Mahony gives bishop a break
Cardinal Mahony announced in the June 3 issue of THE TIDINGS that his auxiliary bishop, Gabino Zavala, will be taking a sabbatical from July to December. According to the report, the purpose of the sabbatical will be "to provide [Zavala] time for spiritual and theological renewal, an ecclesial experience and time for the exploration of personal interests and talents."
There is something very odd about all this.
First, this announcement comes without any advanced notice. There is a suddenness about it that is somewhat troubling.
Second, there is the cryptic "churchspeak" that is used to explain the purpose of the sabbatical.
"Spiritual and theological renewal"
The Tidings blurb does state that Zavala will begin his time off with a 30 day Ignatian retreat. Okay, so he's going on a month long retreat. Nothing wrong with that.
Then it says he's going to Rome "where [Zavala] hopes to explore in depth the ecclesial and cultural history of the Church." Nothing wrong with that either. Everyone should get "Romanized," and no one stands in need of it more than Bishop Zavala. But what does this mean exactly? Will Zavala be attending a course at one of the pontifical universities, or perhaps catching up on his reading of Ratzinger books, or simply hanging around Italian restaurants for a couple of months?
"Time for an ecclesial experience"
According to the Tidings, Zavala will spend some time in Brazil "where he hopes to experience the Church in Latin America in its work for justice." Again, the language is vague. Will he be on some sort of "fact finding tour?" Will he be doing pastoral work somewhere in that huge country (does Zavala speak Portuguese?)? Or will he be simply enjoying life on the beaches of Rio?
"Time for the exploration of personal interests and talents"
A time for exploring? What the heck does that mean? Will he be taking up cooking lessons or line dancing? At 54 years of age -- in his prime -- the bishop is taking time off to find himself? This strikes me as very strange indeed.
My theory is -- and it's just a theory -- that Bishop Zavala is just a little bummed out. He's been an auxiliary in Los Angeles since 1994 and it's got to be difficult working under Cardinal Mahony. And now it's suddenly dawned on him that the only "ecclesial experience" he is going to have is right where he is. For a youngish auxiliary bishop who certainly had higher ambitions (i.e., a diocese of his own), the thought of staying in L.A. for the rest of his days has got to be a little depressing.
When the Phoenix diocese opened up because of the O'Brien debacle, there was much talk about Zavala taking that post. When Olmstead got the nod instead (thanks be to God!), there were reports that Zavala was more than a little disappointed because he had been passed over for the job.
Some observers say that Mahony's influence in Rome has shrunk when it comes to the appointment of bishops. Mahony's men -- and Zavala is one of them -- can no longer count on receiving the consideration they once did or at least they will be considered with more hesitation. And if this was true before it is all the more so now under a Pope Benedict papacy.
So whatever the reason -- only God, Gabino and the all-knowing Cardinal know for sure -- the guy probably does need a break. So let's give him a break and keep him in our prayers.
By the way, Bishop Zavala was ordained a priest along with Father "Bill" Messenger.
N.B. The Zavala story cannot be found in the online version of the Tidings, only in the print version. Otherwise I would have linked it.