Commentary By Steve Jalsevac
November 14, 2008
This week's US bishops Fall assembly had some truly great moments. They came courtesy of the few courageous bishops who showed they fully understand their role in these dangerous times. As well, the bishops as a group made it plain that they will strongly resist any attempts by Obama to advance the abortion culture. However, the assembly refused to follow Rome's direction on denying pro-abortion politicians communion and that was a sign of a much larger problem.
By the end of the assembly meetings it seemed clear that most of the bishops, despite many wonderful statements, still do not comprehend or are unwilling to face the true gravity of the current situation and the need to take long overdue actions to reform and strengthen the Church.
These large, bureaucracy-influenced bishops' conference meetings are not the answer. It is what happens in each diocese that will determine the rise or fall of Catholic Christianity in the United States. That in turn will play a large role, I suggest, in determining whether faith and even freedom itself will live or die in the nation.
For decades, a majority of US bishops did not respond as they should have to the horrific sex abuse scandals and their root cause of theological dissent and widespread acceptance and practice of homosexuality among the clergy and religious.
Now the bishops are again stalling, this time over critically needed actions to strengthen the Church to defend the nation against an inevitable acceleration of the culture of death and an accompanying suppression of religious and conscience rights.
Political leaders, media people, many others in influential positions, and most Catholics no longer respond as they did in the past to US and Canadian Catholic Church leadership pronouncements on the culture. There is good reason for that.
They know the bishops are still not acting on the many serious problems within their own house (there is still much that has not been done related to the sexual abuse crisis) and that a majority of Catholics reject many Church teachings. This is obvious to any objective, honest observer.
They know that many of the Church's own institutions (colleges, schools, hospitals, seminaries, etc.) and their staffs do not accept, teach or follow important Catholic teachings and no one is doing anything meaningful about it.
They also know that even some bishops and other US Catholic institutional leaders subtly, or by persistent negligence, or even openly, dissent from the Church on issues of life and morality and much more. It does not take much investigation to discover this.
Although no bishops are openly pro-abortion, it is well understood by those in the know that abortion and homosexuality and their root contraceptive mentality are not high priority issues with a substantial number of bishops.
Contrary to popular opinion, both within and outside the Church, I believe the rejection of Episcopal pronouncements is not so much because the Church is seen as out-of-date or out-of-touch with the modern world. Rather it is more because the Church is known to be very divided, weak, inconsistent and even, in many cases, corrupt.
How can we expect politicians or other leaders who know all this to pay any attention when a bishop, or a number of bishops, challenges them for defying Church teachings? That is, above all, what the bishops both in the United States, and even more so in Canada, must address at this time.
It is not the bishops' words but what they do that gives them true authority and credibility. At the moment, in much of the public mind, with the exception of some notable prelates, most of the bishops have low credibility. That is not a judgement against them. It is just a statement of fact.
The obvious solution is for the bishops to go back to their dioceses and put their own houses in order first. For most, it will be painful and exceedingly difficult. They will have to take up the Cross as their Master did and embrace it. But once this is well under way, the Church leaders will be heard and loved again. All of the United States will benefit from the resulting positive influence upon the culture.
Actions are the only route to giving true credibility to what leaders say. Actions are the proof of belief and commitment.
There is a practical strategy that could greatly assist the bishops to bring about all this change for good, a strategy to direct their actions. They could adopt the "broken windows" concept to correct the big, seemingly unsolvable problems by first treating the damaging disorder caused by numerous small problems that have been allowed to persist.
The next article in this series will discuss the "broken windows" concept and the Church.
See Part I: U.S. Election Message to Catholic Bishops: Time to Clean House