Friday, May 24, 2013

Robert McClory on Carla Hale Story: A Church "Crippled and Sclerotic Due to Arrogance at the Top"

At National Catholic Reporter, Robert McClory notes that Frank Bruni's summary of the Carla Hale story, about which I blogged on Tuesday, is making the internet rounds. As he points out, Carla Hale's story is, unfortunately, no isolated incident:

It is something that’s been happening all over the country as gays are weeded out of Catholic rectories, schools and churches, often on the basis of one anonymous letter or phone call. That’s all it takes.

And then McClory observes that the "stiff-necked intransigence" of an institution whose leaders behave this way (as they have also behaved in the case of other hot-button issues including contraception, ordination of women, in vitro fertilization, re-marriage after divorce, abortion, and the priest abuse scandal) is evidence of a sclerosis in contemporary Catholicism that is driving vitally important members away from the church:

This is an old, old church which has become crippled and sclerotic due to arrogance at the top and a refusal to admit that the experiences of real people in the real world might have anything to contribute. It’s a punitive, angry, defensive, male-run church -- certain of its positions, hiding behind pillars of absolute authority and infallibility. 
This is not the church that Vatican II envisioned, a participative, collegial, outward-looking church, more concerned with the needs of the whole world than with its self-image of supremacy. But the policies of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI departed from such a broad, generous approach in favor of smaller, more loyal, more obedient church. 
And that is just the sort of church that fires school teachers on the basis of anonymous letters.

And he's right. Arrogance at the top of an institution, coupled with the refusal to admit that the experiences of real people in the real world might have valuable insights to contribute to the institution's leadership structures, will doom any institution. Especially when the institution is structured, in its inner power circles, as a tightly-controlled little club of punitive, angry, defensive men who pretend that their authority rests on a pillar of infallibility that is crumbling beneath their haughty feet.

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