Wednesday, September 24, 2003

For the last couple of days, I have been trying to marshal my thoughts into a coherent argument. I haven’t been able to do so. To be honest, there doesn’t seem to be much point.

How do I argue with a lay person, who quite comfortably insists that she will not obey her own priest, but objects to a priest exercising that same degree of autonomy toward his bishop, or when her bishop is casual in his allegiance to Rome?

What do I say to a Catholic who rejects private interpretation of the Bible but argues with equal assurance in favor of private interpretation of the Catechism?

How can I respond to someone who argues that all he requires is a catechism and the Eucharist as though it were not the priest who consecrates the Eucharist and the bishop who consecrates the priest? Is it enough to say that Thomas Aquinas claimed that reception of the Eucharist can bring either life or death depending on the state of the recipient? Should I make the further argument, so beautifully advanced by Michigan Catholic:

"Priests were optimists. They were builders and golfers, drinkers of Scotch. They bellowed their Latin. They drove fast in dark cars. They wore Hawaiian shirts to compensate for tragedy. Priests' boyhoods were spent in dark, polished seminaries, as lovelorn, as masculine as my father's Mexico. Priests wore skirts. Parishioners gave priests hand towels with crosses embroidered on, or pen sets with crosses for clips, or handkerchiefs with little crosses in the corners, or notepapers embossed with praying hands. Priests told jokes to cover the embarrassment of such gifts; priests told jokes to cover the embarrassment of collecting money; priests told jokes to cover the embarrassment of life, for priests had the power to forgive sins."
What can I think when a columnist of Peggy Noonan’s caliber is fatuous enough to suggest that our bishops should be patsies based on some romantic heroic model of socially sanctioned holiness? Is it enough to remind her that our institutional Church stands as a sheep amidst the wolves and that contrary to her advice, Jesus ordered our bishops to be as cunning as the serpent and as harmless as the doves?

Would any of these people accept as legitimate the argument that, while restoring old customs, we might restore the practice of kissing the bishop’s ring as a mark of our fealty and an acknowledgement of our respective roles in the scheme of things?

Frankly, I'm not at all encouraged when I read of a faithful Catholic participant in the conservatives’ conference threatening to “excommunicate’ her bishop as though she actually believes that she has the authority to do so:
We love them and support them - - but Christ's Church and His Truth is on the line - you are either with us or against us. No more straddling the line calling for peace treaties between truth and lies. Take a side.

It sure seems to me that this meeting was just an other chapter in "Power Politics of the Laity"

Conservatives talk a good talk: "Pulling together a group of powerful and influential individuals who can network to defend our priests and Bishops when they are being attacked". Judging from Boston, however, these are not the folks I would want defending my back. They are far too quick to turn on their own.

And then again, their support comes with a caveat " - and who will work together to prohibit silence from hijacking truth." Exactly whose silence are they prohibiting? And from whence does their authority stem? How are these people different than those that claim "we are the Church"?

I am truly sorry. I had such hope…
but the conservatives' meeting with the bishops is the straw that broke this camel's back. Try as I might, I just can't wrap my mind around it. It's gotten to the point now where I would need a scorecard to tell the 'restorers' from the 'reformers'. Both sides seem intend on having the Church on their terms or else!

Perhaps, Mary Ann Glendon is right. It all comes down to Formation, Formation, Formation

For some refreshing commentary on the state of the Church, I visited Bill Cork


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