Tuesday, November 17, 2009

USCCB Meeting Perfectly Demonstrates Pyramid Power--Or Something Else

Day one of the USCCB meeting in Baltimore raised the question of legitimate spheres of influence and authority. It perfectly demonstrated how management based on pyramid power works, euphemistically known as shit rolls down hill.

First the bishops found out that their Vatican II authority regarding vernacular translations of the liturgy had been taken by the Vatican itself. Maybe that's why Cardinal George devoted part of his opening address to the necessity of the bishops overseeing universities, educational institutions and independent media which claim the title Catholic in their name.

In Cardinal George's opinion one can't be fully Catholic and maintain independence from the oversight of a bishop. This must mean that in Rome's opinion the bishops aren't Catholic enough to translate liturgical texts from Latin to English. All this micro managing perfectly demonstrates that in Catholicism management decisions are based not in good faith, but plain old mistrust.

Has the Vatican usurped Vatican II liturgical norms?
by Thomas C. Fox on Nov. 17, 2009

Writes Jerry Filteau, NCR Washington Correspondent: "Another surprise element introduced on the opening day of the bishops’ Nov. 16-19 meeting came during initial informational presentation of several supposedly final segments of the new English translation of the Latin Roman Missal.

"As the first of the five final segments was introduced, Bishop Donald W. Trautman of Erie, Pa., rose to ask what had ever happened to the translations of the antiphons – which the bishops had discussed in the first draft form a couple of years ago, he said, but which had never come back to them in final draft form for actual debate and vote.

"Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli of Paterson, N.J., chairman of the USCCB Committee on the Liturgy, answered that the antiphons did not come back to the bishops for approval because in the meantime the Holy See has taken their translation to itself.

"Trautman asked, 'How does that square with' the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on Sacred Liturgy, which plainly says that vernacular translations of the Latin liturgical texts are the responsibility of the local bishops’ conferences.

He cited Paragraph 36.4 of the constitution, which says, “Translations from the Latin text into the mother tongue intended for use in the liturgy must be approved by the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority,” as a conciliar mandate that, in his view, says no Vatican agency can usurp the role of the local bishops’ conference in vetting and approving such liturgical texts.
Serratelli could only reiterate that the Vatican had assumed authority over the English antiphon translations and taken it out of the hands of the English-speaking bishops’ conferences around the world.

George ruled Trautman’s question out of order in the context of the business at hand, which concerned another set of texts, not the antiphons. When Trautman asked when or how his question might be in order, George assured him that room for his question would be made later in the meeting. (Brilliant salvo Bishop Trautman! Wise of you to drive home the point that the USCCB has no real authority when it comes to whims of the Vatican and that the Vatican's real mission is the destruction of any notions of collegiality and independent authority for regional bishops conferences.)


Cardinal George though, savvy politician that he is, may have tried to pre empt this salvo from Bishop Trautman concerning the usurpation of their authority by the Vatican. He did it by questioning the Catholicity of independent educational institutions, social service organizations and the dreaded media. He served notice that the independence of these rogue groups who use the name Catholic, will come under discussion in Wednesday's closed door discussions.

George questions role of independent Catholic media
By Jerry Filteau NCR November 17, 2009


Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said Nov. 16 that Catholic publications, universities or other organizations that insist on complete independence from their bishops are “sectarian, less than fully Catholic.”

In his presidential address at the opening session of the fall USCCB general assembly in Baltimore, George announced that the bishops “have recently begun discussions on how we might strengthen our relationship to Catholic universities, to media claiming to be a voice in the church, and to organizations that direct various works under Catholic auspices.”

According to NCR sources, those issues were to be the main topic of discussion in a three-hour executive session the afternoon of Nov. 18, when the bishops were slated to meet alone behind closed doors, with all reporters and observers and virtually all USCCB staff excluded.

George placed his comments in the context of the bishops’ role in governance as promoters and guarantors of church unity.

"Relations do not speak first of control but of love,” he said. “If there is a loosening of relationship between ourselves and those whom Christ has given us to govern in love, it is for us to reach out and re-establish connections necessary for all to remain in communion.”

