December 01, 2008 03:25 pm— By James Drane
01 December 2008
Ethicist-cum-Writer Rips Archbishop Burke and Other Faithful Bishops
The bustling metropolis of Meadville, Pennsylvania apparently has a newspaper. This newspaper apparently utilizes the services of at least one writer. This writer, while not moonlighting as a Professor of Bioethics at the prestigious Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, apparently produces anti-Catholic bile:
LOCAL COLUMN: Failed Catholic bishops
December 01, 2008 03:25 pm— By James Drane
Some bishops are doing serious damage to the Catholic Church in the United States. True, but not the ones that will be mentioned in this article.
During the presidential campaign these extreme right-wing bishops did their best to require Catholics to vote Republican. No, they reminded Catholics of their moral duty to refrain from voting for a pro-death candidate. It is the Democrat party, by its platform and candidate choices, who requires that Catholics not vote for most Democrats. Their message was that Catholics are morally obligated to vote for a candidate who claims the pro-life label. More accurately, to vote for, when possible, actual pro-life candidates. There is no duty to vote for fake ones.
Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Neb., Archbishop Raymond Burke and Bishop Robert Hermann from St. Louis, Bishop Joseph Martino of Scranton, Bishop Charles Chaput of Denver and Cardinal Regali [sic] of Philadelphia, are some of the most prominent of the extreme [read: Catholic] bishops. One big question facing today’s Catholic community is whether there is enough strength within the Catholic hierarchy to control the disposition of these bishops to use sacraments to push their political views. If not, who will stop the damage that they are doing to the Church? I suppose it depends on your point of view. Asking Catholics who commit scandal to bring their views in line with the faith they profess to hold is called pushing one's "political views".
Instead of taking advantage of the Barack Obama victory to celebrate the end of a period of racial intolerance and social injustice [they actually acknowledged this quite openly], these bishops do nothing but lament the refusal of Catholics to follow their voting directives. Instead of using the election outcome to call attention to the Catholic roots of Obama’s social justice agenda [there are no Catholic roots to Obama's "social justice agenda". To the extent that any policy of Obama's would match true Catholic social justice teaching, it is a happy accident. Jesus did not come to advocate social welfare programs.], these bishops continue to blame the Catholics who ignored their orders.
In the 1960s, celibate Catholic hierarchs decided to teach married couples about sexual morality [Right. Just decided.]. Married Catholics were instructed not to use available technologies (e.g., the pill) to practice birth control. Just like they were taught for 2,000 years. This ethical issue was not addressed biblically [it was, but why let facts stand in the way] so their teachings were based on rational arguments. Their arguments, however, were a total failure. All studies I recall hearing from that time confirmed that a majority of married Catholics continued to practice birth control in good conscience. The Church’s moral authority and Church credibility were severely damaged and yet there were no signs of any disposition on the part of church authorities to learn from their failure. Why was the Church's credibility damaged, and who did it? So-called "liberal" bishops and priests and nuns and laymen who promoted the idea that contraception was perfectly OK, and that the Church's teachings were "out of date". Forty years later, the Church is denuded and in crisis. I think the Bishops the writer dislikes did learn their lesson.
Then there was the priest scandal. Many bishops knew about the scandalous behavior of certain priests but kept everything secret. Their response was to reprimand the priests and to require them to make retreats in order to stop sinning. Of course, this didn’t work. It was a terrible mistake. Children were hurt along with families and the whole Church community. Besides being sinful, the pedophile priests were mentally ill and emotionally retarded. To have them make retreats had little effect on their behaviors. Who suffered from this failure on the part of bishops? The whole Church did, financially and socially. What did not happen was any public admission of failure on the part of the guilty bishops. They were not disciplined. There were no signs of the bishops learning from their mistakes. Which bishops? The "extreme" right-wingers, or the more doctrinally-pliable ones?
Most recently U.S. Catholic bishops decided to tell Catholics how to vote in the presidential election. The main issue for the bishops was reversal of the current Supreme Court law (Roe vs. Wade). The bishops wanted more legalized restrictions on abortions even though more restrictions and criminalization of all abortion would be a moral, political and medical disaster. Living babies a moral disaster? Talk about moral bankruptcy. Most bishops distributed a “Guide for Catholics Voters” which made abortion legislation the main concern. The most right-wing bishops even wanted to use the Eucharist as an instrument for their political objectives. They wanted to deny communion to Catholics who do not obey their directives.
With this kind of leadership, the Catholic Church is going through a period of decline. The decline started forty years ago, and the response of courageous bishops is the beginning of the reversal of the decline.
Great empires fail when leadership fails and the same thing happens [ed] to the Church. Over and over again Church authorities do not learn from mistakes and do not change. They suffer from a creeping infallibility. It guarantees institutional decline. Huh?
The election of a decent American with African roots [birth certificate?] meant a moral leap in our nation away from prejudice and toward tolerance. Ah, the god Tolerance. It was a moral example that the whole world can see and learn from. It changed the public image of the United States and made more hopeful a world- wide movement toward peace and reconciliation. Just look at Mumbai for confirmation of this.
Obama’s victory, however, was a loss for Catholic bishops. We finally agree. Their message was not to vote for him. Although he has a strategy for reducing abortions substantially [this is a complete crock], he did not support their drive for criminalization of abortion because it would mean more deaths for the poorest, the weakest, the most vulnerable women. But forget their babies.
A majority of Catholics agreed with Sen. Obama. Many [not] good Catholics worked to advance his candidacy. Adult Catholics carefully formed their own consciences [true, if by formed, you mean killed] and by so doing demonstrated moral maturity. Ha! The numbers showed that the bishops lost the overall Catholic vote: the adult vote, the Latino vote, the young Catholic vote and on and on. Is there any evidence of the bishops learning from these results? Is there any evidence that Catholics will wake up and listen to the Church? Will the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops recognize that their arguments were unconvincing, even to faithful and loyal Catholics? They were convincing to faithful Catholics. It is the others who were unconvinced. Will the more responsible bishops do nothing to restrain their right-wing colleagues who show a pathological obsession with the one issue of legal access to abortion?
The Catholic Church has had a long history. Deep. Good popes and bishops contributed to the spread of Christianity over the centuries. Bad popes and bishops justified movements for reform. How will our era be judged? We will find out soon enough. If secular nations can turn things around and leap forward morally, so can the Church, but this will require getting rid of failed bishops. Difficult? Not really. Just re-establish the most ancient Catholic tradition of electing and periodically subjecting their leadership to review by priests and lay persons. Oh yeah, great idea. Is this guy Marek Bozek?
Drane is Russell B. Roth Professor of Bioethics, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania.