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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

And Exactly Why Is This a Secret, Your Eminence?

A spokesman for the U.S. Catholic Bishops has accused Catholic News Agency of fabricating comments by Cardinal George criticizing the Catholic Health Association (CHA) for supporting Obamacare. (The cardinal gave a talk on health care at the bishops' recent meeting in Florida.) You can read the story by clicking on the link below.

The question I have is why exactly was Cardinal George's talk a secret in the first place? Was he ashamed of something he was going to say? What was the point of making it secret? Haven't we had enough secrets? Was Cardinal George afraid to directly confront the scandalous actions of Sister Carol Keehan and the CHA and let the flock know it? Why? Shouldn't public scandals be confronted publicly? Has anybody got a good answer?

In his book Nothing to Hide, Russell Shaw, former communications director for the bishops, describes the ill effects of secrecy on the community:
Secrecy, deception, stonewalling, spin, rejection of accountability, repudiation of shared responsibility and consultation -- these are deadly foes of internal communication among members of any group. They subvert and eventually destroy community and "horizontal" communion in the Church. Systematically practiced by leaders at the expense of the led, the abuse of secrecy creates an us-versus-them mentality on both sides of the relationship.
Hmm....Us vs. them -- yes indeed. Unfortunately, the them identified as enemies of the bishops are often those laity who defend the faith with courage and conviction. Preeminent theologian Dietrich von Hildebrand pointed this out in The Devastated Vineyard. Those who should be the bishops' pride and joy are often dismissed as troublemakers.

Shaw says most of what happens at bishops' meetings should be open. "The presumption ought to be in favor of openness, with the burden of proof resting (the seal of confessional excepted) on those who wish to argue for secrecy in particular cases that 'involve the good name of individuals, or that touch upon the rights of people whether singly or collectively'".

But the opposite is actually happening as the bishops close more and more of their sessions to the media. There is still a "circle the wagons" mentality. Put it down, at least in part, to the on-going problem of clericalism in the Church which, as Shaw says, is "something like the pattern in the wallpaper: it's been there so long you don't see it any more". Shaw defines clericalism as:
an elitist mindset, together with structures and patterns of behavior corresponding to it, that takes it for granted that clerics -- in the Catholic context, mainly bishops and priests -- are intrinsically superior to the other members of the Chruch and dexerve automatic deference. Passivity and dependency are the laity's lot. By no means is clericalism confined to clerics themselves. The clericalist mindset is widely shared by Catholic lay people.
Combine the elitist mindset with the attitutude that boatrockers are enemies even when they are loyal to Holy Mother Church and are working feverishly to bail the floundering ship. Wrap it all up in secrecy and you have prescription for a Church leadership out of touch with the flock and indifferent to the damaging impact scandal has had on the faith.

I'm not talking only about the sex abuse scandals, but the inaction in the face of dozens of other scandals: The Vagina Monologues showing on Catholic campuses, heretical speakers at Catholic events, homosexuals and dissenters teaching in Catholic schools at all levels, pastors allowing Church property to be used for homosexual and pro-abortion events, celebrity Catholic dissenters in photo ops with bishops laughing and making nice as though nothing is wrong. The list of scandals goes on and on and on.

The bishops' trust index with the people is so low at this point that one ponders who the average Joe in the marketplace, not to mention the average Jane in the pew, is likely to believe when he or she sees the bishops "at odds" with a news agency or anybody else for that matter? My money, sad to say, is not on the bishops.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent, excellent post Mary Ann. Your best little ditty of the year, as far as I am concerned.
    I have experienced clericalism from dissenters even in my own parish in the past.

    Clericalists love to posit Our Lord as a *revolutionary* or some kind of – dare I say it? – typological Saul Alinsky (Dontcha know, the gospels are the original versions of “Rules for Radicals”!).

    In other words, supposedly, Jesus was never concerned with following the rules (never mind what St. Paul said in Philippians 2:6 and following). He was more concerned with “social justice” for the poor and down trodden (except, I guess, the poor babies who are ripped from their mothers’ wombs by abortion - *That* is just one of many *issues* in this day and age of the “seamless garment” “common ground” gospel the clericalists so revere).

    According to the clericalists Jesus challenged the established authorities of the time (which He could, because He was God!) yet, He expected His disciples to follow those established authorities, despite them being a bunch of schmucks (see Mt. 23:1-10).

    However, when the clericalists are challenged today about abuse of the rubrics of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, bad catechetical materials, questionable practices of the sacraments or where the CCHD monies are going – suddenly *you* are the “bad guy.” *You* are the “boat-rocker” who is never happy with the established clericalists’ agenda and their AMChurch mentality.

    In other words, when you put on the “Jesus-the-Revolutionary” mantle that they so proudly esteem, *you* are suddenly the problem! *You* are the modern day version of the Scribes and Pharisees!

    The pot-kettle-black irony is so rich you can’t even begin to make this stuff up.

    Certainly, like Jesus' disciples we are to be obedient to our God-given authority. However, we do have the obligation and the right to express our concerns with the established authority - with charity (see Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 37, and Mt. 18:15 and following).

    Catechist, Kevin