One of the ways that I, as a member of American society, am guilty of fundamental wrongs in the way I relate to others around me is that I tolerate the murder of the unborn, hundreds of thousands of the unborn. I don’t approve of it but I am as complicit in it as any bishop has been complicit in the sexual abuse of minors. I know it goes on. I confess it is wrong. I lament it. But I go about my day; I eat my meals; I go to work; I hang-out with my friends; and I sleep at night in spite of it. “I wish we could do something about it.” But that is only one of the sins I am complicit in as a member of our society. I stood by while Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfield led George Bush like a pig with a ring in his nose to war—and led us to war along with him—a war that cannot and never could be morally justified and a war that was energized by a knowing web of lies about WMDs. And I see the coffins come home and the mothers and the wives and the children trying to make heroes of those who are in fact victims because these deaths must have some significance more than the loss of pawns on a chessboard to make the Vice President and his friends even richer than they are. And I watched while hundreds of thousands of senior citizens were robbed of their retirements by the Savings and Loans Debacles. And I have no idea how many people are put to death—legally but not morally—in Texas and Virginia and wherever else while I sit down to dinner, or have a drink on the patio, or sleep undisturbed at night. And Latinos who just want a chance for them and their children to have a better life die in the desert night after night while I dream undisturbed. And I know that racism didn’t die with Miss Hilly Holbrook when I hear Sunday Mass goers say “Well, he isn’t my president.”
There was a time when our bishops gave moral leadership. There was a time when our bishops wrote a pastoral letter warning us about the fundamental moral evils beneath “Reaganomics”—you know that system that made some people rich before it made a lot of people poor when it imploded back in 2008. There was a time when our bishops gave moral leadership and wrote a pastoral letter on War and Peace. They didn’t make these letters up out of whole cloth. They took the scriptures, the Fathers of the Church, papal pronouncements, the Documents of Vatican II—they mined the whole tradition to give leadership in our day and age. But today? Where are they today?
“When a Baptist gets money, he becomes a Presbyterian,” a friend told me a few years back. “And when a Methodist wants to join the country club, he becomes an Episcopalian. When a Catholic priest becomes a bishop, he becomes a Republican.” One of the senior bishops in the United States, a man who has been a bishop since the “old days,” even before the Apostolic Delegation of Jean Jadot and his crop of liberal Vatican II bishops, told me “The problem with the bishops today is that they are the sons of doctors and lawyers and professionals. They have no connection with the working class—they were raised to see the working class people as a threat—they come from ‘management’ families.” Yes, I think that is part of the problem. The bishops know only a segment of society, they have lost touch—as most white Americans—with their own roots. But I think the problem is far more serious. You have men as bishops who have lost their socio-political autonomy and who see the challenges facing society not from the perspective of a Gospel critique but from a political ideology. More to come.