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the bishops and the economy

By Diogenes (articles ) | Feb 19, 2009

"Where it is not necessary for a bishop to speak, it is necessary for a bishop not to speak." I think the axiom overstates the case, but it is not without wisdom.  A bishop's appointed task is to sanctify, to instruct, to govern.  In brief: his job is to keep us from going to hell.  Where he exceeds his mandate, he becomes just another Joe with an opinion -- too often a stupid one.  

A cringe-making case in point is currently on display at the USCCB website where, God help us, our lords spiritual advise couples how to stretch their romance dollar. I am not making this up.  

WASHINGTON -- With tough economic conditions impacting families, The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) "For Your Marriage" web site offers ten suggestions for romantic, low-cost dates. From planning an indoor "picnic" to "midnight bowling," the ideas can inspire couples to be creative date planners.

I'm confess I'm puzzled as to why the bishops think married couples should become "creative date planners" -- dating ordinarily being an activity that precedes marital cohabitation.  On the other hand, anyone who turns to the USCCB for advice on budget romance deserves to have his or her nose rubbed in indoor picnics and midnight bowling.  The other suggestions, regrettably, are even worse. Three specimens:

  • Cheap gift challenge. Head to your local department store and challenge each other to come up with the most romantic gift possible. Two requirements: It can't cost more than $20, and it must be used that night.

"It must be used that night ..."  Do you think the authors of Always Our Children have in mind a shared reading of the Imitation of Christ in paperback?  Neither do I.

  • Home spa. Create a home spa for the evening. Put on soothing music, light some scented candles, give each other a massage. Give your husband a pedicure or paint your wife's toenails, if you dare.

Wait. Didn't Bishop Robert Lynch have to shell out $100,000 a while back for lighting scented candles with his communications director?

  • “Evening at the Ritz.” Dress up and go to the lobby of an elegant hotel. Sit in the lounge and order a drink or snack. People-watch and fantasize.

See if I have this right: with "tough economic conditions impacting families," we're not instructed in almsgiving, not reminded of the value of Christian simplicity, not urged to remember the priority of our children's needs, but advised to turn up at the lobby of the Four Seasons or the Hyatt and "fantasize." What a splendid example of what St. Paul calls "setting your minds on the higher things." With the urgencies caused by the financial downturn calling forth this caliber of creativity, it's hardly surprising that our bishops haven't gotten around to addressing the peripheral tasks of their job, such as a uniform policy on communion for pro-abort office-holders. 

I already admitted that "extra ecclesiam taceat episcopus" is too restrictive.  Let me propose a modification: "Where it is not necessary for a bishop to advise a husband to paint his wife's toenails, it is necessary for a bishop not to advise a husband to paint his wife's toenails."  Can we live with that?

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