Monday, June 27, 2011

Bishops, Part Two

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.


  1. I don't disagree with you and you have great points! Thank you for diving into this for me.

    The only thing I am not sure about is this: 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 actually left the practice of the Faith because I didn't hear anything solid or consistent. I was a political conservative who couldn't stomach the parish I sometimes went to, because it was so liberal and fluffy. I went to become a "Bible Christian" precisely because they stood up for Christ and the moral law (as they understood it), with fire and courage. I think half of those in that church were young ex-Catholics. But I write about that in my reversion story.

    Anyway, you've given me much to think about! Thank you!!

  2. Well, both of my mom's siblings left the Church because they didn't like being told "no" on divorce and marriage issues. Lots of the people I'm teaching now in RCIA left the Church for similar reasons, and are now coming back.

    Now that you've said it, though, I agree with what you said, too--lack of solidity is a factor, too. A couple of my students from last year knew what they learned from their moms, they had some basics in the back of their head (Communion is Jesus, and I'm not allowed to get a divorce) but there wasn't much substance beyond that. In short, they weren't taught enough to make it worth staying, I guess.

    Good points. I'm just sick of the whole thing, altogether, in or out, up or down, left or right. I'm tired of my attempts at education being undermined by [vocal] fringe priests or bishops who do wrong. I'm tired of knowing what the liturgy should look like, and yet never being able to FIND a liturgy that looks that way. And I'm especially tired of people failing to recognize and applaud good when they see it, because they're like me and are tired and jaded and annoyed at the state of the Church. :P

    So. I'm not exactly a balanced commentator here, by any means. :) It just struck me that it was nice to hear some bishops standing up for something right, and doing it loud enough that it made it into the New York Daily News.

  3. Yes, I'm with you.

    How's this for more to talk about?

    I think he's on to something.

  4. Ah me. I don't know. I guess I flatter myself as something of a front-line Catholic, in the sense that I meet very, very, very "average" Catholics and try to instruct them, making an impact in sometimes as short as 6 months before they ship off to the next spot. I see what they need, I hear what they want...the discussions that happen on your blog, Leila, are real. Those conversations are the ones that actually happen every day. Those conversations are the ones that make a difference in evangelization. We don’t have conversations about why the bishops aren’t excommunicating more. Their picture of the Catholic world outside their parish comes solely from mainstream news outlets. They’ve never heard the names Burke, Chaput, or Gomez. They know either “new sex scandal erupts” or “New York bishops slam gay marriage act.”

    Really, I'm taking all this personally, i.e. only looking at it from my immediate perspective. I think Catholics should stick together publicly, and support priests and bishops in every possible instance. Someone asks you why Catholic politicians still get to receive communion even when they're pro-choice? I'd say, "Perhaps their bishop has spoken to them privately. Perhaps there's been conversations that we don't know about. We all know Nancy Pelosi went to talk to the Pope, and she came out of that telling everyone what a great theological conversation they had. Who believes that?? So maybe the actions/words of a politician shouldn't give us quite so much of our perspective on how a bishop does or does not defend the Faith."

    That would be me, and I suppose that Nadal is right, and that someone, somewhere, needs to be taking a hard line with the bishops. We should be writing letters, we should be having priests over to dinner and discussing these kinds of things. What do they think? How do they act? What kind of relationship do our local politicians have with the Church? I have a feeling that your average down-on-the-bishop Catholic doesn’t do a lot of letter writing, just a lot of whining. :P

    I think that Nadal’s suggestion to impose something akin to the Dallas Charter on bishops who "fail" to enforce excommunication is totally out of line, but he might just be speaking rhetorically. I mean, what would it accomplish to just cut off bishops they second they step out of line? Who will replace them? I imagine that Nadal and others argue that poor discipline of political figures is just as dangerous to the spiritual wellbeing of the faithful as pedophilia is dangerous to the physical wellbeing of the faithful. I wouldn’t know how to answer their argument, either. After all, our goal is to save souls, right? The answer that comes to mind right away is “apparent inaction shouldn’t be construed as guilt any more than alleged wrongdoing.” I mean, that’s what they’re up in arms about with accused priests, that mere allegations get them out on their ear. Isn’t assuming that the bishop is doing nothing a similar offense?

    Sigh. As you see, I’m not really on sure footing with all this either. I think Dolan, et al, did the right thing this weekend. I applaud them. As for all the rest…dunno. :(