Archbishop Charles Chaput’s Los Angeles Prayer Breakfast address got headlines today at CNS. I would have liked to see the whole text. “debris of failure” is the working quote near the headline. Lacking that, I’d like to zero in on two quotes:
Morally, we live in chaotic times. In such a climate, it’s very easy for people to develop habits that undermine virtue, character and moral judgment. It’s hard to reach a moral consensus when a culture can’t agree on even the most basic standards of right and wrong. As a result, for individuals, today’s conditions of daily life are often isolating and even frightening.
The archbishop is referring to the American substrate in which we live, but I think it might apply equally to the institutional Church and its clergy. Leaving aside the sex abusers in the clergy who transgressed for any number of reasons–addiction, compulsion, power, or some other psychological reason–I think we can see broad evidence that our bishops have developed many bad habits. Where to start? What about a curia out of control with intrigue? Bishops as targets of leaks and disrespect from within their own ranks. Financial mismanagement leading to internaitonal investigations. Secret assessments and bishops deposed out of dioceses for the flimsiest of reasons–and those are the ones we know about. Lots of bishops are grounded for reasons unknown. And it’s all for our good–if we only knew, we would be scandalized. So they say. But I don’t trust nearly any of them.
Bishops themselves can’t agree on right and wrong. Basic judgments that any half-baked parent would execute without delay or doubt. High profile bishops like Francis George, Bernard Law, and Anthony Bevilacqua dithered while sex abusers went free. It might be that bishops prior to JPII and his “reform” were just as bad–we simply don’t know too much. But we have seen many figures of that first JPII “generation” discredited. It’s almost as if doctrinal orthodoxy went hand-in-hand with the erosion of moral management.
And isolation? Isn’t that the life imposed on clergy from seminary graduation?
The clergy scandal of the past decade has … found too many American bishops guilty of failures in leadership that resulted in bitter suffering for innocent persons. As a bishop, I repent and apologize for that failure — and I commit myself as zealously as I can to do the work a good bishop must do, which is shepherding and protecting his people.
An empty repentance, unless he has committed particular sins as a bishop.
Ten years since the charter. We still have bishops misbehaving. Instead of telling us lay people how to pray, how to study, and what to forgive, I’d like the bishops to take their own examen a little more seriously. Maybe the USCCB needs to go on a directed retreat instead of holding a meeting in a hotel. Maybe individual bishops need to cut back on the jet-setting too. The cult of celebrity is another of those bad habits, perhaps. We don’t need 4,000 mini-JP2’s trotting the globe. Believe me: Raymond Burke is no Karol Woytyla. Doesn’t the LA archdiocese have a man or woman religious better acquainted with prayer than a politically-minded bishop? Unless the point is to draw a crowd for celebrity-worship.
These bishops still don’t get it.