Sunday, January 27, 2019

When Bishops embrace politics over pastoring

In January 2019, the diocese of Covington Kentucky, under direction of Archbishop Roger Joseph Foys, issued a condemnation one day after a viral video appeared to show high school boys harassing an older man at the March for Life in Washington. The archdiocese called the students' behavior "opposed to the Church’s teachings on the dignity and respect of the human person" and issued an apology to the actual aggressor. The media had already politicized the issue, emphasizing race, and showing only a specious snippet of video that belied the story. The light-speed reaction of the archdiocese has left them embarrassed as subsequent footage of the incident revealed the older man to have been the aggressor. Even though the archdiocese openly condemned the students absent of further investigation, their most recent statement said it is "important for us to gather the facts that will allow us to determine what corrective actions, if any, are appropriate." Lexington Archbishops originally called the students a, "contradiction of the very reverence for human life that the march is supposed to manifest." Louisville Archbishop Joseph Kurtz tweeted a condemnation of what he claimed were "the shameful actions of the Covington Catholic High School students." Other bishops made similar premature condemnations. They wittingly or not worked in concert with an unethical media, hostile to the Church and the pro-life movement. And, once again, they showed themselves perfectly capable of crying out in unison when politically popular, but painfully mute when needing to champion unpopular, but true, teachings of the faith.

In February 2018, Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich responded in a week to publicly condemn and sanction a priest who burned a flag promoting homosexuality that once hung in his parish. Meanwhile, after two priests in Cupich's archdiocese were arrested for committing a public sexual act with each other, Cupich said he would wait for an investigation. Neither originally, nor over four months later, has any public condemnation come from Cupich. Cupich is also the Archbishop who responded within 48 hours to the first ViganĂ³ letter about clergy abuse by say saying the Pope should focus on "other things" and that addressing the letter was to go down a "rabbit hole." Vexingly, the Pope still appointed Cupich to the organizing committee of the February abuse synod.

In June 2018, news media drew attention to the temporary separation of family members crossing the southern U.S. border while screening occurred. Although these detainments were temporary and complicated by such matters as child sex traffickers often posing as a child's parents, multiple bishops, in a unified, simultaneous voice, condemned the policy in the harshest language. Tucson Bishop Edward Weisenburger referred to the practice "In light of the canonical penalties that are there for life issues" and suggested the hierarchy consider "canonical penalties for Catholics who are involved in this". San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller said, "To steal children from their parents is a grave sin, immoral (and) evil."  Brownsville Archbishop Daniel Flores said, "separating immigrant parents and children as a supposed deterrent to immigration is a cruel and reprehensible policy." Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron said, "The forced separation of children from their parents, which is underway now at our southern border, is an unconscionable violation of human dignity." Chicago Archbishop Cupich also spoke out immediately (He did not wait for further investigation as with his priests in Feb. 2018), stating the policy was "nothing remotely Christian, American, or (sic) morally defensible..." These are just a small sample. But whatever one thinks of these detainment policies (the policy was since deauthorized), if the bishops were truly concerned about damage to families, where is their massive condemnation about ongoing issues that are destroying legions of families, in numbers no border detainments will ever approach? Where are the bishops' unified and sobering statements about family destroyers such as divorce, cohabitation, pre-marital sex, or contraception? These things have created a hemorrhage of destruction in the institution of the family. Obviously, the bishops have shown they have the ability to issue strong condemnations in a unified voice. Why not conduct a communication blitz on these other matters instead of something politically charged that does not even constitute objective immorality?

Jesus Chasing the Merchants from the Temple by Quentin Matsys, 16th cent.
Public domain image acquired from Wikimedia Commons.
These incidents are some among many examples. Meanwhile, scandals among the hierarchy themselves persist. The faithful are left vexed. Stories of infiltration abound. Neither Pope Francis nor any other named bishops have been able to rebut the content of Archbishop Carlo Maria ViganĂ³'s letters detailing cover-up of sexual deviance within the Church. Pope Francis has neither replied to the 2016 dubia issued by four cardinals on the matter of Communion. Stories of priests teaching heterodoxy from the pulpit persist. Bishops consistently react fast when making popular political condemnations, but react glacially slow or altogether silently when upholding Church teaching or when condemning ills coming from their own ranks. The current state of bishops is unacceptable.

What are the faithful to do? Foremost, there is prayer. Another consideration some Catholics have suggested is withholding Sunday giving in favor of other faithful Catholic and non-profit organizations. In this scenario, dioceses are withheld funds until the true doctrines of the faith are promoted and opponents from within the Church are silenced or expelled. However, there is opposition to that view, such as from Catholic radio host Al Kresta from November 2018. Phillip Lawler, who has been instrumental in journaling scandal within the Church, also has suggestions in his recent book, The Smoke of Satan: How Corrupt and Cowardly Bishops Betrayed Christ, His Church, and the Faithful...and What Can Be Done About It.





Further resources:
Divorce Hurts Children, Even Grown Ones, Psychology Today (2011)
Unprotected movie, Don Johnson Evangelistic Ministries (2018)
Children falling short in school? Blame parental break-ups, Nicole M. King and Bryce J. Christensen (2018)
Kresta in the Afternoon, Jan. 25, 2019, hour 1, interview with Phil Lawler (on Covington Catholic incident)
The Patrick Madrid Show, Jan. 21, 2019, hour 1 (on Covington Catholic incident)