Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Current Catholic Crisis and Shock Waves: An Addendum

As an addendum to what I posted earlier today on this topic: it goes without saying that I don't think we've seen the last of troubling revelations about the abuse situation and its cover-up.  Much of the current fanfare--much of the diversionary activity represented by statements like Benedict's second in command, Cardinal Bertone, that the abuse situation = homosexual priests = pedophilies--is, in my view, diversionary precisely in view of the Marcial Maciel story.  We don't yet know all there is to be known about the Marcial Maciel story.  When that story is fully told following the recent Vatican investigation of the Legionaries, I suspect there will be information in it more grievous than we have yet imagined.  If that story is ever fully told . . . .

Meanwhile, in addition to gays and lesbians, the Vatican has American religious women to kick around as diversionary footballs.  It is not coincidental, I suspect, that the investigation of American nuns was announced as Rome knew that the Maciel chickens were about to come home to roost.

As new revelations unfold, I think we'll see even harder pushback from the segment of American Catholics--and they're numerous and strong--who want to suppress open discussion of the problems in the church.  That pushback is becoming downright embarrassing, and it will be more embarrassing still in days to come, I think.

Embarrassing because so ill-informed, so lacking in intellectual depth and sound moral insight: in the responses of a sizable segment of American Catholics to the abuse crisis from 2002 forward, we see on full display the dumbed-down church we've become in the restorationist movement of Catholic history.  The lack of theological information and of vital connection to Catholic tradition in its soundest and fullest manifestations is plainly evident in the way many American Catholics have chosen to handle (or not to handle is more accurate) the abuse revelations.  And I think this trend is going to become worse before it becomes better.

It will become worse because, through it all--and as an indicator of his unwillingness to grapple with the crisis at the systemic level at which it has to be addressed, if it's to be resolved--Benedict continues appointing bishops like Thomas Wenski to influential positions in the U.S. Catholic church.  Bishops whose primary requirements for preferment are not intellectual acumen, pastoral skill, or--I'll say it, even personal integrity--but who have risen to power because they are career ecclesiastics who know how to work the system to their advantage.  How to say yes and to make the right political gestures to obtain favor.

And that's what has brought us to the state we're in now.  Benedict's episcopal appointments  predictably demonstrate a complete lack of willingness on his part to depart from the path that has brought us to this dead end.  The men he continues to elevate to positions of power in the American church do not represent the future of a vibrant Catholicism  for the 21st century, of of any institution, for that matter, which values its future.  Not at all.