First, Rod admits that the theology of the Church itself is pretty much "Do as I say, not as I do." In other words, the Church claims that the Magisterium teaches infallibly on matters of Faith and Morals; the Church does not claim that popes or bishops or priests or laymen follow these teachings at all better than the typical non-Christian guy on the street. Thus, the character of a bishop cannot compromise the teachings of Christ, teachings conveyed by this same sinful bishop. Our own sins do not discredit the Church; in a strange way our own sins prove the necessity of the Church and the truth of its teaching.
But what bothers Rod Dreher is the fact that, knowing this as we do, we are nonetheless eager to look to clerics as moral authorities and as role models, when they often are not. I wrote about this just last week. There is nothing wrong with this in theory, as it's part of our human nature, a built-in desire to love and admire and to seek Jesus Christ, even in the people around us. The tendency towards clericalism is a sign of the longing for God we have in our hearts.
But it is, at the same time, an urge toward idolatry, toward setting up priests, bishops or media celebrities or EWTN Rock Stars as having a kind of sanctity that they simply do not (as Fr. Stone, Fr. Corapi, Fr. Euteneuer, and to a lesser extent Fr. Pavone and Fr. Groeschel demonstrate; and as each of us, falling far short of the holiness of Christ, demonstrates).
But in a secular age, the game gets changed. As Dreher points out (emphasis mine) ...
If the Secular Age weakens bonds holding most people to a particular church, then the Information Age puts even more pressure on those frail psychological and social frames. Why? Because it confronts people with facts that undermine their narratives. The existence of the Internet is the reason why the Catholic abuse scandal broke so big in the US. A Boston judge released a lot of documents from the Geoghan trial into the public realm, and the Internet spread that information far and wide. Suddenly, Catholics and interested others no longer had to depend on official sources or the mainstream media for information about what was happening. And this was absolutely devastating to the Church’s official story.He's quite right here.
This is why Bill Dononhue and the Catholic League, try as the might, cannot spin Bishop Finn's conviction in a positive way - because, for one thing, the official stipulation of testimony, which tells the sorry tale, is right here on the internet, as is the more detailed Graves Report (click on the links to read them yourself).
But the issue becomes how do normal folk function when the "enchantment" fades, when we see the ideally One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church for the practically Fragmented, Sinful, Divided and Cowardly Church she is?
Dreher continues ...
shocking remarks about the scandal the other day weren’t the confused ramblings of an elderly man, but in fact what he really believes. Those remarks appeared on the website of a Catholic newspaper that took the interview down as soon as they realized how compromising of Groeschel’s reputation they were (it is telling that neither the reporter nor the editors grasped how appalling Groeschel’s words were until outsiders pointed this out; this was Fr. Groeschel, after all). Even though the paper removed the interview from its website, once it appeared on the Internet, that was that: everybody learned about it. Within days, Fr. Groeschel was retired.And Rod Dreher is not saying that the ease of access to information in an age of Distributist Media should shake our faith in the teachings of the Church - for those teachings insist upon the sinfulness of its members (a sinfulness in the process of redemption). But what he is saying is something more immediate and psychological.
He is asking the question: how, practically speaking, are we to carry on?
How do Catholics, harmed and distressed by
- scandal and by official disregard for scandal,
- by bad music and liturgy, and by official disregard for bad music and liturgy,
- by predatory evil, and by official disregard for predatory evil
- by just criticism, and by circling-the-wagons so as to shut out just criticism
How do Catholics overcome this, humanly speaking?
Rod Dreher concludes that for the faith to thrive, two things are required (again, emphasis mine) ...
1. From the faithful, it requires a more sophisticated approach to the faith, both theologically and emotionally. It requires the ability to separate the authority of the institution from the character of individual bishops, priests, or pastors. But it also requires the ability to be more careful in placing one’s faith in particular charismatic figures. For example, one has to be able to see someone like Fr. Groeschel as both a good man — as he plainly is, from his long record of service to the poor — and as deeply flawed, as his response to the scandal shows him to be. It is hard to establish this kind of equilibrium, and even harder to maintain it.
2. For the clergy and the episcopate, the task is actually more clear: they have to be good, consistently, and not just good, but strong.We lay folk can't do anything about point number two.
But point number one is part of our growing in maturity as Christians - a task which, with God's grace, is well within the scope of each of us.
I didn't quite get this right. For WHAT WILL AND WON'T WORK in this strategy, see my latest ...