to teach Catholic doctrine in that Diocese. Although part of the 1985 Code of Canon Law, it is just now being implemented.

Question: What does the Catholic Church think of unbaptized Catholics who receive Communion?

Cardinal Mahony: Only persons who are baptized and members of the Catholic Church are invited to receive Holy Communion. "Communion" means that one is in full harmony with the community and its beliefs.

Question:Cardinal, What do you consider a lapsed Catholic? Someone who doesn't go to church every week or something else?

Cardinal Mahony: A "lapsed" anyone is a person who no longer practices the beliefs that he/she had originally committed to. We try to reach out to them and to welcome them home, help them find comfort in Christ and the Church.

Question: How has your position on the death penalty evolved?

Cardinal Mahony: Over the years, I came to realize that the death penalty was not solving anything. Rather, it was creating a sense of vengeance and revenge among our people--totally against the Gospels.

Question:Cardinal Mahoney, The US and Britain have just bombed two Iraqi intelligence outposts. Today also happen to be the 10th anniversary of The Gulf War. Do you feel that we should have taken care of Saddam Hussein during the first Bush presidency?

Cardinal Mahony: Iraq is a very serious problem. So many innocent people, especially children, are suffering from Hussein and from the embargo. I wish the international community could find a lasting solution to Iraq that respects all parties, but which also allows for guarantees of safety on all sides.

Question: What are the vocation numbers like in your diocese in relation to the rest of the country...I understand that the numbers are pretty low nowadays...

Cardinal Mahony: We have an extensive vocations outreach effort, and this year we added 36 new seminarians. We hope to add at least 35 or so this coming Sept. So, the vocations are out there. We need to pray and to invite. The rest is in God's hands.

Question: How does he plan to address the Mandatum question? Theologians are very concerned about interference.

Cardinal Mahony: I met with 65 of our theologians last Fall, and I am working with them on the Mandatum implementation issue. I am confident that it will work just fine.

Question: With the health and population issues in poorer areas of the world, do you foresee the Church relaxing its stance on birth control any time in the future?

Cardinal Mahony: Obviously, a very difficult question. But the Church has been implementing many programs of approved birth control in places such as India with great success. Best aspect: these programs don't interfere with the beliefs and the customs of the local people.

Question: Not what is the Mandatum, but how will he implement it? That is the problem or question. What process will he use to decide if someone can teach theology?

Cardinal Mahony: The presumption will be that a properly qualified and trained theologian would be granted the Mandatum.

Question: You seem very computer literate, Cardinal. How did you get that way, and do you use the Internet regularly? When it lets you stay on that is!

Cardinal Mahony: I use the internet for lots of purposes. It's great when I travel to Rome, back east, etc. We have a great website for the new Cathedral, etc.

Question: Most kids and parents are squeezed for time after school and on weekends. If kids can't make it to CCD, is there some course parents can do with them at home?

Cardinal Mahony: Actually, the ideal is to have parents serve as the primary teachers of faith for their children. Parents can purchase a set of the books for home use. They come with the children's version, and the parents' version as well.

Question: Does your archdiocese screen CCD teachers?

Cardinal Mahony: We don't screen teachers. But all must be certified, and pass the necessary exams to be qualified to teach.

Cardinal Mahony: We have advanced programs for Master Catechists as well. All of this works well.

Question: I'm not Catholic--what is CCD?

Cardinal Mahony: CCD is really catechism, the teaching of the faith. Stands for "Confraternity of Christian Doctrine."

Question: Cardinal, how often do you meet with the Pope?

Cardinal Mahony: About three to five times a year. I'll see him next week for the Consistory of the new Cardinals.

Question: The Church is often very giving to charities, is there a reason why we don't hear to much about what charities they give to?

Cardinal Mahony: Actually, here in Los Angeles there is great publicity about our various outreach efforts. Programs for the homeless, shelters, Food Banks, and the like. Lots of media attention to all of those efforts.

Question: What do you see as the greatest challenges facing the US Catholic Church in the new century? What issue keeps you most busy now?

Cardinal Mahony: One of our greatest challenges here in Los Angeles: the enormous increase of Catholic population, and the need to expand our outreach services to all our people. Collaboration will be the key element for the future of the Church here.

Question: Are you still the chair of the Bishop's Social Justice program? How do we get this message to our fellow Catholics who think they just need to take care of themselves?

Cardinal Mahony: We need to have our people pray over the Gospels, see Jesus in action, His outreach to the poor, etc. We need to make the connection between personal faith and our broader concern for one another.

Question: Since married men may be ordained in the Eastern Catholic Churches, why don't the American Seminaries that form the Eastern priests accept married men?

Cardinal Mahony: The Eastern Rite Bishops reached an agreement with the Latin Rite Bishops many years ago that because 95% of our Catholics are Latin Rite, the Eastern Rites would not ordain married men. But this is not true in other parts of the world.

Question: Last Question. Cardinal, who do you think will be named to be the next Pope?

Cardinal Mahony: Only the Holy Spirit knows the answer to that question!!

Moderator: Thank you Cardinal This was a pleasure.

Cardinal Mahony: Thanks to all of you, and God bless you and your loved ones!!!

Moderator: Thanks for joining us! To talk about issues affecting Catholics today, visit Beliefnet's Catholic page: http://aol.beliefnet.com/index/index_1002 3.html

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