Catholic Faith & Judging Clergy

Dr. William Oddie of the Catholic Herald in the UK, in response to a National Review article by George Weigel on the current clerical woes in Ireland responded today with a remarkably effective statement that we American Catholics need to internalize when discussing the horrific state of abuse in the Catholic Church by clergy:

” . . . to be anti-clerical isn’t necessarily to be anti-Catholic.”

If ever there was a truer statement, we simply would like to know what it is.  Many a family member or friend has wondered why Cowboy Papist and Herself continue to regularly attend Mass in light of the quasi-criminal stupidity of bishops protecting the crimes of pedophilia priests.

Mr. Weigel, a far more academically educated man than Cowboy Papist, wonders if Ireland is the epicenter of anti-Catholic behavior in Europe.  Perhaps, but not in our experience.  Ireland is a religious island and a mostly Catholic country.  Some practices have certainly given us pause, but we attribute this to their culture.  It’s their island, their ethnology, and frankly, we wouldn’t want it any other way.  Now — more orthodox we could all use; but each country has it’s way about the practices of its faithful.

But we digress; being anti-clerical is not necessarily anti-Catholic.  Rephrased, we’d offer that being Catholic isn’t in any way related to the clerics of the Church.  Our faith is not, nor should be, connected in any manner to any one cleric; priest, bishop or pope.

Of course, there are many, many clergy we admired and love for the grace they’ve brought to the growth of our Faith — Blessed John Paul II and Blessed Padre Pio just to name two.  Many of the recent archbishops are men we love and admire.  But we also could cite far too many others that are embarrassing to us; priests, bishops and popes —  and yes, even a few sisters.  Some are currently infamous names while some are in our distance memories.

But the Faith doesn’t change.  Whatever name is used; Magisterium, Holy See, the Vatican, the Tradition, etc. doesn’t matter for the Truth of the Faith cannot change.  Opinions, like belly buttons, assault us from all sides of the Church.  We Americans often give them a podium by our attention.  Far too many Americans raised in our hyper-partisan political culture simply cannot image a disconnect between believing in a truth and the teachers doing the teaching.  They’re tied together like stink and skunk.

No — one’s Faith is not to be linked to any Catholic persons; very easy to say and extremely hard to do.  For we appreciate our teachers, holding them close to our hearts.

Like in Ireland, here in America “being anti-clerical isn’t necessarily anti-Catholic.”  But count us first among those who are embittered and disappointed with Catholic teachers of the lay, clergy, and religious mold when they protect their associates and turf from criminal culpability.

We wish we could say the same in America as Mr. Oddie:

“The real point about the Irish people is that they have not become disenchanted with the Catholic religion at all; it’s precisely by the moral standards of the Catholic religion that they are now judging all too many bishops and some, a small minority but still far too many, clergy. The child abuse scandals themselves have brought no decline in Mass attendance. On the contrary, far from being the “epicentre” of European anti-Catholicism, the practice of the Catholic religion is one of the highest in Europe.”

We don’t forget for one moment that religious orders, priests, and bishops are the direct target of evil.  They are always in our prayers.  Yet, it is our moral standards of Catholicism which judge those same religious, priests and bishops with disordered thinking on numerous issues of the day, like gay marriage, women priests, and so on and so on.  The other 98% of clergy are doing just as God called them to do.  Someday perhaps, we hope to attest to the majority practice of Catholicism in the USA.

UPDATE: Came across this excellent quote from our Archbishop Charles Chaput given to the from Carl Olsen at the Ignatius Press Insight blog, where the Archbishops speaks to the 129th Knights of Columbus Convention in Denver:

“Something similar can be said about conflicts in the modern church. Bishops, priests, and deacons are too often weak and sinful.  They need to be held to high standards. Some deserve to be chastised.  The clergy’s leadership in the Church should always be marked by humility and service, and never by a sense of entitlement. But men and women didn’t found the Church, they don’t own her; and they have no license to reinvent her.  The Church belongs to Jesus Christ, and the different roles with the Christian community – clergy, laity, and religious life – have equal dignity but different purposes.  Sin and failure, including by the clergy, need to be named.  But when people deride their bishops and priests out of pride and resentment or some perverse desire for they perceive as “power,” they undermine the Church herself, and they set themselves against the God whose vessel she is.  And that, as Scripture suggests, leads in a painful direction.”

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