I will grant to John at Disputations that saying the only solutions to the crisis in the Church is “the conversion of bishops (to Catholicism, of course)” may be in bad taste, but I think he goes too far in the other direction. John ridicules people who say that the root of the Scandal is in dissent and says this thinking always points to another rather to ourselves.
Anyone who has read George Weigel’s book, “The Courage to be Catholic,” can see for themselves in detail the reasoning behind the connection between dissent and the Scandal, but the short form is this. As the very foundations of the faith were eroded over the past 35 to 40 years by those who rejected the truths contained therein, they opened the door to a kind of thinking that allowed the evil behind the clergy sex-abuse crisis to fester and grow. This was a new kind of dissent. It didn’t break off, as in former schisms like Protestantism, and it didn’t reject the Church institutions. Rather, even as the dissenters rejected the Truths of the faith, they continued to remain in the Church, claiming that their dissent was as valid a way of thinking as those who remained orthodox. What became most important was dialogue and remaining together in appearances no what the disagreements theologically. And this thinking infected the Church from the top down. Sin became “a mistake,” “an indiscretion” that could be cured by a visit to therapist. Not causing public discord became so important that repeat predators were kept in their posts at all costs.
Sure, there was sex abuse before four decades ago, but who can deny that what happened over the past 40 years was unprecedented? I don’t lay the blame for this at the foot of Vatican II. The use of the council to justify the dissent was only a symptom of the deeper problem the council was designed to address.
I’ll grant John another point: Seeking to blame only them for the problems in the Church is a cop out, because we are all sinners. But there is a point at which you can say that much of the problem is them. I’m certainly not running around calling for women’s ordination, approval of homosexuality, change in the doctrines surrounding contraception, the stripping of the sacred from the liturgy, supporting pro-abortion politicians, and on and on.
God knows I have my faults, but that doesn’t strip from me the right to point out problems caused by others that have obvious solutions. To strip me of that right because I am not perfect is no different than those who say the US bishops cannot speak out on gay marriage because of the Scandal.
My job is not to impose a plan of action that will guarantee the survival of the Church in the United States. My job is to guarantee the survival of the Church in the United States by seeing that it survives in me. That, ultimately, is the one thing I have control over—and, it seems to me, it’s also ultimately the only way of reforming and purifying the Church.
Sorry John, but that doesn’t cut it. We are not a bunch of individuals only responsible for ourselves and no others. We are a Church, the body of Christ, responsible for one another. We are, each one of us, responsible for preaching the Gospel, not just the Gospel of sweetness and light, but also the Gospel of hard teachings and of calling our brothers and sisters to holiness and truth.
Yes, we should first focus on our own holiness, but that doesn’t mean we can never call on our brothers and sisters to reform their selves as well.
After all, if everyone followed this advice, no one would have spoken up about perverted predators being shuffled from parish to parish, continuing their assaults on young people, and nothing would have changed. We would all be sitting self-satisfied in our pews concentrating on our own faults and our search for holiness, while no check was put on these outrages because “we have no right to point at others.” Sorry, but I can’t buy that.