Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary
Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary

sua Eminenza

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Oct 16, 2003

In an interview given to the London Telegraph, Cardinal-designate Keith O'Brien backtracks from his recent Profession of Faith in regard to the question of priestly celibacy, while persisting in his claim that the extraordinary insertions in the Profession were voluntary:

The archbishop said the paragraph had been added to clarify any "misapprehension" resulting from the publicity surrounding his appointment. He rebutted suggestions he had been obliged to add the words after reports of his liberal views on celibacy and homosexuality.

What O'Brien is asking us to believe is simply grotesque; as an attempt to save face it's more embarrassing than the embarrassment it was meant to conceal. However, while everyone knows it's preposterous, many will feel it their duty to pretend otherwise so as not to multiply scandal. It's hard to reproach such people, but we may wonder whether, in the long run, they serve their own ends.

In August 1939 Josef Stalin shocked the Communist world with the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact (a Nazi-Soviet non-aggression treaty). Difficult though it was for them, the lapdog Communist parties in the U.S. and Europe displayed their loyalty by expressing passionate support for the tactic of accommodationism they had denounced with bitter invective right up to the moment the pact was announced. By prostituting their intellects in this manner they succeeding in persuading the Politburo of their ideological constancy, but at the cost of an enormous forfeiture of credibility throughout the non-Communist world.

Now it is no more likely that O'Brien's Profession was sincere and voluntary than the CPUSA's about-face in 1939 was sincere and unprompted. By broadcasting his lie in public, however, O'Brien has drawn a line in the sand and defied conservative skeptics to rupture solidarity:

"Having recently restated my loyalty to the Church, its teachings and the Pope, I would hope that Catholics everywhere will join with me in respecting the decisions of the Pope and demonstrate their own loyalty by not questioning them."

Read: loyal Catholics will join me in my lie by pretending to believe it and by refraining from criticism.

Even the most deeply cynical among us have been shocked and demoralized in the past eighteen months by the self-serving mendacity of bishops, the worst of whom have committed appalling outrages against the Eighth Commandment in order to preserve their personal dignity intact, while asking for the veneration due their office as successors of the Apostles. Having damaged the Church in pursuit of their own interests, they have the gall to say that those who remonstrate with them are wounding the Body of Christ. Archbishop O'Brien is not the greatest offender here; prickly personal vanity and theological oafishness suffice to explain his vagaries. But it would be a great help to us in offering him the respect due his office if he looked on his ecclesiastic dignities as duties to be fulfilled rather than rewards for personal merit:

"My views coincide entirely with those of the Church. That's why I'm a churchman. Basically that's why I'm a cardinal.

God help us all.

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