Friday, August 17, 2018

There must be episcopal resignations

On CNA, JD Flynn writes:

A third thing that could derail serious ecclesial reform has to do with the call for episcopal resignations. Wuerl, in particular, has been the subject of ongoing calls for resignation, along with other bishops. While the Holy See might judge those moves to be justified, they could have the unintended effect of stalling more systematic and cultural change, if they are not managed carefully. If individual bishops resign, and are then cast as the cause of the problems, the pressure for broader reforms could deflate. The Vatican must ensure that if it accepts the resignation of some bishops, the remaining members of the episcopate remain under pressure to enact the reform efforts the USCCB has said it would like to facilitate.

Some strange things have been written on this crisis, but - in an otherwise helpful article - this deserves some kind of prize. I think it is useful, when addressing problems in the Church, to ask what we would be saying about a parallel problem in another institution, or a different problem in the same institution, and, if what we are saying about the the issue at hand is totally different, what justifies that difference. Flynn's bizarre reasoning illustrates such a contrast.

Suppose a commercial company, charity, or political party had a crisis over sexual abuse. It’s not an extravagant supposition. Would Mr Flynn tell us that the leadership who had sustained the culture which enabled the abuse should be left in place lest, with their departure and the appointment of new leaders with the brief to sort the problem out, pressure against the institution would ‘deflate’? 

Obviously not. It is true that, from a public relations point of view, resignations can take the pressure off a tainted institution and give it a breathing-space to sort itself out. That is not, however, an argument against resignations. It happens because the public accepts that with a resignation something useful has been done, because to expect the leaders who wallowed in the old culture - rose to the top in it, facilitated in it, sustained it, defended it - to change it is totally unrealistic. Resignations relieve the pressure because they are genuinely a step in the right direction. Even if the posts are filled with people just as bad as the old ones, justice will have been served, and the new leaders will be a bit cowed. They will know that the same thing could happen to them.

Again, suppose a Catholic diocese had financial problems, which threatened the solvency of the diocese. Again, this is easy to imagine. Often, in such cases, if not high-profile resignations, ways are found to move the key people on, if they aren’t due to retire anyway. Bishops are ‘ill’. Coadjutor bishops are appointed. People are found new jobs elsewhere. Competent substitutes are parachuted in. Would Mr Flynn deplore this? Would he say: no, this will ‘deflate’ pressure for reform. Bishops of proven incompetence, with a vested interest in not looking deeply into problems, are the ones who should be clearing up the mess they helped to create, and sustained, perhaps, for decades.

I don’t think he would say that.

What the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report underlines - which of course we knew already - is that the bishops are not just part of the problem, they are the key to the problem. They appointed the Seminary Rectors. They ordained the priests. They received the complaints. They hired the lawyers and the PR consultants and decided how to respond. Those bishops, the great majority, who came to know of serious abuse, and of the roots of serious abuse in seminaries and in the collapsing spiritual and liturgical lives of their priests and parishes, and acted only to cover up, evade questions, tell victims to be quiet, do deals with state prosecutors, and shuffle priests around ‘treatment centres’ which affirmed them in their disordered proclivities: what are we to say of them? They could see the problem, but not only did they not address it appropriately, they took determined, aggressive steps to keep the corrupt system going: using the law where they could, using moral coercion where they could, using hush-money where necessary, and telling lies. These are the best men to undertake the necessary reform, Mr Flynn?

To say that they are psychologically ill-equipped to carry out a root-and-branch reform would be something of an understatement. There will be no change of culture while these men dominate the episcopate.

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  1. They are not above the law & should be charged with criminal offences. They must, of course, be immediately expelled from the CC & if PF doesn't want to know, then he himself must be denounced as per ++Burke's initiative that fell flat, i.e. formal correction (which must be answered) & if necessary an informal council to tell us not to follow him. ++ Burke stated that if a pope fall into heresy & shows pertinacity he automatically loses the papal office. Let us enforce the laws of the OHC&A Church otherwise these Masonic/Marxists will continue to dominate.

  2. Flynn has a point, in that one or two episcopal resignations would only be a stop gap measure and would prolong the crisis. What is needed at this stage isn't a pruning of the branches but a felling and replanting.

  3. Anonymous9:43 am

    Downside, Ampleforth, the USA, Ireland....The Devil has taken hold of our beloved Catholic institutions.

  4. I am founding a millstone factory. Anybody want to go in with me?

  5. Anyone who thinks "masons" or "communists" have infiltrated the Church is delusional. Everyone knows the groups who have applied pressure to the Catholic Church both from within and from without. America is their principal host but they have others.