The following comes from a November 6 blog post by Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, Archbishop Emeritus of Los Angeles:

The Gospel which we just heard is one of my favorites primarily because it has spoken to me so powerfully both as I approached official retirement, and after retiring.

Picture in your imagination this servant who has just come in after spending a long and tiring day out in the hot sun tending the farm for his master.  Just what was he doing?  What we are all called to do as laborers in the field:  plowing the fields for a good harvest, or tending the sheep and other animals.  Both are also pastoral activities for us as priests:  plowing the fields, sowing the seeds of faith, cultivating the small plants as they grow in the life of Jesus, weeding the rows from sin and evil.  A marvelous description of what we are called to do in our daily ministry!

As I reflect back on my own years of ministry, those words of Jesus resonate so deeply within me:  “…say, ‘We are unprofitable servants.’”  My own failures, sins, and mistakes loom high on the horizon over the span of years, and I feel the helplessness of knowing I can’t turn back the clock and correct them.  While my failures and mistakes are far too many to count, two dark and foreboding clouds hover in the skies above me, and there is nothing I can do to dispel them; they will haunt me until the end of my earthly journey.

The first dark cloud was the difficult and impossible clash in the San Joaquin Valley between the farmers and the farmworkers.  Back in the 1960s farmworkers began organizing themselves in order to receive better wages, to improve their working conditions, and to negotiate for benefits which so many other workers took for granted.  All of my efforts to try to bring about reconciliation among the parties brought little success.  Those were frustrating and challenging years for me as I watched my meager efforts dissolve month after month, year after year.

It is hard for me to re-visit that period of time from 1965 to 1980.  My soul keeps raising the “what if” questions:  what if I had found better paths to bring together growers and workers to recognize the rights of each other?  What if I had been a stronger voice on behalf of the farmworkers in order to help increase their salaries and benefits?  What if I had dared taking more risks in order to be a better instrument of God’s peace and justice?

Instead, I now look back on those years, realizing that any progress was far outdistanced by the paltry efforts which I brought to assist the thousands of poor farmworkers and their families living such difficult and tragic lives.

The second black and ominous cloud was the scourge of the clergy sexual misconduct of minors.  This dreadful experience proved yet again the fact that I was and remain an unprofitable servant.

I don’t recall ever hearing about any such clergy misconduct cases during my years in the Diocese of Fresno, 1962 to 1980; in the Diocese of Stockton, I encountered three cases in the year before being named to Los Angeles.  I was stunned to learn that any priest could possibly harm children and youth in this dreadful manner.

From 1986 on, however, this unthinkable evil would gradually begin to rise from the murky darkness.  And it would seem to never end.  My early efforts failed to grasp the depth and extent of this sinfulness, and I searched in vain for answers and how best to proceed.  I did not understand how deeply victims of sexual abuse were permanently afflicted; that would only emerge in later years.  Almost daily I proved to be unequal to the task.

It was not until the early 1990s that several things became clearer:  anyone in ministry who had been credibly found to abuse a minor could never return to ministry; victims needed urgent and continuing pastoral care for years to come; all of our Church apostolates needed to be fully vigilant against allowing anyone to be with children and youth who could possibly be a danger to them.

But it was those early years of the scandal which are the most haunting for me since my response was not fully that of an apostle of Jesus Christ.  How I wish I could return to those years with today’s understandings and undo all of my mistakes and failures.