A group of Northeastern cardinals engaged in fraternal “correction.” One commentator disses, and it’s hard to object to his disagreements. The link is an op-ed piece but this factual presentation isn’t really a fabrication:
Cardinals Anthony Bevilacqua (Philadelphia), James Hickey (Washington), Bernard Law (Boston), John O’Connor (New York) and Adam Maida (Detroit) came out against Common Ground. Law captured the flavor of the criticisms when he said, “Dialogue as a way to mediate between the truth and dissent is mutual deception.”
The New York Times called the attacks on the initiative “unusual.” That was an understatement. Nothing like it had ever happened before.
Bishops are meant to work for collegiality and unity (at least in public) for the good of the church. A consummate churchman, Bernardin had circulated his announcement among those cardinals for their comments before its public release so they would not be surprised when the announcement was made. The cardinals offered no comments and made no objection — until their press releases attacking the initiative after the announcement.
As for that “Fab Five,” a mixed history to say the least, from near-sainthood to retirement in disgrace. Cardinal Bernardin hasn’t really lost much luster in the intervening years–not any more than any other pre-Charter bishop anyway.
Twenty-five years later: this isn’t a bad time to judge the fruits of the 1996 cardinals. Did the first wave of JP2 bishops in the US accomplish what they would have hoped? Is there a stronger Catholic identity? Are parishes flourishing? Are there enough priests? Have pro-life values penetrated deeper into the public sphere?
In asking those questions, I’d suggest the standards Cardinals Law, O’Connor, Maida, Hickey, and Bevilacqua would state. Not mine. Not Pope Francis. A commentator could ask if the direction wasn’t strong enough, or if it was simply the wrong way to go from the start. It might take until 2046 before we might venture a guess on Pope Francis and his mercy and accompaniment.