Where Is Virtue?

I have high hopes for this month’s conclave. I really do. March 11th, I see. Enough time for a few days of voting, then get the new pope fitted for Holy Week vestments.

Against a baseline of the life of faith of the ordinary laity (among whom I count myself as an unorthodox and orthopractic member) there’s not a whole lot any pope can do that can’t be freed up by a concerned and active laity. And alas, the converse is true, that we could get a really good pope doing really good things–but without an active laity, the cause is sunk for another generation or two. So what’s the point? I’d like to think we’re entering into a millennium of the laity. Fresh out of a millennium of monarchy. And good riddance to those aspects that chain human beings to waiting on what their leaders do before stepping out. So I have high but cautious hopes on that count, too.

Over at PrayTell, Bill deHaas assessed Cardinal George’s 1998 commentary on the “exhausted project” of “Catholic liberalism.”

Where to start with sad Cdl George and his conclusion – we have a crisis of truth:
- *exhausted* or *truth* – would suggest that since 1998 exhausted/lack of truth is what we have been living through from unresolved sexual abuse denials; ROTR imagined movements; finanical shenanigans; VatiLeaks; appointment of litmus tested bishops; campaign against theologians we don’t agree with; failed accommodations from SSPX to Anglican Ordinariate; plunging catholic participation in the West; sad efforts called New Evangelism; promoting papal prelatures at the expense of the whole church, in the US church the FOF efforts, anti-HHS mandate, anti-PPACA efforts; Republican catholic bishops; his quote that the next cardinal of Chicago will die in prison, etc.  His conclusion is a lack of truth in the liberal and visible church authority. We haven’t had a liberal church authority for 25 years – his approach has led to where we are today; an exhausted and failed conservative movement that cries out for resolution.

Bill is right. We can pretty much lay the craziness of the last third-of-a-century at the feet of the neo-orthodox who, in an attempt to swing the pendulum back into their court, have mostly knocked themselves in the face. They have missed the lessons of the Theology of the Body–the Pauline theology described here, in which the apostle gives the smackdown to the negativism of the suggestion that a smaller, purer Body is somehow superior.

Cardinal George and others more extreme miss the simple point: Jesus decides who is in, who is out. And all of us sin and fall short of the glory of God. Even the self-styled orthodox.

Although the balance of cardinals would probably be counted “in” these days, the project of Catholic retrenchment has undeniable problems: credibility and immorality among them. As Jesus said, there’s nothing wrong with being blind. The problem is when the blind say, “We see,” and the blindness remains.

I have hope that even if the conservatives sweep the day this month, we will still have their witness–the negative witness of their bishops: Finn, George, Rigali, and others who have fallen far short in the virtue more important than orthodoxy. And that is virtue.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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3 Responses to Where Is Virtue?

  1. John McGrath says:

    Sorry, but when I watch the Walking Dead I see the Cardinals on parade. Many people lead good lives and think humanely and creatively despite the church. The church has made itself irrelevant to leading a good and neighbor friendly life.

    • Mike says:

      I watch the Catholic Church these days as someone watching a distant relative drink himself to death. Intervention’s been tried and rejected. Maybe things will change; maybe not. But there’s too much that’s happened for me ever to trust it again or think God has anything to do with it.

  2. Thank you Todd, thank you.

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