good touch, bad touch, out of touch

By Diogenes ( articles ) | May 30, 2007


The Washington Post has an article on St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke, focusing on the rarety of a bishop "adhering to Vatican orthodoxy endorsed by Pope Benedict XVI" -- oddly expressed, but we all get the point.

The article never gets deeper than the surface antagonisms, but for a prestige media piece it's not grossly unfair in describing the range of opinion. Prof. Jim Hitchcock is quoted in Burke's favor:

Burke "has relatively little concern for, let's say, negative reaction," said James Hitchcock, a professor at Saint Louis University who writes for the diocesan press and calls Burke "a very humble man in his personal life."

"He sees himself as being obliged to do what he thinks is the right thing, and he's not too concerned with strategy or how he might finesse the thing," Hitchcock said. "There are quite obviously deep divisions within the church. Archbishop Burke is one bishop who has chosen to confront them directly, as opposed to other bishops who may prefer to minimize them."

Bull's eye. The key point Hitchcock makes is that Burke did not create the doctrinal divisions in his diocese (the Boston Globe runs the same article with the tendentious headline "Archbishop's Hard Line Divides St. Louis Catholics") but is candidly acknowledging their existence and taking up the unpleasant -- and neglected -- duty of teaching that some stances are not compatible with Catholic faith.

It's no surprise that apostate Catholics are unhappy. Journalist Peter Slevin identifies one of his critical sources as "a pro choice former Catholic," but fails to make it clear that Fr. Marek Bozek is likewise extra Ecclesiam:

The leaders of St. Stanislaus Kostka church know Burke's wrath. They ran afoul of the archbishop by insisting that their property remain independent of diocesan control, as it has for decades. Burke responded by evicting the church from the diocese and excommunicating the parish leadership, which has appealed the decision to Rome.

"From his point of view, we are nonexistent," said the Rev. Marek Bozek, the church's pastor. "I find it wrong to perceive the world in white and black colors only. Unfortunately, he does. And we are wondering why the church is losing its people?"

But when Burke declared the church out of line and parish leaders stood firm, membership more than doubled, Bozek said. And when St. Stanislaus celebrated its first Christmas Mass after 17 months without a priest, 2,500 people came. "From the purely pastoral point of view, it's been nothing but good for us," Bozek said. "It has revitalized the parish. We are growing because people can't stand this any longer."

OTR readers will remember that Bozek (pictured above) was a Polish seminarian with severe navigational problems who was slime-lined out of his native diocese to Springfield-Cape Girardeau, where he got in touch with his Inner Druidess, jumped ship to join St. Stan's, and has been celebrating a non-stop Mardi Gras with schismatics ever since. "I find it wrong," he says, "to perceive the world in white and black colors only." Enjoy your rainbow, pal.

In addition to the contrary opinions about Burke -- which are predictably, and plausibly, sketched in terms of the respondents' positions on unpopular Catholic doctrines -- there's a latent and unexpressed division at work: namely, between those who understand that Burke sees himself as answerable for his pastorship at the Last Judgment, and those for whom such a notion is meaningless or absurd. The latter group can only see Burke's positive support for embarrassingly unpopular positions as his giving gratuitous pain, and giving gratuitous pain is, for such person, not only senseless but wicked.

It is suggested in the article that both Burke and Benedict are, by virtue of their orthodoxy, "out of touch." There's a sense in which every man is out of touch with those who turn their backs to him. More pertinent is the question of what he finds it necessary to hold on to, what he grasps that he's never willing to let go of.

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