|This is the shorter version of the long Hummer limo. It only holds 16 republican leaning bishops.|
Fr Thomas Reese has written an article for NCR with his observations from the just concluded USCCB meeting in Baltimore. In the main I found this was a useless and boring meeting of corporate leaders who seem frighteningly out of touch with both their consumers and their own CEO. Although Fr Reese isn't quite that blunt in his assessment he does say some things that are never the less quite blunt. The following is an extract that includes some of Reese's blunt observations:
......But the bishops as a conference have been embarrassingly silent on economic justice during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Last year, the conference failed to pass a document on the economy despite growing inequality and high unemployment.
Many bishops fear that speaking loudly about economic issues would help Democrats and undermine their alliance with the Republican Party on issues like gay marriage, abortion, and religious liberty. Some even think that the conference's earlier letters, "Economic Justice for All" and "The Challenge of Peace," were mistakes because they hurt their friends. (Poverty, illness, justice for all, what are these boring things when compared to the titillation of sexual issues?)
Will the new leadership of the conference make a difference? (No. Especially since the Koch Bros just donated a cool million to the bishops very own university--Catholic University of America. How quickly came the reward for staying the pelvic course with their friends in the GOP.)
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York was elected three years ago because the bishops saw him as the perfect "happy warrior" in the culture wars. He could come out swinging but with such charm that no one could demonize him. Bishop Gerald Kicanas, the USCCB vice president and heir apparent, was thrown under the bus because he was seen to be a protégé of Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, the architect of the "Consistent Ethic of Life," which was concerned about life from the womb to the tomb.
When Cardinal Dolan was asked what the bishops might concretely do in response to the pope's vision of a poor church for the poor, he responded by saying, "I don't think we have to add anything." The first draft of my story on Dolan's press conference had the headline "Dolan says bishops have done enough for the poor," but I changed it to the more boring headline "Dolan on poor church for the poor." Not only is Dolan bigger than I am, I don't think that the first headline reflected what he meant even if it was close to what he said.
Dolan went on to say that the bishops want to resist the temptation to see a new document, a new office, or a new collection as the solution to every problem. Funny how they could not resist a new document on pornography but gave no attention to "the most serious of the evils that afflict the world," according to Pope Francis, "the old need care and companionship; the young need work." (Pornography is another pelvic issue. Such a letter won't offend their 'friends'.)
If I were a bishop who really cared about his relationship with Jesus, I would be seriously embarrassed with my membership in the USCCB. But it's getting more obvious that too many of our bishops have a relationship not with Jesus, but with advancing their personal status. Otherwise why would they be concerned about hurting their GOP and business friends? Hey I get it, it's much much better for one's social standing to grasp hands with the likes of the Koch brothers than it is to grab the hand of homeless vet. It's much much better for one's social standing amongst the rich and powerful to target gays and female law students for potential sexual transgressions than it is to target the rich and powerful for actual social justice transgressions. I get all that.
What upsets me is that the USCCB seems to think so little of the laity that they act as if we laity don't get that they cater to the money. How else do you explain the use of Hummer limousines? Or the issuing of a letter on pornography when they have done zero about Bishop Finn who enabled a priest porn addict to stay in the priesthood? Or giving a prime time platform for AB Cordileone to attack gays while refusing to issue any statement on their sincere desire to do right by abuse victims? Or their continuing to talk about the non negotiable aspects of abortion and euthanasia while maintaining dead silence about everything else needed to sustain people in the rest of their lives? It sure doesn't look to me that too many of our bishops are channeling their inner Francis.
The one positive to come out of Baltimore is I am done having to deal with the 'happy culture warrior' Cardinal Dolan. I personally found AB Cordileone less offensive in that Cordileone never pretended he was Mr Rogers and that gays were welcome in his neighborhood. I doubt AB Kurtz will subject us to the same schtick Cardinal Dolan tried and that's a good thing. I also have very little hope the USCCB is going to change course. There's just way too much money on the right wing side of the equation for too many of our bishops. It fuels their career advancement and loads their wine cellars and cigar boxes. Pope Francis' notions about a poor church for the poor just isn't going to compete with the reality in the West of the rich church for the few.
What is saddest of all for me is that I don't really think the majority of the USCCB actually agrees with the vocal minority who insist on continuing the culture wars. I just don't get why they allow themselves to be hi jacked by the minority. I wish Pope Francis would send a message that he's not kidding about what he wants for a pastoral bishop. He could start by doing something about Finn and Neinstedt because it's very obvious the USCCB isn't going to do anything at all--at least publicly. But Pope Francis is first and foremost a pragmatist, and faced with the unfolding horror in the Philippines and the amount of money US bishops can raise, he may not be predisposed to do much about Bishops who think running around in a Hummer limo is pastoral act. Mores the pity.