“There are some who would like to trap the church in historical events of ages long past, and there are others who would keep the bishops permanently imprisoned in the clerical sexual abuse scandal of recent years,” George said. “The proper response to a crisis of governance, however, is not no governance but effective governance.”
George noted that the “clerical ranks have been purged of priests and bishops known to have abused children” and said that whatever the sins of those abusers, they “cannot be allowed to discredit the truth of Catholic teaching.”
Sad. The cardinal still doesn’t get it. Will someone explain to him that we Catholics have known about abusive clergy for decades. Heck, they still make jokes about nuns going all corporal punishment on kid knuckles and all. 2002 wasn’t news to most people as far as clergy sex abuse was concerned. (If the USCCB had been paying attention to Tom Doyle in the 80’s, it wouldn’t have been news to them, either.) It was the bishops’ crisis (George’s words) of governance. A very ineffective governance. A scandal, if I may borrow a word from the Catholic Right. I don’t think the term misses the mark.
The particular anger directed at the Chicago archbishop a few years back wasn’t some psychological deflection from that priest found to be an abuser. It was the archbishop’s own complicity in allowing the man to be a danger to minors. Lay people are non-stupid enough to distinguish a criminal from his employer, as it were. When Cardinal George and other bishops don’t take the Charter seriously–their own rules, mind you–it’s then that we have to wonder not only about “effective governance,” but other matters even more grave.
Cardinal George doesn’t seem to make the public distinction between teaching by word and teaching by lived example. From the Scriptures all the way down to the Vatican documents, we see a strong emphasis on living the faith. In other words, orthopraxis (right actions or right practice) is right up there with orthodoxy (right praise or right belief). We believers have to practice what we preach. The bishops pull together a Charter. Fine. Anybody with a lawyer and a public relations catastrophe would do that. Do the bishops live the commitment they put into writing? Do they go the extra mile in applying it? Do they encourage embittered laity and clergy and set the bar high for themselves?
There are certain logical disconnects between bishops preaching on sexual sins and permitting clergy transgressions to go unpunished. It doesn’t invalidate the moral code of Christianity as we’ve received it from Jesus. It just means that certain bishops, and perhaps the Catholic hierarchy as a whole, will have to work a little harder to make a convincing case. The orthodoxy we don’t doubt. It’s the orthopraxis that’s called into question.
Cardinal George’s hope to lasso “Catholic” as an authoritative capitalized adjective is interesting, as are the doubting comments from other bishops Mr Gibson passes along. I use it on my web page. Lots of bloggers and sites. I can tell you that unless my pastor or bishop request me to change, I’m not planning on toeing some line the cardinal draws in the sand. This is the internet. Caveat emptor. Catholicism is not easy. You can’t drift through life after baptism and expect everything important to be carefully labelled for you. If you come to this site or lots of places on the internet, you will read things that will make you steam, you might be scandalized–in the sense that the Right sometimes uses that term, “Something I strongly disagree with.” Personally, I find the conservative sites more testy than the liberal ones. But we make it relative, I guess.
It would seem we are reduced to the simple principle of knowing Catholicism by its fruits. To that end, I can only set the best example I can muster. In a healthy Catholic spirituality, that means the checks and balances of valued counsel. I rely on my readers to set me straight when I wander on this blog. I certainly rely on my wife’s sensible guidance in matters of family and personal conscience. My ministry colleagues for our shared endeavors with students. My close Catholic friends for general guidance. I believe I’m set up pretty well in the Church. As I ponder the bishops meeting this week, I can only hope they also have the needed guidance in each of their circles of life, that they’re as well served as I am.