Perhaps this is a prophetic photo for the Catholic Church of the future.
I had begun writing a post on Dolan's election and then the inter net service provider went down before I could post it. I didn't get service back until late last night, so my post never made it to the blog and now feels a little out of date. Many other folks have written on this subject and so my 'opinion' would be redundant.
The one aspect I focused on was AB Dolan's statement that he would be more in the line of Cardinal O'Connor than Cardinal Bernardin. I have my doubts. O'Connor, for all his blustering and battling with ACT UP over gay rights and AIDS, also had a real commitment to Catholic social justice issues. I suspect when Dolan says he will be more like O'Connor he really means he will be willing to take on the East Coast gay rights groups. We won't hear much of anything about social justice issues or Christian love except in the sense of heterosexual pro creative sex. Love reduced to heterosexual sex is not what Jesus taught. Not by a long shot.
Anyway, I had more free time yesterday to think about a few things. One of those things concerned how far Catholicism has moved from being a living Christian community. It's as if we are all being asked where our faith lies, in Catholicism, or Christianity. My faith lies in Christianity because for me, Catholicism has become way to toxic for me to work towards becoming a more faithful Christian and stay with in it. At least in any meaningful sense. I realized there were a number of issues coming to prominence in the statements of our teaching authorities we haven't heard much about for decades. This is not a good trend. It's not good because a number of these statements really disempower the individual Catholic believer. They lay the ground work for more abuse of the laity and are actually part of the cult paradigm.
I'm not just referencing statements like Cardinal George's that laity have mere opinions while bishops have the truth. It's far more than that. At this same USCCB meeting bishops were attending an optional workshop in exorcism. The scary powerful version of the devil is back.
AB Neinstedt suggested that a mother who accepted her daughter's lesbian partner was threatening the salvation of her own soul. Hell is back.
There have been suggestions from a number of orthodox bishops that natural disasters and diseases are God's retribution for mankind's sins. Divine retribution is back.
Many statements have been made by pro life bishops - Chaput comes to mind -
that somehow we are all answerable to aborted fetuses before, I guess, we are answerable to God and that blastocysts are somehow ontologically more innocent than babies and need more protection. Defining an unsubstantiated opinion as a truth which can send one to hell is back.
And then there is Pope Benedict's campaign to convince us that the priesthood is ontologically different from the laity in some kind of meaningful spiritual sense----in spite of all the abuse issues. Triumphant clericalism is off the rails, it's so far back.
It's almost as if the Vatican can't get enough of going back in the tradition in order to resurrect a concept which will disempower the laity. Or find one to tweak clerical fears about their authority---laicism in Europe for instance-- that will spur on some of our bishops to even more fear mongering.
What this all says is that at a very deep level our current clerical leadership is deathly afraid of the laity and the culture the laity lives in. They are afraid of an open gay culture. They are afraid of equal rights truly being given to women. They are afraid of scientific advances. They are afraid for their own status and power. They are so terrified they are becoming irrelevant, they have opted to write off huge blocks of the western flock in order to pander to the minority of western laity who seem to wallow in the fear they sell. Pandering to that minority demands the bishops expend a great deal of energy attempting to convince the rest of us that we need to be just as afraid. That lay minority is also throwing lots of money at the bishops to speak so. Money is the one sure and eternal way laity can be empowered when it comes to bishops. Money didn't have to make a come back.
On another level what the bishops are saying is we need to be just as disempowered as the bishops themselves are in their relationship to Rome. In the end Dolan was elected to become the talking head for all this fear. I don't envy Dolan at all. (I suspect also, that one other reason he was elected is to put a happy face on what will be a huge uproar when the Mass translations are put in practice.)
Jesus did not teach about fear from fear. He taught the opposite. He taught about love from a state of inner peace. As long as Catholicism treads the path of fear, they are not treading the path taught by Jesus. Jesus's teachings were not based in disempowering people. They were about empowering people. In my book Catholics are being asked to make a simple decision: Do you choose to support Catholic fear; or do you choose to support Christian love? The two are becoming more and more incompatible.