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the widening chasm

By Diogenes (articles ) | Aug 15, 2005

The Washington Post has a story on the sit-ins staged in resistance to Boston church closings. "The crisis of the church in Boston is not about sex abuse anymore," they quote a Boston College prof as saying. "It's about a collapse of institutional authority." It's David versus Goliath, fine. The problem is that there are many different Davids with many different views of how Goliath went bad.

The problem of supplying consecrated communion wafers was solved by Peter Borre, leader of an umbrella group representing the occupied parishes. He finds sympathetic priests to consecrate the wafers secretly, then delivers the wafers to occupied churches on Saturdays, Borre said.

Then there was the issue of a married priest. One church, Star of the Sea in Squantum, Mass., had threatened to use a referral service at www.rentapriest.com to hire one, and soon afterward the archdiocese reversed plans to close the church.

Borre said he tried to get another church in Everett, Mass., to use the same tactic -- only to find that churchgoers who were perfectly willing to stick it to the archbishop on some issues were still very traditional on this one.

"They looked at me as being evil," he said.

Fancy that.

Both Catholics and pseudo-Catholics in Boston have felt progressively alienated from the Archdiocesan leadership, and both have found in the sex-abuse crisis the Q.E.D. of their complaints. Both are outraged by the cover-ups, both indignant that parishes must vanish in the yard sale to pay for sins not their own.

At that point, however, agreement ends. Is Goliath bad because he's too soft or too rigid? Too backward or too progressive? Too Roman or too Provincetonian? VOTF liberals rejoice in the "collapse of institutional authority" -- which they see as a usurpation of the sovereignty of individual religious experience -- and look forward to a congregational Catholicism open to mom & pop clergy, divorce, rice-cracker communion, abortion, and sodomy on tap. Then you've got the Catholics who are papist by their own convictions rather than those of their grandparents, who simply want the Catholicism the Holy See assures them to be their baptismal right, who feel betrayed by a Church that sold off their sacrifices to buy liberty for miscreants. And you've got everything in between.

Sit-ins and boycotts register displeasure, but displeasure at what? The ladies at Everett wanted their Catholic church back, not Peter Borre's makeover. Taken as a whole, the protest movement has no single impact because it makes diametrically contrary demands. The sad fact is that the ecclesial fault lines have existed for decades among self-identified Catholics but have been spackled over by timid or lazy bishops. The Crisis has made plain a de facto schism that predated it and would have continued to worsen had it never occurred.

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Show 5 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: opraem - Aug. 16, 2005 11:21 PM ET USA

    as long as the bishops whose arrogance and neglect caused the abuse crisis keep their jobs, the us church will be handicapped in the marketplace of ideas. and the victims will stand as public witness of the bishops' multiple failures. while sean o'malley struggles mightily, he remains surrounded by the incompetents who 'helped' bernie law into his plush roman exile. substitute 'money' for 'sex' and you'll have the makings of the next crisis in the us church.

  • Posted by: Fiducia - Aug. 16, 2005 2:20 PM ET USA

    Parishes employ many laymen to perform services that volunteers or religious performed 50 years ago. These "professional Catholics" are vocal opponents of closings. Closing parishes will eliminate jobs for the least-qualified among them, leaving the more able ones to take on greater responsibility in larger parishes. Similarly, some pastors will be reassigned as subordinates. In many instances, this process is financially and managerially necessary.

  • Posted by: Ignacio177 - Aug. 16, 2005 10:10 AM ET USA

    I heard a story once. A bishop in a clergy meeting was discussing the vocation crisis asking for suggestions. One of the venerable older priest stood up and said to the bishop. "The vocation crisis would end if you were canonized". The same applies to the current crisis. Let us pray to St. John Fisher for the santification of bishops.

  • Posted by: Jim E - Aug. 16, 2005 2:24 AM ET USA

    A very accurate assessment! Unfortunately, the bishops and others have no clue how , when, or where to take a stand. Indeed the very courage to do so, whicht is the main prerequisite for any decisive action, is sorely missing among the bishops. Fortunately, in the end we know that God will have His way.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 15, 2005 6:59 PM ET USA

    Awesome ! More !

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