Complacent Cahill

By Leila Marie Lawler (articles ) | Apr 05, 2005

Well, Diogenes, I guess I have this to say about Thomas Cahill. He displays a fatuous willingness to mix historical assumption, faulty middle term distribution, and yet mildly creditable conclusion in that frustrating way that passes these days as analysis.

Exasperated, we stand by, trying to untangle what can only be described as a knotted determination to produce the effect most likely to shore up the comfortable middle-aged view of the Church so popular in Voice of the Faithful circles and other bastions of self-satisfaction.

Cheerfully critical of John Paul II and his style of governance, he writes:

In order to have been named a bishop, a priest must have been seen to be absolutely opposed to masturbation, premarital sex, birth control (including condoms used to prevent the spread of AIDS), abortion, divorce, homosexual relations, married priests, female priests and any hint of Marxism. It is nearly impossible to find men who subscribe wholeheartedly to this entire catalogue of certitudes; as a result the ranks of the episcopate are filled with mindless sycophants and intellectual incompetents.

Well, this list, even including Marxism if you define it as the tendency to act against subsidiarity and natural law, has in fact been assented to (or assent has been demanded), for the history of the Church, until the present era. The Church didn’t “find” men who subscribed wholeheartedly to this “catalogue of certitudes” – she formed them.

It’s in the dereliction of this duty of formation that she now stumbles along with what she has for a hierarchy, leading to Cahill’s accurate observation regarding the present leadership. But it’s insofar as the late Pope didn’t pursue his agenda of authority that such a situation exists; not because of his rigidity, but in spite of it.

Cardinal Law, who had to resign after revelations that he had repeatedly allowed priests accused of sexual abuse to remain in the ministry while failing to inform either law enforcement officials or parishioners, must stand as the characteristic representative of John Paul II, protective of the church but often dismissive of the moral requirement to protect and cherish human beings.

Does Cahill want the Pope to have upheld moral requirements or not? Morality to Cahill means “what I like,” not a particular coherent set of standards. Morality to this kind of Catholic actually means immorality. In fact, Cardinal Law’s downfall was precisely his failure to root out or even acknowledge homosexuality and its subculture in his charges.

The situation is dire. Anyone can walk into a Catholic church on a Sunday and see pews, once filled to bursting, now sparsely populated with gray heads.

Once again, an accurate statement, alas. That this “dire situation” could be due to precisely the ideas Cahill seems to embrace – and it seems reasonable to think that contraception, for instance, results in a dearth of anything other than “gray heads” – doesn’t even appear distantly on the horizon of his complacent view of Church affairs.

Sometimes you wonder if guys like Cahill really want a Church according to their vision. That Church, it seems to me, would be eerily like the one we actually have, suggesting that it’s not the Pope’s orthodoxy that made it so.

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  • Posted by: Eleazar - Apr. 06, 2005 1:07 PM ET USA

    I wish Cahill and those who think as he does, would establish their own churches that practiced those things which they espouse. We could cleanse the Roman Catholic Church and rededicate it to Christ. We could turn the altars back around, move the tabernacles back to the center of the Sanctuaries and reverse a whole host of obscenities. We could see who are the real Catholics, and who are pretenders.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 06, 2005 9:48 AM ET USA

    So, the priests that are obsessed with masturbation and sex-with-aids have left the Church. So, this is a problem? Further, Cahill has failed to notice that men of his bent of mind have had their hands on the levers of power since VII.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 05, 2005 8:58 PM ET USA

    The good priests have been passed over; and not a few, in their growing frustration as the pontificate of John Paul II stretched on, left the priesthood to seek fulfillment elsewhere." Elsewhere? Ah yes, the priests who want to seek fulfillment with masturbating, licentious, AIDS infected, condom using, aborted, divorced, homosexual, married, female, Marxist bishops? Now why wasn't it obvious to the Pope that that was the true doctrine of the Church? Where do they think they are anyway, in NH?

  • Posted by: - Apr. 05, 2005 8:31 PM ET USA

    The problem has been in the Church since the enlightenment, but rose resplendent when John XXIII redefined compassion to be tolerance of the wayward. Paul VI followed by ordering C O'Boyle to retain all his pro-contraception pastors. John Paul II never changed that. He was personally orthodox but refused to govern (was it by then ungovernable?). The real culprits are the Bishops and religious professors who prostrated themselves before mammon and 15 min of fame rather than Truth.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 05, 2005 6:00 PM ET USA

    People who paint with a broad brush should be forbidden to attempt analyzing something more complex than a barn wall. Yes, the Church on Sunday in many places is half empty. So are the liberal Protestant churches--or worse they are closed. If the Pope had exercised more authority, the he would have been condemned even further as a rigidly orthodox leader. The Church is growing just not where and how many progressives wish it would. When was there ever not a crisis?

  • Posted by: sparch - Apr. 05, 2005 3:46 PM ET USA

    I agree whole heartedly in your assessment, except for the last comment stating that the church of Mr. Cahills immorality would look eerily like the church we have now. I am afraid that a church describes by that law would, in definition cease to exist. It can not continue to be. And this is what John Paul II expressed about capitalism without morality. Our society has already begun to unravel with very few defenders. Let them have their culture, I will keep my church.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 05, 2005 2:27 PM ET USA

    "The situation is dire. Anyone can walk into a Catholic church on a Sunday and see pews, once filled to bursting, now sparsely populated with gray heads" says Cahill. Perhaps so, but my parish (holding 800+) is packed at the 5 Sunday masses every week, with many sitting in the narthex. Why? Reverent Novus Ordo masses celebrated by two devoted priests who preach conversion every day; men formed and inspired by the example of John-Paul the Great.