Wednesday, November 24, 2010

How Serious Is Archbishop Dolan About The USCCB's Concern For The "Mass" Exodus?

If Archbishop Dolan wants to stop the exodus, nailing shut the door to pastoral inclusion is not the answer.

Yesterday in a New York Times article, newly elected USCCB President Timothy Dolan had this to say about the priorities of the USCCB:

"He said the bishops would not stop speaking out on political issues like abortion, same-sex marriage and immigration. But he said there was now a movement among them to confront internal problems like the “sobering study” showing that one-third of Americans born and baptized Catholic have left the church."

In the above quote there is a very important observation.  It's one which may help Archbishop Dolan understand he needs to make a very distinct change in approach.  If he makes that change he may indeed help stop some of the bleeding.  He needs to stop using Catholic sexual morality as political fodder and start approaching these issues from a pastoral approach.  That is the hopeful thing that struck me about Benedict's statements on condoms.  Benedict is approaching the topic of AIDS and condoms from a pastoral perspective which places the emphasis on human life.  He has turned from using these topics for political fodder.

In an op ed piece for The Daily Beast on Dolan's election to the presidency, author Jim Carroll wonderfully describes the prevailing attitude at Vatican II--a pastoral council:

The earlier bishops were men of the institution, too, but they were also part of the Church's reckoning, at the Second Vatican Council, with the accumulated cruelty that many doctrines and traditions had inadvertently come to embody. At the Council, ideology was measured by its effect on actual people, and when found to be inhuman was changed. That is the point, of course, of the nuns' protest this week—how the abstractions of Catholic dogma on homosexuality contribute to the moral confusion of anti-gay bullies and the intense suffering of their victims. But Dolan's job, in sync with the mission given to every bishop by Pope Benedict XVI, is to reverse the changes of Vatican II—or what is left of them after the triumphal reaction of the last three decades. Cruelty is sacrosanct.

What Carroll is describing is that notion that progressives call "the Spirit of Vatican II".  It's that idea Dolan and his fellow bishops have thrown over board for the notions of "the Spirits of Ronald Reagan and John Paul II".  If I had to give a short hand synopsis of JPII's papacy, it would be the substitution of political Catholicism for pastoral Catholicism. That has been a monumental betrayal to millions of Catholic in the West. It has directly caused the deaths of millions of Catholics in the South.

Pope Benedict has made a real offer to extend his pastoral hand over condom use and HIV.  I pray that he is seeing the light. He was after all a periti at Vatican II and he most certainly understands the difference between pastoral Catholicism and political Catholicism.  I don't know that too many USCCB members get this difference, but if they are serious about stopping the bleeding or re evangelizing the West, they better get it real quick like.

Eventually, Humanae Vitae will have to be re evaluated. This encyclical stands as the exit door that opened for the exodus. It betrayed the core fundamental principles of Vatican II.  It kept sexual cruelty in place. It allowed for sex to become a political rather than pastoral issue. Yesterday the Russian Orthodox Church approved non abortive artificial birth control measures.  There is no legitimately pastoral reason Catholicism can't follow suit and plenty of positive reasons to take the same stand. 

Until sexual issues are taught from a pastoral approach emphasising growth and relationship rather than a political approach emphasising sin and hell, the permanent exit door will continue to be wide open. The entrance door to full inclusion will continue to be nailed shut


  1. As I commented yesterday, so long as this "pastoral outreach" to the fallen-away is not pastoral at all and just an advertising campaign, it will be a mockery and a huge failure.

    Folks, the dysfuction, the corruption in the institution, at least in this country, goes even beyond the hateful, elitist teachings themselves. When bishops are composing their "pastorals" on gays, on abortion, etc., they do not even invite women who have had abortions or gays to discuss. The hierarchs command from on high, and actually expect everyone to fall into line.

    What even more discouraging about the recent past is that historically, American bishops, in particular, buffered Papal "imperialism." For instance, when the Vatican in centuries past questioned and practically declared democracy as heretical, it was U.S. bishops who calmly, but unambiguously, told the Curia to "stick it."

    This crop of leaders is betraying their roots as Americans who simply will not be bossed around by monarchs...And Americans have good Americans

  2. Kevin I think they are listening to some people and unfortunately those people are rightwing political operatives. George Weigel and Mary Ann Glendon come to mind a long with some even more politically overt operatives like Deal Hudson.

    Even just as recently as the 80's the bishops would stand up to the Vatican to maintain an independent voice. Archbishop Hunthausen's being brought up short ended all of that. Ronnie and John Paul working together was too much for the USCCB--even though under Bernardin they get Hunthausen's authority reinstated, the hand writing was on the wall.

    The upshot is Donald Wuerl, the Vatican's personal hit man, is now a Cardinal. I actually hope Dolan's campaign is a huge failure. It will mean more and more Catholics are beginning to understand the difference between pastoral Catholicism and political Catholicism.

  3. Good point, colkoch, about G. Weigel...speaking of whom...wasn't he the theologian who called B16's encyclical on social justice (Caritas in Veritate), "incoherent" and basically blew it up? Um, where were the Trads on that one since any other theologian (e.g., Curran) who questions magisterial teachings on sexuality gets called "heretical"?

