There are a few things about our church that are disturbing me these days. These are some of my own thoughts on them.
Yesterday I listened to an hour long BBC program about Father Brian D’Arcy, an Irish priest under censure by the Vatican for saying and writing things the Vatican does not like. He raised an interesting point: can he stay a priest and still speak the truth? He says his concerns are not with the fundamental de fide doctrines of the church, but with other things, such as the handling of the abuse crisis and the church not reaching the folks or meeting their needs.
Also, with the national elections next week, a number of bishops have publicly and in varying ways and degrees basically told their people how and for whom to vote. Some have gone so far as to threaten folks with the loss of their immortal soul. The bemoan what they call an anti-catholic atmosphere and the loss of religious freedom. IMHO, the loss of anyone’s immortal soul has nothing to do with all this. The real threat is to the bishops’ perceived loss of their own power. I think it is about time that the IRS give serious thought to revoking the church’s tax-exempt status. There is no doubt in my mind that these bishops are abusing their power and meddling in politics.
Recently Eugene Kennedy wrote an article in the National Catholic Reporter that suggested, quite aptly, IMHO, that it would not be unexpected to find skid marks on the facial appendages of many bishops: “at the end of the day, the most important thing for a bishop is to know that the Holy Father would approve of what he had done from sun up to sundown”. There are only so many red hats and plum assignments, so the competition is fierce.
Fr. Brian D’Arcy raises a good point: other than in matters of de fide, can a priest really feel free to speak the truth as he sees it, or can he only mouth what has been handed him from highers? Can a priest feel free to criticize the way the abuse situations are being handled either locally, nationally, or world wide? Can a priest feel free to criticize bishops’ abuse of authority either locally or world wide? Is there an integrity issue about being afraid to say things because he might lose his livelihood or pension? I really don’t know and do not criticize my brother priests. I just want to raise the question. (In the interests of full disclosure, I am not in that position, and do not have these fears.)
In the current Year of Faith, some bishops seem to be saying that they alone have the truth, and if folks would only come back to them, they would impart the truth, the world would be saved. The bishops in general seem to believe that only they have the truth, all the right questions and answers, and since there is nothing they can learn from the laity, the bishops don’t have to listen to them. The laity have to listen to the bishops. Fortunately there are a number of pastoral bishops who see through all this and really are pastors to their folks. Unfortunately, these pastoral bishops are not all that well known outside their own dioceses.
Brian D’Arcy on his part is looking for honest and open dialogue about the things that trouble the folks these days. Many bishops on their part do not want dialogue, only dictatorial monologue. Along with their boss, they yearn for a leaner and purer church where their power will be absolute and their authority unquestioned. Maybe this is what will happen. The role of the faithful will be to obey without question every word that comes from the mouth of these bishops. They seem to think that the pain and suffering these words may cause is of no importance and upholds the greater glory of God, not to mention the greater glory of the bishops.
When folks are dealing with the loss of their homes, their families, everything they own, they don’t really care about pontifical pronouncements made by well-fed men in fancy robes, warm houses, with no financial worries and plenty of job security. They want to be reminded that someone cares about them and is tying to help them. When folks begin to realize their life can end at any moment, with or without warning, they don’t really care what pronouncements these men make. They want to be reassured that God is real and God cares and is with them no matter what, and whatever is coming is ok. When folks’ families are falling apart, and they are lonely and afraid, these mens’ approval or disapproval of the lifestyles of whomever is helping and reassuring them are not important. The pontifications on married life made by men who have only an intellectual fixation but have never themselves known the beauty of intimacy carry little weight and even less credibility.
Where is any of this in the Gospel? IMHO the church leadership has left the Gospel far behind. They have reversed the Lord’s words that “the Son of Man has come to serve, not to be served”. There are countless numbers of good folks who live the gospel day in and day out, many who have never even heard of the Gospel. They are simply in their own way living what Jesus, along with many others, taught: “do unto others what you would have others do unto you”. They are helping others because they know it is right. These folks are a living proof of God loving and caring. They do all this without fancy clothes and boisterous pronouncements.
Just sayin . . .
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I thought that the virtue of humility requires that a person understands that he or she does not know everything? …that he or she, regardless of station or position or rank, is dependent upon others and upon God? When I was on active duty in the Army, I never understood those generals who acted as if they knew everything. Similarly, I don’t understand those bishops who seem to think they know everything (leaving the de fide doctrines aside, of course). Life is a spiritual journey in which we all need Christ, and life is a learning journey in which we all need each other.
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