Earlier today Tom Roberts posted a very good editorial at the National Catholic Reporter about the two interviews NPR's Terry Gross did on the CDF's displeasure with LCWR. (Wow, are there enough acronyms in that sentence?) Roberts makes the point there is more than a little 'hint of hypocrisy' in the whole idea of compromised bishops having anything at all to say to any Catholic about 'giving scandal'. The following in an excerpt from his article. It's starts at about the half way point of the article:
......While the bishops view the nuns as in need of supervision and have accused the nuns of "betraying core values of the church" and causing "scandal to the faithful," Gross asked if there wasn't a bit of hypocrisy in those allegations, if the same charges might apply to "the institutional church that appears not able to reform itself and to be in the need of outside supervision."
It is an obvious and fair question, given the ongoing scandal and continued revelations about how the hierarchy mishandled the crisis over decades. Blair, in his answer, attempted to relativize the enormity of the scandal, even attempting to soften the reality by referencing "the mystery of iniquity in the church," noting that even Jesus didn't get it perfect, that he had chosen Judas, the betrayer, as one of the Twelve. Noting that bishops are the successors of the apostles, he implied it would logically hold that today's bishops would be visited by the same iniquity. (Jesus made no mistake. Judas was a necessary instrument in salvation history. I could make a similar point about these bishops. They are forcing Catholics to re evaluate the relationship between power and real authority. Our bishops are now doubling down on power because they no longer have any real authority. The more cappa magnas that come out the clerical closets can not mask the fact they are not wearing any 'clothes'.)
That strange rationalization aside for the moment, the reality is that more than a quarter-century of evidence has accumulated. Hundreds of thousands of pages of documentation are available, much of it stored online at bishopaccountability.org, that shows bishops:
- Callously disregarded the welfare of the most vulnerable in the community as they secretly moved priests who raped and molested children from parish to parish;
- Hid records and lied about the abuse to parents, reporters and prosecutors;
- Lifted millions from diocesan coffers without informing the community to secure silence from victims and their families;
- Did whatever necessary, from declaring bankruptcy to payouts of hundreds of millions in settlements, to avoid trials, which would have exposed in great detail the depth and breadth of the scandalous behavior and bishops' roles in protecting predator priests. Five years after a settlement in Los Angeles, the archdiocese is still fighting release of documents mandated by that settlement. We haven't heard that its lawyers are working pro bono.
- Have no fear of losing their jobs no matter how irresponsibly they've acted and no matter how much scandal they've caused. The only bishop to have resigned because of the scandal was Cardinal Bernard Law, who, until his recent retirement, maintained membership on at least six of the highest level departments in the Vatican, including the one responsible for naming other bishops. Judas was distraught enough after his betrayal that he went out and hanged himself. No one wishes suicide on anyone, but bishops who have deeply betrayed the community know that in the princely circumstances of today's secretive hierarchy, one needs only wait out the scandal.
It is difficult to judge, of course, what all is humanly possible. What was done, however, is not a matter of conjecture, but record. And the record of more than 25 years clearly shows that everything the bishops did -- the education programs, the national review board, the local review boards, the charter and the office for children and youth, and on and on -- was the result of a reaction to intense public pressure. It wasn't that they did all that was humanly possible. It was rather that they did all they had to do to try to put the scandal behind them.
Nothing they did was voluntary. In the years before the crisis exploded anew in 2002, 17 years after the first national stories ran (in NCR) about the scandal, they had, in fact, rejected many of those same suggestions they ultimately adopted. They had, as a body, scoffed at the warnings and vilified the messengers of bad news.
A nonreligious university, Penn State, has demanded more accountability of football coaches and administrators than the church has of its spiritual leaders. (At least someone took some lessons from the bishops failures to deal with their cover up.)
Blair recited what have become standard episcopal talking points about the priest sex abuse scandal. The scandal is "a dark cloud" over the church. He wouldn't try to "defend the indefensible." And "there were tremendous failures." But the bishops must move on, being "teachers of the faith ... And if we have to -- if we are to continue that mission, well, that includes our responsibility for church teaching. And that's the issue here with the doctrinal assessment" levied against the nuns.
The assessment takes issue with the nuns for not engaging more overtly in the divisive anti-abortion political tactics that the bishops have employed -- largely ineffectively and at great cost to the church's credibility -- since 1973. It argues that the nuns have not engaged as actively and vociferously as the bishops in the culture's anti-gay campaigns. It accuses the sisters of entertaining undefined "radical feminist" notions, and it takes them to task for daring, as women, to question the church's exclusion of women from the decision-making counsels of the church and from ordination. They should expunge such questions from their minds because the church has declared that such thoughts are out of bounds and not to be entertained.
The degree of accountability the bishops would require of women, then, would include a prohibition against entertaining questions that occur naturally to anyone outside the closed, all-male, celibate culture (and even many within who dare not admit publicly to such thoughts) and condemnation largely for things they haven't done.
These are the crimes, the infractions, the women will have to spend endless hours devising a response to; they will have to justify their lives, their ministries, their very being in a way no bishop would ever require of a group of priests or bishops. Declared heretics of the right are given a special papal appointee in a specially arranged office to hold their hands through their continued denunciations of the church. The nuns are given papers outlining a hostile takeover. (This is just a brilliant summation of the handling of SSPX vs the LCWR.)
This is one of the best articles I have read from Tom Roberts in quite awhile. It's got an edge to it, and I think more Catholics who care about any real future for this Church need to have a little more of an edge when it comes to confronting the corruption of the hierarchy. I'm using corruption here in the sense not just of secular and psychological corruption, but spiritual corruption. I can't believe Bishop Blair came up with the Judas comparison. Judas at least had the decency to remove his corruption from the body politic, where as our current crop of betrayers insist on staying in place and attacking the hands that feed them. Judas had more integrity by far. Even Jesus Himself didn't mince words when it came to the corruption in Jewish Temple and with Temple priests. Maybe it's time we all took the lesson.
For myself, I have to admit Bishop Cordileone's appointment to San Francisco and Bishop Blair's attempting to defend the indefensible have set my dander on edge. Not because I think either man is capable of effecting change--they are not-- but because each case represents another purposefully struck crack in the foundation of the Church in the US. The only US Catholics that seem to count anymore are the ones who don't question and actively support the hierarchy, those who have money and are still willing to use the Church as a tax shelter, but most especially, those willing to do both. Unfortunately, that's not just true for the US, it's a strategy playing out across the first world, and it's real aim is to maintain Western control of the resources of the developing world. Given that, it does make perfect sense to hand hold the eternal nay sayers of the SSPX while simultaneously initiating a hostile takeover of the LCWR. When it comes to maintaining control in the developing world, the SSPX and their particular philisophical bent are far more valuable than LCWR. In fact, the LCWR is a major threat precisely because they have inroads in the developing world with women's religious congregations, and those congregations are actively involved in social justice issues.
The truly sad thing is all of this is very traditional and very cyclical. The official messengers have corrupted the message for the sake of temporal power and influence since the Donation of Constantine. The focus of the hierarchy in terms of dominance and control has changed given the geopolitical situation, but the march of history is always to maintain it's political might and economic status. The West is pretty much lost for the JPII/Benedict Church. Once the boomers exit the stage, the pews will be very empty. The developing world is not all that far behind. The Church of pomp and power is on it's last legs, and that is a good thing. Now maybe we can form one that will actually be about the teachings of Jesus, get past the 1700 year failure with the temptations in the desert, and advance in our Gospel understanding to the Transfiguration.