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Monday, April 19, 2004

My short analysis of the reason behind the inertia of American Catholic bishops.

I've lifted this from my comment at another blog, and modified it somewhat:

Some of the inaction is probably because the ordinary in question is compromised, either personally or because he has protected compromised people (the good ol' mafiosi).(1) I think some of it is because even if the bishop is basically orthodox, his chancery is packed with Reporter groupies (or even writers) who are not, and who openly sympathize with the causes of the Class of '67. As a result he thinks he has to tread lightly. Even if he doesn't have to--but he simply can't afford to be regarded as "unpastoral." Eeek--bad publicity!

Beyond that, here's my best possible spin theory on our current situation.
Ultimately, there is an operative mandate to the good bishops (read: those who might feel like listening)--a "Commandment," if you will. This Commandment from On High (Rome) reads: Thou Shalt Do Nothing To Provoke A De Jure Schism. If that means passivity in the face of provocation from the mafiosi, the rebellious Class of ‘67, the bad Catholic pols, the bad Jesuit universities (yes, almost redundant)--the lot, well, so be it. In the meantime, preach, wait until they’re all safely dead, reform your rotten seminary so you can start getting replacements and things will gradually get better. Almost imperceptibly, but still, better.

When the rebels make like Solomon in the temple, ruining churches, the liturgy, universities, catechesis, moral training, formation, the orders, biblical study, etc--well, that’s still better than schism, which will drag even more souls to Hell in the process, because the church set up by the bolsheviks will be indistinguishable from the Piskies in five years, tops. With no schism, some folks will still get sacraments. They won't understand what they are getting, but they will get them none the less.

The best proof for my theory is to watch how the bishops close to the Pope behave in their sees. Consider how Cardinal George acts in the hornet’s nest of Chicago, and it becomes clear--he’s following the advice/commandment to a “t.” He’s preaching at and waiting for Bernardin’s coddled rebels to die, and to replace them with the new guys coming on stream from the reformed seminary at Mundelein (he had the largest ordination class in the U.S. last year).

Ditto here in Detroit, to a lesser degree, where the Pope's friend Cardinal Maida has gradually made changes, starting again with a vastly improved seminary. For example: where Fr. Anthony "Anything Goes!" Kosnik once roamed the halls, spewing BS, Prof. Janet Smith actually teaches moral theology to slowly growing classes of future priests, deacons and, of course, laity going into diocesan positions.

From what I hear, similar things are happening in Denver, Atlanta, and similar places around the country.

The first problem with this, of course, is that the strategy takes forever and gives no encouragement to those (formerly?) most inclined to back the bishops to the hilt, a/k/a “Those fanatics who take this crap seriously.” As David Carlin notes in his wake up call of a book, the American Catholic episcopate are in reality horrible politicians. When you consider that no politicians in history have p****d on (ok, a paraphrase) a core constituency quite like the American bishops have on “authentic Catholics,” (his phrase, not mine), his point becomes clear.

The second problem is that only emphasizes the first mark of the Church ("We are one church--there are sixty five million of us in this country and growing--everything's dandy here!"), and does nothing about the bishops whose behavior was at the center of the scandal in the first place. If the progressives have made one superb point, it's that sunshine is a great disinfectant--when chanceries turn into closed bunkers where the bishop hears what he wants to and is responsible to no one, least of all to those doofus pew warmers who occasionally disturb the equanimity of him or his staff with their puling complaints, you get where we are today.

The third problem is related to the second--it only works where the ordinary tries to reform. If things are "juuuust fine" in the benighted Diocese of Podunk ("Where the Spirit is Leading Us Somewhere!"), it's going to stay "juuuust fine" till Bishop Newkirk retires, and all the complaints in the world aren't going to change a thing.

The fourth problem is related to the third: it leaves the people of God groaning under the regime of an unaccountable made man who is there until retirement. If he wants to impose his vision, he and his staff will, and careerism will help bring most of the rest of the diocese in line. There is a reason you don't hear the phrase "bureaucratic courage."

Fifth, the strategy can be indistinguishable from inaction, and can be a great excuse from shying away from the job. Sometimes inertia is just inertia.

Finally, please note that I'm not excusing the Pope here. He's appointed a significant proportion of the episcopate, and is also responsible for leaving them in place. If he wants to operate like an Orthodox prelate, that's his perogative. But there is a steep cost to be paid for acting as the Patriarch of the West, as opposed to the Sovereign Pontiff.

And it would be nice to get the beauty of an Orthodox Divine Liturgy once in a while for our trouble.

[If you comment on this one, careful--I'll shut down comments quick if they go overboard. As in drain the swamp, if you catch my drift.]

(1) Duh! Alert: I don't endorse every sentiment in every item I link.

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