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bromides

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Feb 19, 2007

The Diocese of San Diego is considering bankruptcy, for the usual reasons. Bishop Robert Brom has issued a Pastoral Statement that was distributed last weekend. It's not wrong in any obvious way, but exasperatingly tone-deaf. The following is from the part Brom addressed to his priests:

While only a few from among us have been guilty of abuse, all of us have suffered shame. We should not become bitter, we must become better, better shepherds after the manner of the Good Shepherd. I know, as you do, the deep appreciation of our people for all of us who are laying down our lives for the sheep.

Ouch. Brom seems to be on homiletic auto-pilot with his "don't get bitter, get better" line. The Rotarian cutesiness is out of place in a document dealing with the effects of sexual predation. And as for the verse about the good shepherd's laying down his life for his sheep, I've always understood it to mean his being killed -- or at least putting himself at risk of being killed -- while defending the flock against a marauder. It's a paradigm of heroic self-sacrifice. To imply that by ordinary parochial ministry priests are "laying down [their] lives" is grotesque. Finally, on the occasion when a bishop is announcing to his diocese that it has been buggered into bankruptcy by its priests, isn't it better for the lay faithful to express whatever lingering appreciation they may feel for their clergy, rather than for the bishop to assure his priests of that appreciation in their stead?

Anscombe once wrote that, when our language loses a connection with the reality it purports to convey, we "feel like someone whose jaws have somehow got out of alignment: the teeth don't come together in a proper bite." That's how Brom's discourse comes across to me. We understand the words well enough, but they don't fasten on the moral reality of the subject he's talking about. You'd think he were addressing priests interned in Chinese prison camps for offering clandestine Masses; you'd think he were addressing the laity about a factory closure.

They still don't get it, do they?

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