The Culture of Complaint, Again

I’m starting to feel badly for bishops, especially the CDF and their American allies in the episcopacy. I really am, and this isn’t an attempt at humor or sarcasm.

Phyllis Zagano offers a scoreline, and she’s not missing the mark.

I’m feeling nervous because I see great harm coming to this unraveled and not-put-back-together relationship between two groups of professionals who have dedicated their lives to serving God’s people.

And let’s be honest. Even a bishop wearing a red cap, sitting behind a desk in Rome, has the best interests of believers at heart. I think he’s trusting the wrong sort of people, the ones feeding him lines. And these are the sort of people who are less concerned with an existing unity among Catholics than they are of jacking up their web counters, selling product, and fomenting dissent among those who see themselves as good and faithful Catholics.

It’s not working.

The tattletale culture nurtured by prelates under JP2 continues unabated. It’s not enough that the younger son is off wenching in faraway territories. Some members of the household are looking under every rock and mattress for any sort of misbehavior–who’s the next one to get thrown out with the pigs? The ones who tattle and gossip the loudest are in control. And they dictate terms to bishops. Don’t believe that? Consider the quality of press Archbishop Sartain is getting among the self-styled orthodox. His boss calls out the sisters with whom he’s been responsible for working. He falls into line. (Of course, he’s got angry people in the Pacific Northwest to deal with when he’s not in between airports.)

Like it or not, there is a very clear line of authority developing–one that any experienced pastor is wise enough to pull the plug at the first sign of trouble.

You can’t listen to gossip. You just can’t. The more power-oriented a listener is, the more it can gnaw at the mind. And if one is prepared to listen to the commentariats at NCReg for very long, it will soon enough ensnare even a pretty smart bishop.

The prelates under JP2 ceded their authority to the Temple Police. This is a group that will only remain loyal as long as it suits. It’s part of the mob mentality cultivated online. and it’s a mob like any that can be nurtured in a parish by weak leadership.

My sense is that most of the sisters in the LCWR leadership have enough experience with this in parishes. They are not going to get sucked in. Archbishop Sartain and his committee of bishops probably want this whole thing to go away. He’s already attracting some foul attention on “orthodox” sites. Catholic Online has its commentary up: a video from Bishop Blair, supposedly one of the underlings, and under him, a pensive still of Cardinal Müller.

If this theme continues, I predict only damage ahead. The sisters will probably remain above the fray. No comments to the press. No blogging. They really don’t need the LCWR at all. I used to go to church conferences all the time. I saw women religious there … well, religiously. These women are criticized for being … well, collaborative. It’s how we were raised in the 80’s and 90’s to do ministry. Sisters will continue to associate with one another, go to workshops, read and write books, and such. Some of the content will be misunderstood. And a little of it will be wack–not unlike what comes from the pens and tongues of clergy. But no bureaucrat or bishop is going to end the vector of curiosity among non-clergy in the Catholic Church.

But in the present climate, it will be very easy to pile on alienation. Bishops need to ask themselves a few important questions. Are they associating with the right people? Are they listening carefully to everything? Are they taking the time to take care of business in the priority Christ gives them?

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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, The Blogosphere, women religious and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Culture of Complaint, Again

  1. John McGrath says:

    What happened to the standard answer I would have gotten – and did get once – when someone was tattled on? No matter what the accusation, the parish priest – and the high school Jesuit – would ask, “Have you brought that up directly with … person being tattled on?” If the answer were no, the response would be, “Then you have nothing to say to me. Go and deal directly with your brother (or sister), as Scripture tells you to do.”

  2. FrMichael says:

    There was no tattling needed. The LCWR hung itself on with the information on its own website.

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