  4. In the picture it looks like Dolan is nailing the doors shut. I will also wait to see if there is a more pastoral approach by the American bishops. The present crop of bishops all seem to be corporate managers and not pastors.

    I also lament the way sexual issues in the church have been used in a political way. I am still angry over all the bishops who sent money to Maine to reverse gay marriage there.

    I agree with kevin57 that a good place for the bishops to begin when they write pastorals on gays or on abortion is that they invite and talk to gays and women who have had abortions before they issue their decrees.

    The last time I can remember this happening is when the bishops wrote a pastoral to the parents of gay and lesbian children titled "Always Our Children." My recollection is that gays were involved in conversations with the committee who composed the document. Many bishops were unhappy with this pastoral approach and complained they were not consulted. Then Cardinal John O'Connor of New York argued successfully that pastoral documents of the US bishops had to go to Rome for approval, which until then had not been the case. To my mind this was the beginning of the episcopal conference in this country not only losing the voice they had, but also ended any kind of pastoral sense in the US episcopacy.

  5. Wild, that's a good point. I believe it was right after they issued the pastoral letter "Always Our Children", that the equally collaborative effort on women and the church was killed. Two years of effort with a great deal of input from real live women never saw the light of day.

    For all his social justice work, O'Connor really caved in on gays and women. One wonders how much influence JPII's Vatican had on him. My cynicism with this current crop of bishops goes so far as to be utterly convinced there would be no peep from them on immigration if it weren't for the fact most of the immigrants are Catholic and they tend to vote Republican on cultural issues--at least at first.

  6. That pastoral document on women was killed mostly because it was a bad letter and women objected to it. I still remember the listening session I attended. Women said that they didn't appreciate the approach, that "women" are not a problem to be solved or fixed, that no one was asking about their life experiences.

    The draft I read really didn't address women but their roles as mother and wife--as if women could not and did not exist outside of those roles.

    Had Hunthausen still been our bishop (he'd retired by then), it would have been a real conversation. As it was, the talking points came from DC and the conclusions were already in place before anyone talked.

    I was glad to see that document go.

  7. Entirely too many American Catholics see the moral side of their faith as basically just how they vote, not how they live. They might live it themselves, but they don't see their personal lifestyle as enough. They feel they're not being good Catholics if they're not voting to make sure everybody has to follow the same rules.

    Sitting in the college cafeteria in 2008, I was asked who I was voting for, and I said Obama. I was met with a shocked stare and, "Carla ... you know he's pro-choice, right?"

    I did know that, seeing how he's a democrat and all that. But I'm not a single issue voter, nor am I someone who thinks my personal moral values ought to be imposed on other people. Then the table of Catholic republicans gave me a stern lecture about how welfare is unfair because lazy people benefit from other people's work. This is how they tried to prove that they're better Catholics than me. Argh.

  8. Thanks for the info Sharon. I don't believe listening sessions were even held in the diocese I was in at the time.

    It actually doesn't surprise me that the letter's conclusions would have been written before any such input was taken from women. It fits in better with what Wild Hair wrote about the bishops response to the All Our Children letter.

  9. Carla, I feel for ya. I used to sit around the kitchen table at the family ranch and listen to my brothers go on in the same vein. Then they would take their government 'set aside' check, and cash it with out a qualm. Set aside checks were government checks given to farmers based strictly on how many acres they didn't put into production.

    Literally, my brothers were paid to not work and could not see they were the problem they ranted about.

  10. Canada has a population of about 33 million people of which 77% are Christian. Catholics are the largest religious group in Canada with about 12.3 million or 43% of the total population.

    We have a multi-party system. There is a clear choice for anyone who wants to vote for candidates who are completely in agreement with Catholic bishops and their teachings. It is the Christian Heritage Party whose slogan is "The Right Conservative Choice".

    They claim they are "The CHP is Canada's only pro-Life, pro-family federal political party..."

    So how did they fare on election day 2008?
    Take note bishops... your political platform is a complete and total lost cause.

    CHP ran candidates in 59 of the 307 ridings. They were able to attract 26,475 votes from among the 13.8 million votes cast. They didn't elect a single member of parliament, didn't crack 0.2% of the total vote in any single contest because they were only able to draw about 450 votes per candidate. (That was way better than the Marxist-Leninist Party that fielded the same number of candidates but only drew 150 votes per candidate.),_2008

    So there you go Carla, you represent the vast majority of Catholics with your reasoned approach to voting. Those conservative cafeteria Catholics are every bit as ideological and almost as rare as communists today. Just as annoying and dangerous too.

    And Jesus wasn't a conservative Catholic, nor was he a communist, so let's just dispense with those ridiculous notions. And don't anyone ever let any of your conservative friends champion Ronald Reagan on the issue of abortion. He signed the California Theraputic Abortion Act into law in 1967.


    Colleen's right, Humanae Vitae was a terrible mistake that is largely responsible for the loss of teaching authority in the church.

  11. "It kept sexual cruelty in place" -- well put.

  12. I am thankful for you and all you share with us(=:

  13. Well said everyone! I am tired of the bishops beating the laity (and especially women) over the head about sex when they protected predators, and then they wonder where their moral authority went. The answer is that they squandered whatever moral authority they might have had, and no number of Catholic rightists can paper over that fact. These are people whose idea of social justice is picketing or blockading an abortion clinic.