Some Disorders

Catholics fret about the hierarchy. In centuries past, perhaps Catholics were more oblivious to the array of bishops and cardinals above them. Even the pope. Today punditry of all sorts focuses on them from all angles. A bishop from a rural diocese in the American Midwest is thrust into a big city archdiocese with a big problem of an archbishop that people there seem to want to disappear, hopefully to personal embarrassment. And lots of people who couldn’t find Newark on a map, let alone Gaylord, have something to say.

Sr Simone Campbell, one of the original nuns on the bus, takes a poke at bishops in general:

They look really pretty in their outfits, but their role of nourishing us … gets lost.

Eep. Don’t talk to her about polyester, my friends. She’ll jump down a throat to make a statement about dressing for ministry success. “Crippled” is how she describes pretty boys who lack empathy.

I don’t detect much of a sense of sacrifice among many Catholics, especially those who are up front in their Catholicism. Maybe the sense of meal, of nourishment, is all we can hope for. Is it up to bishops? I don’t think so. I think it’s a matter of grace. People centuries ago who didn’t even know they had a bishop or pope or who he was had the life of faith. And the daily struggle for survival. Catholics have saints–these are the women and men who speak to us, and who empathize.

Having read and exchanged with internet Catholics for many years, I understand where Pat Archbold is coming from with his novel take on PTSD:

So while the firewall of Papal infallibility was clearly present at the time,  where the priests and bishops did not directly contradict the Pope, they simply  ignored the teaching. And for the most part, the Pope did nothing. As a result,  a whole generation of Catholics (and most of the world) adopted the  contraceptive mentality.

How many souls have perished and how many babies have died because the Church did not do enough, top to bottom, to relentlessly teach the truth on this  moral issue? Yes, many many souls have perished because the Church allowed the  spirit of the times to overwhelm the truth. Yes, papal infallibility worked and  the Church has survived, but many many souls have been lost.

Earlier in his essay he mentioned that if a castle really needed a keep, the battle plan wasn’t working. Can’t the same thing be said of a firewall? Modern youngsters think of it in terms of an electronic wall surrounding one’s documents and stuff. A firewall is useful after damage has already occurred within a building. It protects something the occupants really don’t want destroyed after some of the rest of the structure is damaged. In thinking of the Church as a building, not a living organism, that metaphor seems awkward.

If my foot is on fire, my arms are more likely to douse the fire and treat the injury. Not chop it off. No wonder some Catholics are talking big-time trauma. And stress. And disorder.

I think the message to be learned from a mostly fruitless pro-life effort in the past two generations is that the Church indeed did not do enough. Many Catholics were suggesting the pope, bishops, clergy, and faithful remnant get more shrill. The missing strategy? Just listening. Having a conversation.

Who knows how many opportunities were missed because Mr Archbold’s side was too loud to hear the other side. Or even to realize they were shouting in a wilderness and that everybody else had left them to their own d*** game, to use a popular phrase.

Ross Douthat, an otherwise smart guy when it comes to writing and politics, makes another fatal error in analyzing Pope Francis in American political terms. What he misses in his analysis is the human condition. Sin.

Political conservatives were caught in criminal behavior in the American 70’s, chummed with people who were supposed to be American enemies in the 80’s, and showed themselves equally capable of throwing American military personnel into an Asian quagmire. Only they did a better job of wrecking the economy than Kennedy-Johnson did in those terrible, terrible sixties.

In the Church, the conservative/orthodox/traditional ascendancy hasn’t been a boon for morality. One JP2 toadie found himself detoured from the fast track to sainthood into personal disgrace and the wreckage of a religious order. Oh yeah, and like a lot of politically connected persons, he was able to raise a lot of money–just like Mr Douthat’s citations.

His conclusion:

But the test of his approach will ultimately be a practical one. Will the church grow or stagnate under his leadership? Will his style just win casual admirers, or will it gain converts, inspire vocations, create saints? Will it actually change the world, or just give the worldly another excuse to close their ears to the church’s moral message?

By his fruits we will know — but not for some time yet.

Some fruits we are seeing. More people in church. More engagement with the outside. a clean-it-up mentality to places that have seen too much grime these past 35 years.

The test a practical one? Practical? Really? I think you can say that’s the test for a political leader. Or an athlete. Or a celebrity. Let’s remember that the retrenchment hasn’t exactly shown itself to be a bounty for converts and vocations. Pope John Paul II sure did name a lot of saints. But most were from other generations.

Moral message? Mr Douthat needs to rethink that one, at least if he thinks the Right has any cred on the moral high road.

Meanwhile, the Pope Francis punditry continues to entertain.

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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, Commentary, Politics and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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