Bishops and Books

After a week or two of the bishop who won’t go away, we have another chapter in that book that won’t go away. Unlike bishops, theologians and university faculty stand up for a colleague under fire. 180 Fordham professors, plus the Catholic Theological Society of America and the College Theology Society seem unafraid to push back against prelates. According to the NCRep, the USCCB Committee on Doctrine

Respond(ed) to these harsh criticisms, Capuchin Fr. Thomas G. Weinandy, executive director of the doctrine committee, April 28 addressed a letter to the Department of Theology at Fordham. He said the doctrine committee “takes seriously your concerns.”

The letter assured the faculty that the committee never intended to tarnish Johnson’s reputation or impugn her honor or dedication to the church.

Well, right.

A few things on this.

I’m not sure it really helps the bishops. Their allies among cannibal Catholics won’t look upon this as a positive move. Professor Johnson isn’t in the Right Clan, so its open season on her, especially for people who haven’t read her book.

Critics of bishops will snatch up that line about not intending to sully a reputation–it’s an easy one to scoff at.

How must bishops be thinking when they see these two events play out the past month? If the Temple Police chirp about a bishop, and there’s anything with serious traction–hiding sex abusers excepted–their own brothers will likely turn on them if it comes to a confrontation with higher-ups.

On the other hand, Taliban Catholicism can’t get any satisfaction with theologians. And more, there’s a sense of honor and communion there, colleagues closing ranks on one unjustly persecuted.

Bishops go home at night as lonely branch managers, entirely dependent on a rather subjective system of who-you-know and how-brown-is-your-nose. Theologians seem to be in a position where there’s always someone–maybe several hundred someones– to call on a phone, have a beer. Have a life.

Interesting also that the letter came from the priest-executive director and not the Catechetical One himself. The distancing is telling. I wonder who’s buying.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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