Cardinal George is all for bishops taking 'possession' of their vocation.
John Allen posted an NCR interview with Cardinal George over this past weekend. The following excerpt contains the bullet points of the interview:
Among the highlights of the interview:
- George said debates over Catholic identity these days often pivot on the authority of the bishop – and he said bishops are more prepared to “take possession of their vocation,” not just as teachers and preachers, but as governors who exercise, however reluctantly, “the power to punish.” (This is another way of saying bishops are now firmly committed to the idea of 'owning' their diocese and that laity will be punished for trespassing on their intellectual property.)
- He wondered aloud if the “Faithful Citizenship” guides issued by the bishops in advance of national elections may be an exercise in futility, since they offer broad moral principles to a pragmatic culture interested only in specific conclusions. (Broad moral principles don't cut it for the right, and that's a major problem with attempting to define a nuanced Catholic position. Eventually someone in the hierarchy is going to have to admit that today's Church authority prefers to cater to those in the early stages of spiritual development.)
- He asserted the church has been “true to its promises” on sex abuse, weeding out predators and creating a safe environment. He expressed hope that as time goes on, the “zero tolerance” policy can be balanced against protecting priests from false accusations -- some of whom, he said, have been “severely damaged” by the experience. (This thinking conveniently ignores the fact that had bishops previously done their jobs correctly, today's bishops wouldn't have been forced into a zero tolerance policy.)
- George conceded that while bishops are now punished just like priests if they abuse, there’s not the same degree of accountability for bishops who covered up abuse or failed to prevent it. He said more work may need to be done, while insisting there is a growing “informal” spirit of accountability in the church. (An 'informal' spirit of accountability is just another way of stating their is no meaningful accountability for bishops.)
- He said a breach between the U.S. bishops and the Catholic Healthcare Association over health care reform has produced “good conversation” -- adding that if the CHA wants to repair relations, one important signal would be joining the bishops in support of the Pitts-Lipinski Amendment, designed to restore restrictions on abortion funding. (According to George, the CHA must come crawling to the bishops for trespassing on the bishop's intellectual property rights. No recognition at all that bishops like Olmstead trespass on the 'intellectual property' rights of the CHA and it's individual hospitals.)
- George admitted some surprise that the bishops broke with tradition by passing over the vice-president of the conference, Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, to elect Dolan as president. He admitted that given the pace of change in the 21st century, it now may be an anachronism to think the bishops can pick the right leader three years in advance. (What he's not saying is that Dolan was chosen in part because he can put a smiley face on the fact the current hierarchy has no intention of entertaining change in the structure of 21st Century Catholicism.)
There's no question Cardinal George has taken his teaching authority by the horns. I can't for the life of me understand how he has the chutzpa to talk about the abuse crisis at all, when his own post Dallas Charter record is abysmal. Oh well, it is indicative of the over gist of this interview and Cardinal George's thinking.
I found this interview with Cardinal George instructive for a different reason. It seems to underline the fact that the current members of the USCCB, and the Vatican curia for that matter, have made a real decision that the Church they represent is a church that caters to and fosters the mind set described by James Fowler's as Stage III spirituality--a stage Fowler called the 'synthetic conventional' stage. I encourage readers to check out this link to prickliest pear's Far From Rome blog in which he goes into detail in explaining this particular stage. From that post you will also find links the Fowler's other stages and an overview of Fowler's research.
For purposes of this post I'll only state that core aspects of Stage III thinking involve accepting external authority as validation for one's beliefs, and that where as one might use their higher reasoning functions to dissect their ideas about economics, they will not do the same with their religious beliefs. This is easily seen in highly educated adults who believe they will incur the wrath of God should they turn their intellects on Catholic doctrine or question Catholic bishops the way they freely do their bosses and corporate policies.
This is a really interesting set of behaviors when you consider bosses have one's material survival in their hands, and bishops have no such survival threatening abilities--unless you happen to actually be employed by them. This says a great deal about the power initial religious formation has on people and why it can be such a potent chain for some. It also gives a bit of an explanation as to why it can be so difficult for people who have essentially moved past the synthetic conventional stage to completely leave the Church. It's kind of like leaving your first true teen age love.
Fowler doesn't limit his system to religious belief. His stages can easily be applied to other areas of human belief. Politics is another area in which it can be difficult to move beyond the views of one's birth family. Perhaps that's why our bishops have gotten on the same page as the Republican party. They both emphasise the same kind of idolizing of authority figures and same notions of governance. Punishment is in and compromise is out.