Rod Dreher is one of the more thoughtful conservatives out there. He has a good set of posts today on various topics, but the one that most caught my eye included a link to a conservative almost as sensible, and usually well-worth reading. From that essay I read some good words about the current crop of US bishops dallying in collective self-delusion. A very interesting bit that uncovers the symptomatic laziness of the hierarchy:
Soon after the sex abuse scandal broke, several bishops suggested holding a new plenary council for the Church in the United States to consider what had caused that disaster and what needed to be done. The national conference of bishops proceeded to talk that idea to death over the next several years, then hired some academic social scientists to tell them what had happened. The plenary council didn’t appeal to the bishops, one suspects, because by Church law it would have required the participation not only of bishops but lower clergy, religious, and—heaven help us!—the laity.
Plenary council or no plenary council, we need to take a fresh look at shared responsibility in the Church. Openness and the sharing of responsibility in Church affairs at all levels—parish, diocesan, national—are indispensable. But when I made that point to one good bishop, he sighed and replied, “Consultation takes so much time.” Indeed it does, and much education and re-education now are necessary as well. But the future of the Church in America depends on it. Could the Holy Father please put in a good word for the idea?
Too bad Shaw had to muck up an otherwise intelligent essay with this clunker scapegoating the people holding parish leadership together and staving off clergy-in-their-boot deaths around age 50:
Sad to say, many good bishops and pastors seem to believe they have buried the last vestiges of clericalism by promoting lay ministries, including the work of salaried “lay ecclesial ministers” who by an overwhelming margin are women. Twenty years ago, in Christifideles Laici, Pope John Paul II correctly pointed to the lay ministry craze as an expression of neo-clericalism.
If it is “neo-clericalism,” a lot of lay people have had clergy teachers who were way too successful with the real deal. If it doesn’t look and smell like the Church in Shaw’s rose-colored glasses, it must be suspect. Too bad he forgets all about lay church musicians of the past centuries, not to mention the women religious working for slave wages teaching him and his kids. Craze. Heh. The man needs a history lesson, if not a transfusion.
Few people paid attention then, and the craze persists. In commending the laity of the United States, as he will undoubtedly do, could Pope Benedict perhaps say a word about that?
I’d hope such a word would be as disappointing to Shaw as B16 was to the tradis on Good Friday. Sometimes I’d like to see several tens of thousands lay people strike for a month or two just to watch the clergy and lay Catholic scribes like Shaw run around to try to piece together the end of a school year, 90 days of liturgy, or even a papal visit.
And also about personal vocation and its discernment as keys to finding the proper roles of all Catholics, but especially lay women and men, in the apostolate of the Church?
Why not the clergy, while he’s mentioning it? But please, spare us the scapegoating. A thank-you letter will do more nicely.
Rod rather saves his post from Shaw’s fumble by a postscript which discusses the possibilities of being a “creative minority.” A good finish that almost seems liberal:
And whatever the failings of our culture in these latter days, we are offered an unprecedented opportunity to build a resistance, in families and in communities. But being a creative minority requires creativity.
It also requires a worldview, or a view of faith somewhat wider than what the conservatives, crunchy or otherwise, can provide alone. Many conservative Catholics have gummed up the works over the past few decades rallying around their favorite banners. Even today, most throw in their lot with their beloved Republican party, trusting in their own brand of Americanism and the promises of a political organization smart enough to court their support, but not dumb enough (from a view of financial self-interest) to buy into the whole Catholic morality angle.
When Rod talks of resistance, it has an eerie echo from people I knew in the 70’s who were off forming communes, living off the land, harboring a simmering mistrust of The Man, or whatever term they labelled the Establishment. Some liberals got tired of that, I guess. Or they found resistance exhausting after a time.
Conservatives trying to steer the Church in the right direction are like sprinters racing on one leg. They’ll jar themselves quite a bit trying to get anywhere. They might eventually get to the same finish line, but it will take quite a bit longer.