I’ve been trying to avoid church news lately. But being a Catholic on social media, it’s hard to escape the commentary. The USCCB plight brings to mind this children’s book from a previous generation. One might say a more innocent time, but given the persistent revelations of administrative misconduct, perhaps I can’t say that.
What a litany: terrible, horrible, no good, very bad.
I have very mixed feelings over the current situation. Unlike some (or this one), I have no intention of leaving the Church. Honestly, I feel the situation calls more for bishops returning to the fold than lay people. I’ve been around for almost fifty years, mostly mixing it up in non-chancery places far afield from cathedrals and such. Over the years, people have certainly suggested I leave–online foils, uberCatholics mostly. Disinclined to give satisfaction on that point.
I have positive feelings about most of my own bishops. The first one I knew in any depth was Matthew Clark, who arrived to the consternation of many. Ordained in St Peter’s Basilica by Pope John Paul II himself, he was seen as a Vatican boy on his way up. That was in contrast to his predecessor, elevated from pastoring a large suburban parish, and the guy before that, known for his extensive media presence before his assignment to Rochester. The initial scuttlebutt was that he was an incarnation of Archbishop Burke for the late 70s.
But I observed the man preside at Confirmation in 1983 (my first as a parish music director) and I was struck by the care he took with the celebration. Families joined sponsors with each candidate, and there was no rush to completing the rite. When I was brought in for diocesan liturgies, I had a few brief conversations with Bishop Clark, who often inquired about the progress of my schooling and my plans for ministry. It got me thinking about potential dossiers on troublemakers bishops referenced in their cars on the way to events. Was my folder marked in red? A few friends and I laughed over that one.
Elsewhere, one bishop sat in on my job interview with a pastor. Another sang next to me in the tenor section at an RCIA workshop. Another was friendly with my wife at a luncheon, and surprised she wanted to talk more about his interests (gardening and handball) than church politics.
I’ve also seen great ugliness: the public dressing down of a diocesan employee over an error the bishop himself made, an impolite stare or two at a parish altar server, the reassignment of a predator priest to a high school on the far side of the diocese.
I haven’t mentioned this publicly before, but in one parish where I was curiously ousted, the complaint came back that I was too critical of bishops. Given the tenor of many “faithful” Catholic commentary these days, I find it laughable that a comparable action might be for the militants and the first peters be excommunicated. I was never a danger to anyone in the hierarchy. But the so-called christianists: I’m not so sure about these folks.