A Cardinal Passes

The word’s in the news of the passing of Cardinal Law, unfortunate and deserved lightning rod for sex abuse cover-up. The nearness of death was whispered here. I get this metaphor:

(T)he moment is bound to bring a “media circus” to the American city Law bestrode as a colossus for close to two decades …

Metaphor understood, and I might not disagree, but it remains an unfortunate turn of phrase, as the Colossus of Rhodes was a statue of a pagan god, Helios.

I’m not so sure this is such a media thing as much as it is a reminder of a prelate caught on the cusp of an early #metoo movement. Clergy credibly accused of abuse were drummed out of service, mostly thanks to the outing of Cardinal Law’s mismanagement. He wasn’t the only bishop blundering with abusers. But he was the epicenter of a perfect storm involving the transferring of offending clergy, the intimidation of victims, and ignoring the professional advice of people like Fr Tom Doyle. It always rang a bit hollow that bishops were ready to blame the psychologists they supposedly listened to, but sidelined brother clergy from their own ranks.

At any rate, I’ve come down with skepticism about people losing jobs for doing one stupid thing. Or, being pounded on the occasion of their death. De mortuis nihil nisi bonum, and all that. Mourn a man as a child of God. Remember the flaws and re-commit to reform and renewal. What else is there? A quote from an unnamed protégé:

What can I say? I have a great affection for a very flawed human being.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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3 Responses to A Cardinal Passes

  1. Liam says:

    When Cardinal Law was appointed to the see of Boston, there was a presser with the Abp Laghi, who remarked that “after Boston, there is only heaven” – rather than “after Boston, there is only Rome” – as a classic bit of romanita, a dig reflecting insiders being quite aware of his ambitions to use Boston to step up to the Curia.

    Law was, in classic Roman fashion, appointed to fix the problems left by his predecessor, Humberto Madeiros, who in turn had been appointed to fix the problems left by his predecessor, Richard Cushing. Cushing had overseen the parish building boom of the Baby Boom sprawl, only to start to see the inner financial rot. Madeiros put the see back on better financial footing, but the Irish-American stranglehold over the culture of the see meant he was isolated as a Luso-American, and the see was deeply troubled by racial strife. Law, to his credit, came in as a racial strife fixer from his prior experience, and did embrace the genuine and growing *ethnic* diversity of the see. He also was a reformer of sort: two of his first two controversial reforms were (1) attempting to end the use of bingo as a crutch for parish finances (very badly received, and not completely successful), and (2) ending the practice of two anticipatory Masses on Saturday evenings in the absence of a genuine need (such as a different vernacular).

    As for his derelictions: I believe they arose a least partly from magical thinking about grace that was a common flaw of preconciliar formation (at least in the USA)* – in this case, a belief that, once a man is ordained to the priesthood, the bishop’s task is to make sure there’s a place for that priest to exercise his God-given sacerdotal powers, and God will give the priest the grace of state (the graces necessary to live out the state of life he is called to live). In this context, the laity become a hindrance or at least a distraction to be managed.

    • Todd says:

      Very informational stuff here, my friend. If true, you have basically outlined a pattern of episcopal appointments, including the current one, who, despite their spiritual plusses and flaws, were essentially appointed to be managers. Heaven forbid that a metro area like Boston would actually have lay people with expertise in finances, community planning, or racial relations. As long as or whenever/wherever Rome operates in this way, it will obfuscate the movement of the Holy Spirit and settle for human wisdom rather than God’s intent.

      • Liam says:

        PS I forgot a precious detail of the presser – it was Law who reported that Laghi had said that to him – Law being clueless that it was a very subtle Roman dig, but others at the time noticed what Law did not….

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