After announcing that the bishops have initiated discussions on how to carry that out in relation to Catholic higher education, independent Catholic media and organizations that engage in activities under Catholic auspices, he added:

“Since everyone in Catholic communion is truly interrelated, and the visible nexus of these relations is the bishop, an insistence on complete independence from the bishop renders a person or institution sectarian, less than fully Catholic. The purpose of our reflections, therefore, is to clarify questions of truth or faith and of accountability or community among all those who claim to be part of Catholic communion.” (Wow, these men have absolutely no independent power from Rome and now they want absolute control over all things Catholic in their diocesan sphere. This is classic projection. It has absolutely nothing to do with relational love. It's all about relational power.)

At a press conference later that afternoon George declined to name specific Catholic media, higher education or other organizations that the bishops might have in mind, but he said that more generally “if any institution, including the media, calls itself Catholic,” it is the moral responsibility of a bishop to assure that it is Catholic.

That offers the bishops “a chance to clarify the relationship” and see if the entity in question is operating within the bonds of Catholic communion, he said.

It’s the moral responsibility of bishops “to keep the faithful gathered around Christ,” he said, so it is their responsibility, when institutions or organizations call themselves Catholic, to sort out what that means in each case. (It isn't the teachings about Jesus which is the source of the disunity. It is the teachings the Church has about itself and it's relation to it's flock.)

Archbishop George H. Niederauer of San Francisco, chairman of the USCCB Communications Committee, added, “I think that it’s a much more media-intensive landscape in this country than it was many years ago.” He said he and other bishops now regularly face questions from Catholics who say that different media, all claiming to be Catholic, present different views of what the Catholic teaching is on various subjects. (That might be because the tradition of the Church is precisely one of different views about a lot of different issues. There is a big difference between unity and uniformity.)

“That really does challenge us to make sense of it,” he said. (Why not start with the relationship of the USCCB with the Vatican. If all you are going to do is rubber stamp the tank which is running over your own authority and independence, that's basically all the rest of us need to know.)


Personally I think anything else which comes out of this meeting will pale beside the question that Bishop Trautman raised concerning the independence and the Vatican II mandated sphere of legitimate authority of the bishops conferences--that authority and independence they no longer get to exercise. I actually wonder if Trautman's visible campaign about the translations wasn't precisely to set up this salvo. That Trautman's real point wasn't the poor translations, but the fact their promulgation revealed just how little independent authority bishops really have, as in none.
Secondarily, but no less significant, is that these castrated bishops now want to castrate independent Catholic voices. Maybe it's not feces that run down hill, but impotence. It is after all, a male dominated church---and all of this in the spirit of Jesus's love for others. (Have you ever noticed how powerful men seem to be more fixated on issues of impotence rather than life giving fertility?)

If there was any question where this Vatican was headed, there shouldn't be any question any longer. A real Catholic is 'all Vatican all the time' no matter how hypocritical and nonsensical. (Benedict's recent call for ending 'opulence and waste' in fighting hunger comes to mind on the hypocrisy end of things.)

I have absolutely no idea how these bishops think they are going to get control of independent organizations in a democratic society with constitutional free speech. Isn't this precisely the free speech they claim over and over will be taken from them in their gay marriage crusade? Now George wants to ignore that to get control of the editorial content of publications like the NCR, universities like Notre Dame, and organizations like Catholic Charities? Good luck. Maybe the next big legal issue they will waste money on is trademarking the word Catholicism. Good luck with that one too.


  1. No time to read this now, but pursue this link:


    "Uganda World Prayer Day" - re the law that would make homosexual activity punishable by death!!!!

    All Christians should unite in protesting this proposed law.

  2. Oops! Your blog name! Has "Catholicism" in it. A blog is a kind of media.

    Are you truly in Communion here?

    You know, of course, that the investigation into this will be funded by YOU!

  3. The investigation into me will not be funded by me. I am very very specific about who I donate money too. LOL.

  4. And, yes I am in communion, but not on the same level Cardinal George seems to be demanding.

  5. Well the NCR becomes NLTFCR- and this blog becomes Enlightened LTFC--that is "Less than fully Catholic". Maybe we just need to embrace the reality that we don't want to be fully part of this.

