Timid and Turpid

mouseFr Myron Pereira at UCA News offers a devastating commentary on bishops, starting with a tidbit of history that invites some reflection:

For a long time, for centuries in fact, the Catholic Church was one of the few institutions where a young man, with no family connections and little money, could rise to eminence on the basis of intelligence, shrewdness and ambition alone.

Today a man has other options out of whatever remnants of a caste system are to be found in the world’s cultures. So if Catholic clergy were once smart, shrewd, and ambitious, what are they now?

Has the Catholic Church hierarchy lost its clout? Disturbing as this is, it is not surprising. Under John Paul II, any senior priest who showed any independence of thought and action was summarily passed over for promotion in favor of those who were compliant and docile. As a result, we have a timid hierarchy, shy of taking a public stand and eager to show its obsequiousness to the government.

Many of the same Catholics who cheer for the “Darwinian solution” to their problems with their liberal sisters and brothers might consider that not only are today’s bishops and favored clergy selected for mouse-like qualities, but that they are unlikely to be able to adjust on the fly: harsh and critical of the Temple Police’s political opponents and gentle with loyalists. More likely whenever some issue or person is in doubt, the matter will be handled quietly, if at all. And most everybody, maybe even the bishops themselves, will be in doubt as to what actually happened.

And so we have a generation of leaders formed as seminary faculty and on tribunals. Not in the trenches where most people of faith actually operate.

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Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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3 Responses to Timid and Turpid

  1. Liam says:

    It should be noted that some of the details are India-specific and would need qualification for the USA. Like obsequiousness to government (not true on certain matters – indeed, certain bishops have eagerly if prematurely wrapped themselves in martyrial scarlet) or even to Rome (certain US bishops certainly have chafed at the current Pope, and I have to say that I would not welcome Pope Francis’s style being deferred to with a Vatican I style of docility….).

  2. David D. says:

    Among those who perceive a Darwinian solution to what ails the Church, I think that many would include the bishops as among the problems to be remedied. Disappointment with the bishops is at this point pervasive if not quite universal. As just one example, in NYC, Cardinal Dolan is drawing considerable negative attention for having placed Holy Innocents Church, the location of the Archdiocese’s only daily Mass in the older form, on the list of potential parish closings despite the fact that the parish is solvent, has recently undergone substantial physical restoration, serves an obvious pastoral need, and continues to see increasing attendance (this is a regular diocesan parish with Mass offered in both forms). The proposed closing has drawn a fair amount of media attention and there is a concerted effort by the parishioners to save the parish. Of course, if/when the parish is nonetheless closed, I suspect we will hear the usual canned explanations and be expected to accept the decision in silence..

  3. FrMichael says:

    I agree with Liam that Fr. Pereira’s comments seem to be India-specific.

    “And so we have a generation of leaders formed as seminary faculty and on tribunals. Not in the trenches where most people of faith actually operate.” Since canonists and seminary professors tend to be more intelligent than the average priest, I’m not sure how this backs your thesis. In particular, in my experience seminary professors tend to have a higher percentage of free spirits than us working in parishes.

    I would agree though that priests are not, as a general rule, ambitious. Very few of us seek to be bishops or curial officials and very few of us seem to have any “pull” with the chancery that would enable us to determine our parish assignments.

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