Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Liars, Damn Liars, and Ms. Judie Brown

Michael Voris--Matin Luther began with good
intentions too but did not know when to back
I had mentioned in an earlier posting (August 25) that Judie Brown and the American Life League have launched their attacks on Catholic Relief Services because CRS withdrew from their multi-million dollar business arrangement with AKA printing, a company owned and operated by Paul Brown, husband of ALL’s Judie Brown.  Of late Ms. Brown has been trying to re-spin the story by re-arranging the sequence of events and claiming that CRS’s dropping AKA as their printing and mailing service was in retaliation for ALL’s attacks on CRS’s policies which allegedly—according to Ms Brown—involve the distribution of condoms and abortificients in the third world countries where CRS provides economic aid.  This spin, like the charges themselves, is nothing less than a deliberate falsehood.  The Browns are steamed that their biggest client—Catholic Relief Services—has pulled its business and they are determined to discredit it any way.  Catholic Relief Services, part of the Church’s relief network known as Caritas International, continues to enjoy unqualified support not only from the American Bishops but from the Holy See. 
Most seriously Ms. Brown’s war on CRS will lead her into conflict with the Holy See in a way that will not be unlike Martin Luther’s conflict about which we have recently posted.  She—and her chief publicist, Michael Voris—see themselves as the voice of truth in opposition to the designated hierarchy and they are on a collision course with the American Bishops.  Now, as you can probably tell from my various postings, I am no admirer of most of our bishops.  I believe that over the last thirty some years there has been a decline in the intellectual and spiritual quality of the men the Holy See has chosen to shepherd the Church in the United States.  I am not speaking univocally—there are and have been some outstanding men.  I would mention among others Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Cardinal William Keeler, the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, Bishop William Curlin (retired Bishop of Charlotte), Robert Morneau (former auxiliary of Green Bay),  John Flesy (auxiliary of Newark).  There are others.  Not enough.  And on the other hand you have such shining examples of intellectual shallowness and spiritual ineptitude as Cardinal Bernard Law, Cardinal Raymond Burke, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, Bishops Michael Sheridan, Robert Morlino, Robert Finn and a not-inconsiderable list of mitered midgets. In between these two camps you have a vast field of mediocrity.  We deserve and we need better quality of shepherds.  Of course, many good priests refuse the miter  because it means giving up pastoral work for a job that is mostly  administration and that leave the B team (or the C, D, and F teams) ready to step in and fill the vacuum. 
The difference between Michael Voris, Judie Brown and their camp and myself is that while I am in almost despair over the poor quality of Episcopal leadership in the United States, I recognize that the Bishops are the Bishops.  I may not admire them; I may not even like them; I may take their dicta with a grain of salt or even with serious reservations.  But they are the bishops, and like it or not, whether the pitcher hits the stone or the stone hits the pitcher, it is bad for the pitcher.  At the end of the day you have to work with them.  Work against them and you will find yourself working against the Holy See and the final result of that is not a pretty picture.  I am not sure what, other than vengeance, motivates Judie Brown in her campaign against the Bishops and their organizations, but Michael Voris has fallen into the same error as the Montanists of the 3rd century, the Cathers of the 13th century, the Puritans of the 16th century, and the Jansenists of the 17th   century in as that Voris cannot accept the reality that the Church, at least in its visible and institutional form, is an imperfect society.  Sad as the state of the Church might be, history shows us that collectively as well as individually we all fall short of the ideal to which we strive.  That should not permit us to be content in our mediocrity—much less our sinfulness—but neither should we rage against those whom we judge to be less worthy than we perceive ourselves to be.  Of course an individual who is in touch before God with his or her own sinfulness is inclined to look with compassion on the faults of others and, while perhaps encouraging one another to strive harder, not to sit in moral judgment.  Michael Voris obviously has not reached this stage of spiritual maturity but, like the Pharisees of Jesus day, has a confidence in his own righteousness that permits him to claim moral superiority over those with whom he disagrees.  In the end he only exposes himself for his lack of intellectual and spiritual depth. 
All that, however, is somewhat beside my point.  Those who are attracted to the ideas of Michael Voris or Judie Brown or the swarm of petty bloggers who follow in their dust need be very careful of the trajectory along which they are proceeding.  I am hopeful that Pope Francis, with the reforms he is undertaking, will provide us with a better class of bishops than his immediate predecessors. I doubt, of course, that Mr. Voris or Ms. Brown and I would agree on what makes a bishop good.  But I doubt that anyone whom the current Pope appoints in this country is going to meet with the approval of the Voris faction.  Ultimately Michael Voris will have to retire from Catholic commentary or else find himself outside the Catholic Communion.  As for Ms. Brown, persistent attacks on the Bishops through CRS or other agencies of the Bishops’ Conference will lead to the Catholicity of her American Life League being discredited by those who have the power to do so, the Bishops and the Holy See. 

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