Sunday, September 4, 2011

Silenced Shepherds --Can They Please Find A Voice?

Enda Kenny, the Irish Prime Minister
whose frank challenge of Vatican policy
has sparked some controversy and a
recalling of the Vatican Nuncio.
I don’t watch much television, especially during the slower hours of the midday, but a colleague of mine who is a bit of a TV junkie—he keeps the television on in his office even when he is interviewing students, told me about watching the debate in the Irish Dáil Éireann (the Irish “House of Commons”) when the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) delivered a scathing rebuke of the Holy See for the conduct of the Irish Bishops in the sex abuse scandal that has plagued Ireland as it has the Church in the United States, Canada, and various other nations.   The Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, a Catholic himself responded to the Cloyne Report—a government investigation of the clerical pedophilia scandal in the Diocese of Cloyne where nineteen priests have been accused of sexual abuse and where the Church failed to follow its own guidelines of reporting these instances—by an attack directly on the Vatican.  Kenny said that “the dysfunction, disconnection, and elitism that dominates the culture of the Vatican to this day” was responsible for the failure of the Church to protect young people and he apparently did not spare Benedict XVI in his attack.  In 1996 The Irish bishops had put in place a policy that accusations would be reported to the police but the Papal Nuncio at the time Archbishop Luciano Storero, instructed the bishops not to follow their own policy.  In some regards it is unfortunate that Benedict has had to bear the brunt of the Taoiseach’s wrath as when he served as the head of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the then Cardinal Ratzinger was one of the few Vatican voices that wanted to get to the root of the abuse problem.  Nonetheless, “sow the wind and reap the worldwind,” as they say and the Holy See is being drowned in guano as the chickens come home to roost.    
      Two weeks ago I attended the installation of our new pastor.  I had not seen this ceremony  before.  It was disheartening.  Like so much that is wrong with “the new liturgy” it was way too long on words and not very rich in ritual action.  Words, words, words, words, words…we really don’t need so many words.  But what was particularly bad about all the words is that the”rite” (if you can call it that) speaks not of mission or evangelism or even shepherdly care.  It is all about protecting the status quo—maintaining the discipline of the church, looking after the property, affirming the teaching of the magisterium, safeguarding the faith, etc. ad nauseam.  How do you like that ad nauseam—there is some Latin for you.    Now I am the last person who wants a heretic in the pulpit or a spendthrift with the parish credit card, but we have more important things to worry about.  70% of our folks aren’t darkening the door of the Church, most of our youth think the whole thing is outdated, hundreds of parishes across this country don’t have a priest for Sunday Eucharist.  Moreover, some of us are really excited about the Gospel and think we need to find new ways to bring it to ears that have grown tired of and deaf to the “same old same old.”  Some of us believe that despite the best efforts of this new translation to make the mass unintelligible, that the Eucharist is something really wonderful and we want to not only make its celebration even more wonderful but make sure every Catholic can have access to it.  Some of us are worried about that old lady down the street who can’t afford her property tax anymore and even more of us are worried about that guy that is sleeping out behind the garages because he has no place to go.  Some of us think the Church has a mission in the world and we are more preoccupied about that than we are about who washes the chalices after communion or whether we say “I believe” or “We believe.”  
     So my point both in regard to installing pastors and reporting pedophiles is this: dissent is not the biggest sin we have to worry about and loyalty is not the greatest virtue we need.  Please Lord give us Shepherds, both here and in Rome, who are so enraptured by your Kingdom that they can forget about their own.  Amen.

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