In Defense of Margaret Mata

She didn’t want more money. She wasn’t seeking a promotion. She didn’t ask for a broader job title. She wasn’t trying to push anyone else aside. 

She just wanted to help. And she was punished for it.

Margaret Mata did what any employer would welcome – she volunteered her valuable skills to help her bosses in a crisis.

However, for caring and taking initiative, being honest and offering help – she was harassed, investigated and forced out by a secretive, rigid, self-serving Catholic hierarchy that must have realized that a caring, competent professional like Margaret wouldn't be able or willing to keep their corrupt secrets.  

In May, Catholic officials learned of Margaret’s 20+ years of experience in child sex cases. They must have realized that a smart, conscientious children’s advocate at some point couldn’t abide by their deception. So they launched a months-long effort – sometimes subtle, sometimes not – to force her out. Eventually, they succeeded.

Any one or two facts or incidents might be “explained away.” But look at the whole sad series of events – taking her computer, deleting files, blocking access, pretending to install virus protection, confiscating her business cards, changing her email address, reading private correspondence, questioning her about her relatives, changing her role, imposing an unprecedented “gag order” on her and making it virtually impossible for her to do her job.

And note this crucial sentence in the lawsuit: A diocesan managerial employee told Mata “that he knew the diocese had worked hard to make her leave.”

Margaret says, over and over and as recently as yesterday, that there are many good people working in the diocesan headquarters. On one hand, we know she must be right. On the other, we wonder why more of them aren’t speaking up.

We hope Margaret’s courage will inspire them. It must feel like a tough choice for them - possible job loss but clear conscience OR silence and deceit about child endangerment and sexual misdeeds.

We urge current and former church employees – at the chancery and elsewhere – there’s no amount of money can compensate for a guilty conscience.

We beg church employees to remember the Biblical passage about “laying up treasure in heaven, not on earth.” And Jesus’ admonition to find and help the “lost sheep,” plus his warning that what we do “to the least of these” matters most.

Stay silent and remain part of the problem, or speak up and become part of the solution. That’s the simple choice for Catholic employees. The right, moral choice may feel hard, but it must also be clear – speak up, expose wrongdoers, help law enforcement, and protect innocent kids and vulnerable adults.

Margaret is a kind person and a consummate professional. She did the right thing. She’s paying a price for it. And she deserves our praise and support. Because of her courage and compassion, corruption is being exposed and kids will be safer. We in SNAP consider her a hero.

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