Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Eugene McCarraher at Commonweal: Leaders of the American Catholic Church and Sickness Unto Death

During the lead-up to the 2012 elections, why did the leader of the U.S. Catholic bishops, Cardinal Dolan, wail that the White House is "strangling" the Catholic church, as  Bishop Jenky of Peoria screamed that he and his church have been targeted by a dictator akin to Hitler in the White House, while Archbishop Cordileone of San Francisco tagged President Obama as a "despot," Cardinal George compared the U.S. under its current presidential leadership to the former Soviet Union, and Supreme Knight Carl Anderson spoke of incomparable threats to religious freedom of Catholics in the U.S.?

In the view of Eugene McCarraher, the current leaders of the American Catholic church are displaying signs of a senescence that results in "morbid symptoms" of paranoid delusion attended by ugly outbursts of rage at a world these leaders still want to control, but don't even understand:

Why are shepherds of the American flock and their allies saying such preposterous things? It sometimes appears that the ancien régime of the American Church is fighting its impending senescence. Having lost much of their moral authority in the sexual-abuse scandal, the bishops have staked what remains on fighting perceived threats to religious liberty. Caught in a great historical transition in which church authority has eroded on every front, many conservative prelates and lay Catholics exhibit an array of morbid symptoms: lurid fantasies of sexual pandemonium; paranoid delusions of cultural conspiracy and government persecution; and ugly outbursts of rage at a world they no longer understand, control, or can persuade. Ashamed of the ecclesial present, the bishops seem transfixed by venerable memories of power and eminence.

I highly recommend McCarraher's thoughtful (and truthful) analysis, and am grateful that Commonweal has chosen to publish it.  Someone needs to get a handle on the toxic nonsense before the entire Catholic church in the U.S. circles the drains.  And since those "someones" are obviously not coming from the ranks of the hierarchy, they need to be lay leaders who care enough about the future of the Catholic church that they are willing to call the sickness of the current hierarchical leadership precisely what it is: sickness unto death.

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