Action Alert!

ends & means

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Mar 10, 2006

George Weigel on lay discontent, and its discontents:

The Long Lent of 2002 has left a residue of deep, and in some cases, smoldering, lay discontent with the Church's episcopal leadership. Catholics have understood that a scandal of clerical sexual misconduct became a crisis of enormous (and, in financial terms, still untold) proportions because of the failures of bishops: failures that were theological as well as managerial.

Some, perhaps many, bishops believe that this reaction is unfair, that the entire episcopate is being maligned for the malfeasance of a few. There is perhaps some truth in that complaint, but until the bishops of the United States show a far greater capacity for self-correction than they've shown to date, lay discontent will continue. And it will likely grow.

That discontent, which often focuses on inept administration, has already taken some unhelpful forms. The Boston-based Leadership Roundtable on Church Management, while identifying some real problems in Church governance, has addressed those problems with proposals that would, in effect, turn the Catholic Church in America into another liberal Protestant denomination.

Any structural or managerial reforms, says Weigel, "must clearly protect the bishop's authority as governor of his local Church while freeing him to be the apostle --- the evangelical witness --- he was ordained to be. That's a tall order, but not an impossible one."

Very true. But it is an impossible order if bishops continue to permit themselves to frame the quandary in managerial terms. Your Uncle Di has argued earlier that The Crisis is unfixable because it's not the kind of problem the problem-solvers can stand outside of. It's not a question of weighing different approaches to the same end; incompatible ends are at stake, each with its cadre of bishops, priests, and laity in support. Benedict XVI and Benedict XV and Benedict I belong to a single communion; those clergy in Canada and Minnesota who have declared their dissent are trying to claw their way out of it. Like Rebekah, the Church has two nations in her womb. Her spouse, like Isaac, has only one blessing to give.

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