“No Plans”

Can the institutional Church afford “no comment” on Big News like the Cardinal Mahony slapdown? Some seem happy to inhabit the conservative half of the blogosphere, where indeed the archbishop’s dust-up with Mother Angelica has not been forgotten. These folks are already Catholic. I’m interested in the commentary on the other side, where, supposedly, the evangelization (new or otherwise) will kick start. And where the institution hopes to make inroads among the youth to whom it admits it struggles to connect. This is a near-catastrophe for evangelization. Year of Faith? This is the Year of Losing Face.

The NCRep commentariat is expectedly skeptical. Long years of cover-up scandal cast a cloud of suspicion over a prelate who, by all media admissions, has done something unprecedented. Is he doing it to smooth the way for a quicker red hat in LA? Is this just a PR move for a guy who has had access to these records for the past two years–and only now makes a public move?

I’m inclined to go light on the guy. No way would he jump the gun on the legal process. It looks suspicious, but I think he had to wait. Unless he was willing to preempt the law and throw his cardinal to the wolves. I also don’t think Archbishop Gomez deserves any special kudos. He did nothing heroic, extraordinary, or something none of the rest of us would do.

Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesperson, told NCR that although he has received several requests for comment from news agencies, there are no plans at this time to issue a statement. Among other things, he said, the Vatican needs time “to better understand the situation.”

Rome does need time to understand what to do when an archbishop calls out a cardinal–whether or not they approved it. I’m not sure they did. If Archbishop Gomez “went rogue” on this, he’s in an almost invulnerable position, short-term. The Vatican is powerless to criticize him. The Vatican, however, was in a place to temporize. They could have issued a generic statement that the cover-up of wrongdoing in the clergy is gravely wrong. But it’s illustrative that Rome didn’t even say that.

My suspicion is that they have yet to recognize that their policy has long been seeped in moral relativism, to use the popular conservative term. If a priest is caught in predation, it can be justified that the deed is done. If the situation can be controlled, then keeping the offender out of circulation brings a moral satisfaction to predator-church relationship. Clearly, the victims are not at the center of the picture.

Additionally, this latest episode in California shows us that the prime sin is getting caught. Archbishop Gomez probably couldn’t make a move until his Church’s legal obstructions were depleted.

The institution in Rome comes off looking very bad–they must have been briefed on this. I wonder what their new Fox News bureaucrat would want to do …

The worse issue for Rome is the subjective way they handle scandal in the episcopacy. A long list of American bishops: Finn, Rigali, Bevilacqua, Law, McCormack, Walsh, Egan.. some cardinals, some well-respected–all with a strong stench of misconduct, if not actual sin. None disciplined. A few actually whisked away from consequences.

The worst part, if something like this were ever to break, would be if money were found to be at the bottom of any selective “fraternal correction” among bishops. The Legionnaires, Opus Dei, EWTN’s backers–these people have the money. Do they have the power behind the cathedrae, even if such power is exercised selectively against those not their own?

This is all evidence of a small (minded) church. The result for evangelization? Getting smaller.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
This entry was posted in bishops, Church News, Commentary, The Blogosphere. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to “No Plans”

  1. Charles says:

    I wonder, my brother, if there’s a factor missing in your analysis by (understandable) omission or commission? That would be the cultural component. As having served under two Latino bishops, and knowing of the close relationship (comrades/brothers in arms) of ex-Fresnan Mahony with Cesar Chavez and UFW, I’ve observed that these bishops seem to deliberate over time according to their own chronologies in which they tred carefully over perhaps a broader spectrum of perspectives than we can imagine. Or at least that’s how I prefer to regard the circumstances around the timelines. Among all the world-wide hotspots, LA’s will be perhaps the most difficult to reconcile. I had a high school chorister ask my counsel about it over the weekend, which was a good sign and opportunity to reference the larger vision of Christ’s Church than what seems so hopeless in the black and white of a newspaper’s headlines.

  2. Todd says:

    A missing factor? I wouldn’t doubt it. My only novelty in the larger discussion is to suggest that perhaps Archbishop Gomez waited so as not to prejudice the legal proceedings with a call-out.

    As a parent of a child who was affected by an abuser and a particular bishop, I tend to have less patience for a deliberate approach that appears to stretch into evasion. Can I appreciate a broader spectrum than what I see? Sure. Might I suggest a loss of a sense of sin during this deliberation for some bishops? Yes.

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