Praying the Post

Reading the newspaper with a cup of coffee in one hand and a rosary in the other.

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Wednesday, June 05, 2002
From the other side

Michael Kelly vents his irrepressible spleen at the bishop's draft charter, but he seems to make a common error.

He begins with a couple of concessions:
First, it is not nothing. Second, realistically, it represents an attempt at probably necessary compromise....
But then he moves to his principal objection:
The third thing that may be said, though, is that this is, ultimately and still, a shameful refusal to fully admit the horror of the church's moral implosion. It is -- again -- an attempt at ducking blame and limiting fallout for what is, in the end, a matter of institutional, not individual, corruption.
In writing this, he makes the same mistake Mary McGrory and others made when they complained that the Pope's Lenten letter to priests was a "wholly inadequate" response to the crisis in America. It is the mistake of criticizing a document for what it isn't rather than for what it is.

In fact, Mr. Kelly explicitly admits this:
But the real failing is not what is in the proposal but what is not. Not the slightest mention is made of any intention to investigate or punish the high church officials -- bishops, archbishops and assorted superiors and ecclesiastical bureaucrats -- who, it has been redundantly shown, have systematically aided, protected, hidden and promoted known predator-priests. They are the missing guilty, still.
But mentioning all this only makes sense if the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has the authority to investigate and punish high church officials. It doesn't.

Catholics say the Church is a mystery; it certainly seem to be a mystery for a lot of people with confused ecclesiologies. If American bishops aren't vice-presidents of Roman Catholicism, Inc., neither are they members of the Clerical Country Club, passing motions to fine or expel those who don't live up to club standards.

There is, of course, historical precedent for local synods deposing bishops, but before anyone endorses this scheme, they should review the history of these synods and judge whether the benefits for the Church in the United States are likely to outweigh the costs.