Catholic Culture Liturgical Living
Catholic Culture Liturgical Living

confidence men

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Jul 10, 2005

Like getting a full page ad in the Sunday edition, gratis. Yet another bouquet tossed to Voice of the Faithful, courtesy of the Boston Globe.

'When all is said and done, the church is financed by contributions from the Catholic laity," said David Castaldi, the former chancellor of the Archdiocese of Boston and now chairman of the Voice of the Faithful board of trustees. 'It is our money, and we deserve to have financial transparency and accountability within our church." ...

Since its founding, Voice of the Faithful has focused on three goals: supporting victims, supporting what the group calls 'priests of integrity," and pushing for structural change in the church. It has determinedly avoided hot-button issues that divide the church, such as ordination of women and priestly celibacy.

The usual ruse. Priestly celibacy one can fairly call a "hot-button issue that divides the Church." But the prohibition of the ordination of women is not an issue that divides the Church but one doctrine (among many others) that characterizes the Church, one that separates Catholics from non-Catholics. To avoid taking a stand on this or any other defined doctrine is to fail to connect oneself to the Catholic Church, and for those once confirmed as Catholics it is to put oneself outside the Catholic Church. In and of itself that doesn't make all VOTF members apostates. After all, a man might belong to a bike club (whose statutes enunciate no position on the ordination of women or father-daughter incest or Trinitarian perichoresis) and remain a faithful Catholic. But VOTF has no grounds to be listened to as Catholic any more than do Weight Watchers or Hell's Angels or the South Ipswich Poetry Reading Society.

As a private citizen, Castaldi is right in his call for transparency and accountability. But VOTF lacks the moral posture to deliver this message, given the fact that it has punted when faced with perfectly legitimate questions as to what precisely its members intend to change and what they regard as unchangeable. What the "faithful" of Voice of the Faithful are faithful to is yet to be determined -- or, at least, yet to be shared with the public. If you announce that one of your goals is "pushing for structural change in the Church," and then play the structure card face-down, no orthodox Catholic is going to trust you with sharp tools, especially while jokers like Frs. Walter Cuenin and James Keenan are capering atop the VOTF homecoming float. Imagine an ad hoc association of citizens' action groups in unanimous agreement that the town's abandoned brewery is an eyesore and should be torn down and replaced. When the question is put to them, "Replaced by what?" their agreement ends. Are you going to trust the group that insists it has a great structure in mind but refuses to show you the architect's plans?

To my mind, there's no point in keeping up the pretense. VOTF was assembled around a common enemy: the bad bishops of the Northeast. Yet to have a common enemy is not the same as sharing a positive vision. Think of the coalition of Clinton-despisers that elected the Congress of 1994, and immediately fragmented into dozens of antagonistic sub-groups. In the same way, VOTF served as a rallying point for an outrage so widely felt that members of widely varying religious conviction could ignore the Catholicism business until they got off their chests what they so badly needed to say. But they can't ignore it forever. As Phil pointed out more than a year ago, the auguries are not reassuring.

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