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Catholic Culture Liturgical Living
Catholic Culture Liturgical Living


By Diogenes ( articles ) | Apr 25, 2004

Amy Welborn alerts us to the likelihood that Redemptionis Sacramentum will be put to eventual use in Indianapolis. Wrapping fish.

In a statement issued Friday, Indianapolis Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein said he was asking priests, liturgy committees and the Archdiocese's Office of Worship to study the instruction for a few months and make any necessary changes to worship.

"I would be astonished to find that some of the abuses are actually happening in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis," Buechlein said.

Buechlein is far from being the worst of the U.S. bishops, but this kind of feeble mendacity is demoralizing. It makes one's heart sink a little, as when a person we had previously admired phones in sick in order to get a day off work. As a Tom Wolfe character says, "A lie might fool someone else, but don't let it fool you: it tells you you're weak."

With very, very few exceptions, gutsy priests do not become bishops. In a contentious, doctrinally polarized environment, it is all but impossible for a principled man to reach the age of 40 without making the kind of enemies who'd wreck his chances of a bishopric. The men who make it through almost never have the toughness of character needed in a reformer, regardless of their professed orthodoxy. Prof. James Hitchcock describes the upshot with pitiless candor:

Step by step, through a process which is largely unconscious until almost completed, the bishop is recruited as an ally by the very people whose practices he was supposed to correct. Unless he is cynical, he cannot continue to defend things which he knows are wrong, hence he eventually comes to believe that alleged abuses are not abuses at all and that the problems in the diocese stem from those who "do not accept the reforms of Vatican II." To the degree that the bishop has a lingering bad conscience over his failure to act where action is needed, his discomfort is projected onto his conservative critics.

Perhaps each of us has experienced this in one form or the other. We all have a list of liturgical horror stories, some amusing, some infuriating. We know the frustration attendant on unreturned phone calls and patronizing form-letter responses to complaints. Most of us also realize that formidable obstacles, canonical and pastoral, stand in the way of reforming bishops, even where there's a will to reform. All the more disheartening when a bishop has an enormously potent weapon placed in his hands, and he telegraphs to all and sundry that he hasn't the slightest intention of using it.

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