I surely not a psychologist, but maybe having read enough books to be dangerous, I still have a sense of projection when I see it. So what’s with these loyalty oaths popping up all over the place?
If you listen to the Vatican II detractors, the Church started going downhill with sappy music, fabrics like felt and polyester, and such forty years ago. Call a council, and suddenly everything’s up for grabs. So why the fuss now? The hemorrhage is in full bleed-out, the patient is as pale as a vampire victim, and the nuns are out the cloister gate and on the bus.
I was reading about catechists declining to sign oaths in northern Virginia, and for what? Didn’t Jesus make a deal about our yes meaning yes and all? The faith formation directors I know put a lot of work into finding qualified parishioners. Most dioceses require or strongly urge certification. People are walking after being asked to sign loyalty oaths, and many of these same catechists were also required to do child protection training for the sins of priests and bishops.
George Mason University history prof Rosemarie Zagarri resigned as a volunteer catechist, objecting to the “slap in the face” to Catholics who have remained active and close to the church despite controversies. From her letter to Bishop Paul Loverde:
Although I fully understand the authoritative role of the Catholic hierarchy in defining the teachings of the faith, in my view only a person who is willing to abandon her own reason and judgment, or who is willing to go against the dictates of her own conscience, can agree to sign such a document.
I think we know what the reaction would be if bishops were required to sign an oath of morality for the protection of the innocent before they took the cathedra in their dioceses. There would be mewling from the crypt to the top of the steeple. And some canon lawyer would probably tell us it was all meaningless anyway.
While I recognize that the bishops have a legal authority to do this, many Catholics today recognize that they lack the moral authority. And perhaps this is what troubles them so deeply about the Catholic situation in this day and age. They’ve been on any number of hot seats: a pope and curia who seem to be selectively interfering on some important issues, but not all of them; clergy who have their own issues with support from guys who are mostly insulated from ordinary give-and-take with parishioners who live lives in the world; and from the laity who are watching every bishop carefully these days for any chink in the child protection armor.
Most bishops are wholly moral and good men. I have to wonder if the Holy Spirit is seeping out and they’re reacting in a right-angle way. Maybe they themselves really want to be loyal. But like many of us in the world, they have their first profound encounter with the sort of conflicts many of us face in balancing families, employers, citizenship, and our own desire for closeness and loyalty to God.
Meanwhile, I feel for my faith formation colleagues in loyalty zones. For the moment, I don’t have to screen choristers and instrumentalists. On the other hand, if bishops have to get out to the parishes and do their own teaching, at least they’d have less time for jetting to Rome and other places for committee work. At some point in all this, something’s going to give.