Religion : Msgr. Benjamin Hawkes: Msgr. Hawkes Never Lost Wry Sense of Humor

By Rick Meyer
Los Angeles Times
December 24, 1988

Several days before he suffered a fatal stroke, Msgr. Benjamin Hawkes demonstrated a wry sense of humor in a conversation that illustrated both his powerful role for two decades in the Los Angeles Catholic Archdiocese and the enmity fostered by his brusque style.

Right after Archbishop Roger M. Mahony took the reins of the large archdiocese in the first week of September, 1985, he accepted the resignation of Hawkes as administrative officer and treasurer. Many priests, expressing relief, saw a new day for their church--which in most other dioceses had introduced a more collegial approach to management.

Chancery officers nevertheless hoped during a transition period to glean from Hawkes the vast store of facts and figures that the 66-year-old priest "had all in his head," as one official put it. But Hawkes suffered a stroke Sept. 20 and died Sept. 22.

One prominent church official, who requested anonymity, visited with Hawkes earlier that week and asked him what he was going to do in his retirement.

"I'm going to Holy Cross," Hawkes replied crisply.

"Holy Cross Hospital?" asked the visitor, who knew that Hawkes had been ailing.

"No, Holy Cross Cemetery," Hawkes said.

Then, musing about how his demise would affect the archdiocese, Hawkes said: "Some of my priest friends have asked me to put a tube in the top of my grave so that they might consult with me after I'm gone." After a pause, he chuckled. "But I'd be afraid of what some priests might do in the tube."


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