Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Corrupt bishops: why it is a problem: Part 2

2011 05 21_9809
Newly ordained priests of the Fraternity of St Peter
In my last post I argued for the moral seriousness of clerical infidelity. It may seem amazing that this would be necessary, but it is; the urge to instrumentalise these tragic cases to undermine the discipline of clerical celibacy is so strong, that liberals, who would normally be enraged by male authority figures taking advantage of vulnerable women before moving on to another victim, come over all indulgent and say that the Church is cruel to them in asking them to fulfil the vows which these men, presumably voluntarily, undertook.

There is more to say about these cases, and it was summarised very well by Rorate Caeli:

Is the bishop speaking for himself, or is he speaking on behalf of those blackmailing him? Is there truly such thing as a "moderate" bishop, or is he being "moderated" by the enemies of the Church out of fear that his duplicitous behavior will be revealed?

Let me spell it out a bit more. Bishop Conry was famous for his ‘liberal views’. Reading some of his remarks with the benefit of hindsight, it is impossible not to see his various women-folk behind his shoulder. Their influence can take a number of slightly different forms.

First, there is blackmail. It doesn't need to be explicit, in some cases it can simply be understood that certain policies, statements, or behaviour won’t be tolerated by the people who have incriminating evidence. This was made horrifyingly clear in the case of Cardinal O’Brien of St Andrews and Edinburgh. The men who revealed to the press O’Brien’s homosexual liaisons, were happy to tell the press exactly why he had chosen that particular moment to go public: it was the Cardinal's opposition to Same Sex Marriage.

Second, there is self-justification. One response to falling into sin is, obviously, to begin to look for excuses, a search aided so ably by liberal Catholic theologians. How convenient for a priest or bishop living a life of sin to embrace a theory according to which there there is no such thing as sin. This then has wider implications. Bishops who have convinced themselves that celebrating Mass and receiving Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin is somehow tolerable, aren't going to be keen on reminding pro-abortion politicians that they should not receive Holy Communion.

Third, there is guilt. Peter Hitchens is fond of saying that it is because our senior politicians all smoked weed when they were young, they don't have the backbone to adopt a robust policy opposing it now. The parallel with sexual sins of clerics is obvious. Those bishops and priests who have not succeeded in convincing themselves that their sinful activities are permissible will be in an even worse intellectual state, in some ways, than those who have. They will see every discussion of sexual sin as a condemnation of themselves. It would be natural for them to shie away. In this respect, far from being hypocritical, Cardinal O'Brien's campaign against Same Sex Marriage was in a certain way heroic, as I have argued before.

A fourth variation on this theme was expressed by Bishop Conry himself.

It has been difficult keeping the secret,’ he told the Mail. ‘In some respects I feel very calm. It is liberating. It is a relief. I have been very careful not to make sexual morality a priority [in his sermons]. I don’t think it got in the way of my job, I don’t think people would say I have been a bad bishop. But I can’t defend myself. I did wrong. Full stop.’

It must be said that, as reported, this is terribly confused, but one idea which seems to be floating around in this soup is that by not preaching about sexual morality he avoided hypocrisy.

In each of these ways, which can overlap of course, the teaching and public behaviour of priests, and even more importantly of bishops, can become distorted. Remember the kinds of things Bishop Conry has done and said. In a jaw-dropping interview with the Catholic Herald in 2008 with Andrew M. Brown, he declared the following (direct quotes, from here):

On Contraception
But is the teaching itself wrong? "It could be. It's not an infallible teaching. Clearly the basic Creed formula, what the Church teaches about the sacraments is infallible but there's only been one strictly infallible statement."

So in a sense it's a matter of opinion? "Well, it's... It is."

On talking to young people
"You can't talk to young people about salvation. What's salvation? What does salvation mean? My eternal soul? You can only talk to young people in young people's language, really. And if you're going to talk to them about salvation, the first thing they will understand is saving the planet."

And the saddest thing of all, on confession
Is it a good idea to go to Confession regularly? "No, because my own experience when we had Confession every day at St Chad's Cathedral in Birmingham was that regular penitents came back with exactly the same words week after week. So there you would say, actually, there is no conversion taking place."
First blessings of a newly ordained priest.

In the context of his double life it is not surprising that he was more comfortable talking to young people about saving the planet than about salvation. What is that?, he asks. What indeed?

The election of Bishop Conry as Chairman of the Bishops' Conference department for Evangelisation & Catechesis early in 2009, so soon after the Catholic Herald interview, was a shock for conservative and traditional Catholics. With hindsight, it must be acknowledged that they were right. The composition of the Bishops' Conference has been radically changed since then, and I hope that the Bishops learn from the mistake made in 2009.

To be exact, the mistake was to think that what Bishop Conry represented was an easy introduction to the saving Faith of Christ, that without frightening people off he could draw them in. It wasn't. What he represented, we now know, was a hypocritical sham. I don't for a moment believe that they all know all about it. No: the bishops were fooled. The last post in this series will look a bit more about that.

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  1. The ideas you have expressed in this article were explored by Michael E Jones in his book entitled Degenerate Moderns. Of course, the author didn't waist his time on the likes of Conry, but chose as his subjects such luminaries as Freud and Picasso; in each case demonstrating the direct link between the subject's private life and their public philosophy.

  2. These ideas must be aired in public. Such issues have been covered up for fat too long!

  3. "You can't talk to young people about salvation. What's salvation? What does salvation mean? My eternal soul? You can only talk to young people in young people's language, really. And if you're going to talk to them about salvation, the first thing they will understand is saving the planet."

    I ought not to be shocked by this, but I am.

    If planet-saving is all you've got on offer, you might as well shutter the church doors. The kids can get that in plenty of storefronts. And the music will be better, too.

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  4. If you follow the logic of this well reasoned argument, one would begin to suspect most bishops in E and W and the bishops in Rome. HH doesn't talk about sexual morality, but we cannot suspect him of keeping a mistress or having multiple affairs.most bishops, for some reason, including the Pope are going literally out of their way not to discuss matters sexual. Because they are embarrassed of the teaching, or think the faith undiluted will put people off. I assume this is the case. They cannot literally all be at it.

  5. The concept of Salvation is easily understood by young people. I certainly understood it by the age of say fifteen. I now have grandchildren. Some believe in Salvation, one doesn’t. But they understand it as well as I do.

    We must have good bishops and priests who are prepared to clearly teach the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. That is their job. If they cannot do this they should resign, whatever their rank.

    To put it simply, what priest can stand up and say that it is a mortal sin to have sex outside of a marriage between a man and a woman if he has a bit of fluff on the side, or perhaps more so, if his pals have.
    As has been pointed out, Cardinal O’Brien, whom I think was making a genuine point whatever he got up to between consenting adults ten or fifteen years before , tried this, and we all know what happened to him in stark contrast to Ricca, who I believe, certainly as of August 2014, still has a cosy little job in Rome.

    No there is fear, silence, a widespread rot in the Church, still.