I was going to answer Leila in a comment, and then I just went on and on and on and on. So I made it a whole new post. Make sure you read “Ha, Vindication!” before this.
Oh, yes yes you can certainly agree with both! In fact, probably Mr. Nadal is more correct than I, if anything. His statistics are frightening, his points about the progressive decline of morality in society are completely valid. I've just been surrounded by bishop-trashing people since I went to Christendom. They are well meaning Catholics, I know, and they've been burned on stuff by liberal or lazy bishops in the past (nothing to do with the sex scandal, either, just "stuff" in general). So, these people absolutely refuse to give the bishops any credit for anything they do.
Thus is begotten firestorms like the one over John Corapi, where people rejoice in a man's leaving the priesthood because it will "stick it to the bishop" and hopefully "set a new precedent for priests who are unjustly treated by bishops and the flawed Canon Law process." What?? Since when is the Magisterium and hierarchy of the Church so worthless that we place a lone priest above it in our opinion? Oh, I know. Since the American Church started disintegrating in the wake of gross abuses following Vatican II. Perhaps I could refresh people’s memory on….say, the Arian heresy? Jansenism? Avignon? Times of distress in the Church are never times to abandon the bishops and say, “Puh, you hypocritical old sinners. Where have YOU been for the last 40 years?” Times of distress are times to search diligently for the faithful priests, to support them, to spread their words, to share with our tired brothers and sisters the news of a good bishop here, or a fantastic diocese there. We should give one another hope.
I don't blame people for being jaded, tried, irritated, or even for blaming the bishops, saying either they are hypocritical or else just clueless until too late. I don't blame them--you could ask Joseph how many times over the last year I've thrown up my hands and said, "Argh! Look at this mess! Why even bother being Catholic any more??"
But the minute we sit back and dismiss active good being done by bishops, we're nailing our own coffin. Remember, these are men, who need to be supported with both heart and voice. Praying for bishops and priests is the first duty of the laity in this regard, but they also need to see and hear that we support their message of Truth, whenever and wherever we find it! For 40 years, we’ve been letting marriage slip through our cultural fingers, with contraception, divorce, abortion, etc. True. America is in a mell of a hess. But when was the last time you actually heard a priest come out and say contraception was right? How many bishops advertise “free, easy, Catholic divorce” in their dioceses? The Church has stood strong on the rightness or wrongness of these basic issues, and it would be unfair to deny that fact. If somewhere, somehow, priests and bishops weren’t preaching the sanctity of life, then people wouldn’t be leaving the Church because of that preaching. Am I making sense?
I live in a pretty tight community, generally conservative, and I can easily say that half the people I meet “grew up Catholic” and are no longer practicing. Most of them are divorced. (Another 25% of people are still Catholic. That leaves a mere 25% of people in the armed forces who are not Catholic, nor have they ever been. This saturation of Catholics in the military, by the way, makes it just loud and clear to me that the Church very obviously does not teach that war/warmaking/national defense is wrong. I mean, can you imagine if a quarter of the abortion providers in the country were practicing Catholics? Yet people insist to me that the church says all war is wrong. Bah.) These people are out of the Church, no longer attending Mass, because they didn’t like the message they were given. They didn’t want to amend or adjust their lifestyle, so they left. If priests and bishops weren’t preaching the Truth, why would they leave? I think there’s a disconnect somewhere, and priests and bishops are being given the short end of the stick.
Buuut. All that said, I think Nadal has good points. I just feel like the tendency in general is to not give credit. Lots of people I know will read his article, hear only the “bishops are either hypocritical or are doing too little, too late” and then just ignore the rest. They want ammunition to tear down the bishops, plain and simple. Ah well. Enough for now.