  6. Obviously, all blogs relating to Catholicism muust be approved by a bishop before being put on the 'Net.

  7. Anon, if that's the case, maybe I can get Bishop Tom Gumbleton to approve this one. Before Cardinal George gets him excommunicated that is.

    coolmom, maybe I'll just change to title to "Not For The Completely Catholic"

  8. coolmom:

    You're giving me an idea. A blog called "Less Than Fully Catholic": A refuge from doctrinal persecution.

    A parody site: Like a coalition of "less than fully catholic bloggers" - possibly also offering a 12-step program. For bishops who are willing to admit they are powerless. (Any servant leaders who want to finally turn their life over to God; and commit to a program to turn the church over to the grassroots laity = the People of God.)

    I'm sure we could do it in 12 steps. One Apostle at a time.

    If we don't joke about this, we may lose our minds. ;0

  9. As an educational resource, as the bishops rebrand the church as a gay-free zone, I'd love to have them watch a few of Peterson Toscano's educational videos, like this one on ex-gay ministry: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FFT40QrFyKs

  10. Poor George Niederauer.

    He probably thought his assignment to San Francisco would be like in SLC --- tea with the 12 Apostles and lots of lay-back time.

    Wrong, wrong, wrong!

    He turns 75 June 14, 2011 and I know a couple of folks here in SF who know him. He wants to retire so badly that every time he talks about it he almost wets himself.

    BTW, 3 of the members of the SF Archdiocesan Catholic Charities Board are openly lesbian and gay. 2 of them are members of my parish!

    Jim McCrea

  11. A friend reports: "Trautman asked George why he had authorized Canizares to modify the antiphons without the Conference's approval, and George replied that he did not remember having replied to Canizares' letter but - I quote - "if the letter has my signature I must have signed it". They laughed but it was really embarassing. George lost much of his credibility (Chaput asked a canon lawyer to come up with a provision authorizing the conference to give Rome the power to decide what the Conference should decide - basically creating a ordinary law that repeals Sacrosanctum Concilium...) I saw it and I could not believe my ears."

  12. Seems like the Bishops are trying to push Universities to decide weather to remain Universities where truth is pursued or weather to become catechetical centers. It looks like it only gets worse with more cultish behavior from this "leadership." Wonder how long it will take the Church to recover from the long reign of a charismatic leader that lead the Church toward the 13th century and a Papa Ratzi (thank you for the term Bill) who believes in his own delusion - that he and only he has the knowledge and authority to lead the Church.

  13. Wow, Chaput must be as desparate for the red hat and Neiderauer is to retire.

    Good bye Vatican II, hello more tyranny.

  14. When Cardinal George leads the American bishops behind closed doors this afternoon to, in his words, love Notre Dame, the National Catholic Reporter, and some of us back into uniformity with what the bishops think, he will do so by ignoring reality and some other principles that exist for Catholics. He will have to ignore the reality that universities and even Catholic universities like Notre Dame exist for research and the free exchange of ideas in the search for truth. The same can be said for Catholic newspapers like the National Catholic Reporter. Good newspapers exist to uncover the facts in the search for truth. And finally Cardinal George will have to ignore or make light of the fact of the right of individual conscience in the pursuit of truth.

    Cardinal George might talk of love, but does not seem to know much about love. What he does seem to know a lot about is uniformity and control. I am sure Cardinal George is a very smart man. He is also slick when he tries to couch the closed door session in terms of love. Here he is more like a used car salesman than a pastoral leader.

    Actually, this closed executive session may be good for the bishops to talk to one another. They will come from the meeting and say there was a good exchange among them. They will feel good. The Catholic Church on the other hand will not benefit. A better use of those three hours would have been to invite the president of Notre Dame and perhaps several other presidents of Catholic universities to talk with them. A better use of the time would have been to invite the editor of the National Catholic Reporter and several other editors of independent Catholic newspapers to talk with them. A better use of the time would have been to invite a group of Catholic bloggers to talk with them. It will not happen, not with this crowd of bishops. They are about control, not love, even if that is what Cardinal George says the meeting is all about.

  15. Wildhair, from what I've seen reality is not an operative issue for the USCCB. Denial and delusion are more real for them than reality.

    Cardinal George is very good at being a cardinal in today's church. Which says very little for his priesthood. Personally he would not be high on my list as a person to buy a used car from. He's way too political--and apparently forgetful. :)