Friday, December 31, 2010

NCR on Church as Imagined by John Paul II: Grand, Conspicuous, Highly Regimented

Yesterday, in discussing Marele Day's book Lambs of God, I said that the church we imagine depends very much on where we're situated, in terms of power and privilege.  Men with clerical power and privilege often imagine a church quite different from the one imagined by others--as my excerpt from Day's book indicates.  The church imagined (and lived) by the Cistercians of Tibihirine, Algeria, discussed in my other posting yesterday, represents a radically different model in which ordained men, who could rely on power and privilege to make their lives comfortable, renounce power and privilege to live in solidarity with the least among us, and to share their fate.

And here's National Catholic Reporter in an editorial published yesterday, on the legacy of restorationist Catholicism under Popes John Paul II and Benedict:

The myth of Maciel fit John Paul's idea of what church should be — grand, conspicuous, highly regimented, filled with loyal priests who would not question authority, rich in personal heroics, and larded top to bottom with pious practices and rules that helped maintain order. Except that it was an utter sham. Maciel was undoubtedly John Paul's worst personnel mistake, but it was not his only one. The characteristics he treasured — blind loyalty and correct ideology over pastoral acumen or creative leadership — were evident in many of the bishops he appointed, and more than a few of those appointments turned round to haunt him and the wider church.

If John Paul was ill served by his curia, he was just as badly served by some of his highest-profile acolytes in the United States. Such noted conservatives as George Weigel, Professor Mary Ann Glendon, former Crisis magazine editor and Republican consultant Deal Hudson, and the late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, editor of First Things magazine, insisted on Maciel's innocence in the face of abundant reporting on the persistent and credible accusations from former seminarians and priests in his order.

One of the grand ironies of the history through which we've lived in the disastrous restorationist moment of recent Catholic history is the claim of the Catholics of the right, from the pope down to apologists such as those named in the preceding paragraph, that they are restoring an authentic, orthodox, faithful and true Catholic church.

While thousands and thousands of their brothers and sisters walk away from the church that restorationism has created, because it is anything but faithful and true to core affirmations of the gospels and core teachings of the church itself about how church is to function.  As we near 2011, I wonder if this trend--faithful Catholics leaving the church to save their souls, to save their faith--will continue, or if the pastoral leaders will at last address their responsibility for the exodus.

I see no strong movement towards the latter--in the direction of a decisive willingness of Catholic pastoral leaders to admit that they have spectacularly misled the church in recent years, all the while claiming to have the sole, exclusive key to all truth, and that their faithfulness exceeds that of ordinary members of the flock.  As a result, I don't see the exodus of faithful Catholics seeking a spiritual home decreasing anytime soon.

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