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Patting our pointy heads

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Sep 15, 2003

Vision Book Cover Prints

Peggy Noonan tells us what she said to the bishops who showed up for last week's Orthodox Catholic Petting Zoo:

The non-Catholic public would probably assume that bishops and cardinals frequently talk with conservatives in the church. The non-Catholic American public would probably assume bishops and cardinals are the conservatives in the church. But this is not so. Conservatives in the church often feel that they are regarded, and not completely unkindly, as sort of odd folk, who perhaps tend to have a third hand growing out of their foreheads and tinfoil hats on their heads.

Well put -- although there are exceptions to the rule, notably bishops of the stripe of Cardinals Ratzinger and Arinze, and, significantly, the Bishop of Rome. Of course, while the orthodox locate the Pope on the ecclesial 50-yard line, the folks at the USCCB regard him as way to the right of midfield, hence they feel it their own duty to provide "balance." They may hear out Peggy Noonan (under duress) but it's Peggy Steinfels they fly in to instruct them. Commentator Gregory Popcak likewise had a somber and well-reasoned take on the meeting. I was struck by one of his observations:

Bishops are totally insulated from how bad it really is. For example, every single person in that room knew about the testimony given by Fr. [James] Keenan, S.J., of the Weston Theological Seminary to the Mass State Congress stating that there was nothing in Church teaching that opposed gay marriage. Everyone, that is, except any of the Bishops and the USCCB staff. (They were visibly shocked when we told them. But they literally had no idea.)

Well, maybe. But I find it infinitely more likely that the bishops and the USCCB staff were perfectly well aware of Fr. Keenan's testimony, and that it suited their purposes on this occasion to feign surprise and alarm. As a group they are exceptionally skilled at pretending to ignorance when ignorance absolves them of responsibility. Too cynical? There's a perfectly plain test to prove me wrong. If the USCCB president were truly surprised by and out of sympathy with Keenan's plea for gay marriage, he could pick up the phone and dial the Papal Nuncio, who could get a public retraction from Keenan (or his superiors) by the end of the week. Don't hold your breath, folks.

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