Monday, November 26, 2012

Matters Catholic: Church "Implosion," Cost of Clothing Cardinals, Sociopathic Lack of Empathy of Many Church Leaders, Cost of Anti-Gay Attacks by Hierarchy

A number of very good articles (and a video) today, all having to do with Catholic news stories: Robert Mickens on the implosion of the governing structures of the Catholic church; Fr. Anthony Ruff and Andrea Tornielli on the cost of clothing cardinals; Anthony Foster on the sociopathic lack of empathy of a particular cardinal, Pell in Australia; and Human Rights Campaign on the cost to American Catholics of this campaign cycle's attack on LGBT citizens by Catholic leaders:

At Open Tabernacle, Terry Weldon offers a video of Tablet Vaticanologist Robert Mickens speaking recently to the City Club of Cleveland about the "implosion" currently taking place in the governing structures of the Catholic church.*  Mickens prefaces his analysis by stating,

I've chosen to speak to you today about what I've begun to call for several years now the Vatican implosion.  Now, what do I mean by "implosion"?  I define it as the collapse of an entire system, a structure, an ethos, a culture, if you will, of global church governance.  It's the crumbling of what is as close to an absolute monarchy as anything that ever existed in the world, certainly in the Western world.  In fact, the Catholic hierarchy and certainly its center in Rome could arguably be called the last absolute monarchy in the West today.  It is imploding, I think, for a variety of reasons, which I hope, not too glibly, I'll be able to explain to you in a few moments as we go on. 

Mickens then proceeds in a masterful presentation to sketch the conditions producing the implosion and some of the most significant signs that the Catholic church is now imploding around its adherents--in its governing structures, at least.  Conditions and signs to which Mickens points:

1. The Vatileaks scandal. 
2. What this scandal and other recent ones show us about the "inside" of the Vatican: cardinals and bishops bitterly fighting for higher posts, engaged in financial corruption, cronyism, and "things far removed from saying their prayers in Latin." 
3. As all this takes place, "Latin is making a comeback, as well as other ecclesiastical fashions, fixations, and other things that come from an age that predates the Second Vatican Council."   
4. The widespread closing of parishes. 
5. The priest shortage (even as there are vocations in abundance among women and married people). 
6. "Clerical-centrism," which translates into clericalism, "the idea and ethos of a priestly caste system separated and raised above the whole body of believers."  "This is a cancer in the church.  It has no place in the body of Christian belief.  Its resurgence in far too many of our newer bishops and younger clergy is a cause for worry."  The closing of churches is directly related to the fact that the structures of the church are predominantly clerical-centric.   
7. The abuse crisis, which is about power and control over one's victim.  The clericalist environment of the governing structures of the Catholic church allowed the scandal to reach the proportions it did.  And it's not over yet by a long shot.  

Mickens concludes that the signs of the impending implosion within the Catholic church are crystal clear in the way our bishops have handled the abuse crisis.  And in the midst of the crisis and the implosion it and other factors are setting off, Benedict's refusal to entertain any significant changes in the existing structures of church governance is accelerating the implosion.  His refusal to entertain significant changes in how the church is governed is not merely a symptom but a root cause of the implosion.

The end result of this process of implosion and the current pope's refusal to yield on the governing structure of absolute monarchy?  At a theological level, the entire ethos of the monarchial governing structures now dominating the church with their attendant clericalism impedes the incarnational impulse of the church.

It's interesting to hear Mickens's talk side-by-side with Fr. Anthony Ruff's dry commentary on the outlay of money required to make new cardinalsAt his Pray Tell blog, Fr. Ruff excerpts recent commentary from Vatican Insider Andrea Tornielli about the cost of discipleship what it costs to kit out new cardinals in new-cardinal finery:

That is 3 or 4 thousand British pounds, 5 or 6 thousand bucks in the U.S.

Fr. Ruff concludes by noting that Rome made 6 new cardinals this past Saturday.

And, along the same lines, an absolutely not-to-be-missed photo essay it occurs to me to recommend once again to readers here: Huguccio Della Chiesa's "The Cost of Looking Good in the Magic Kingdom" about how much we Catholics invest to keep one of the American church's biggest Vatican insiders, Cardinal Raymond Burke, in fine togs.  This valuable resource is at Richard Sipe's wonderful website.

And speaking of cardinals, the imperial style impeding the church's incarnational impulse, and the spectacular mishandling of the abuse crisis by the current leaders of the Catholic church: in Australia, Anthony Foster, who, along with his wife Chrissie, has long sought a hearing for their two daughters who were assaulted by a parish priest in Melbourne, concludes the following after his and his wife's dealings with then Archbishop Pell:

In our interactions with the now Cardinal Archbishop Pell we experienced a sociopathic lack of empathy, typifying the attitude and responses of the church hierarchy. We had come for compassion but were handed confrontation. 

Tragically, one of Foster's two daughters, Emma, has committed suicide, and the other daughter, Katie, is now severely impaired after her binge drinking resulted in her being hit by a car.

Pell's sociopathic lack of empathy has been apparent to me from the time he refused, several years ago, to meet face to face with his lesbian cousin and former nun Monica Hingston, who lives in a committed relationship with another former nun, Peg Moran, to tell her why she and her committed love for Peg Moran are depraved and intrinsically disordered.  

Pell refused to meet his cousin face to face.  Kings feel no obligation to explain anything to anyone.  No matter who is hurt in the process.  In fact, the more misery they can inflict while remaining imperiously silent, the more they imagine they've confirmed their absolute power over others.

One thing that interests me about Anthony Foster's painful testimony: the term "sociopath" is now entering the vocabulary of the mainstream media as a taken-for-granted term, as the media discuss the abuse crisis in the Catholic church and the behavior of the church's clerical elite.  And what a terrible indictment this is of what the current pope and his predecessor have effected by investing everything in the maintenance at all costs of the clerical system, while the rest of the church goes to rack and ruin as the clerical system and all its power and privilege are kept intact.

Finally, the price tag to American Catholics for the bishops' ugly attack on LGBT citizens in Maine, Maryland, Washington, and Minnesota this campaign cycle?  $2 million.  As far as I know, that figure only accounts for what the USCCB spent on this campaign.  I think (but may be wrong) that the considerable expenses of the Knights of Columbus to mount these anti-gay attacks are separate from this figure.

*I'm grateful to Jim McCrea, too, for emailing a link to Mickens's video to me and others.

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