Now, I must unbury myself from several days of neglected work

But before I do, let me stick something in this space that seems to have done a fine job of provoking discussion over at Amy’s blog. There’s been much discussion recently concerning my old contention that the Pope’s choice to leave bishops at their posts was always active and never passive. As I’ve maintained all along, it was a choice, not a refusal to confront the problem. JPII has chosen to not spare bishops the consequences of that they’ve done since, as I believe, his theology of the cross compels him to believe that the sins of the American Church are going to find healing *through* the cross, not in spite of it. Somebody remarked that this was wrong because the flock suffers in this case. My reply:

Reflect on this statement: “If he weren’t a damned pervert, he’d be my hero.” This, as you know, is the assessment of a lawyer for for one of Paul Shanley’s victims. And, as you know, it was spoken of Paul Shanley. It’s quite true that keeping Law on in Boston was (as anybody with any foresight at all would know) a trial for Boston (and the rest of us) as well as for Law.

Yes? So? Who says the rest of the American Church is supposed to go without a cross? As I mentioned on my blog, I tend to agree with my historian friend’s assessment that a democratic culture more or less tends to get the episcopacy it deserves. I’ve never thought that the Way of the Cross was something for the corrupt clergy alone. Sobornost: each is responsible for all. It’s an inevitable part of the gospel and the communion of saints. When the Pope sent these guys back into the muck of American sexual sewage culture of which they are a product and which they have themselves done so much to exacerbate then *of course* the rest of us suffer. The assumption here is that such suffering is sinful. I’m not convinced of that. A culture that can produce a statement like the one I quoted (and let’s not kid ourselves, the ideas which helped make Shanley Shanley go on being lionized in American culture), is a culture that needs to do its own self-examination and soul-searching and cross-embracing. Not all of us are stainless saints capable of locating sin entirely outside ourselves.

The quick and easy reply to this of many in the “Blame the Pope” school of thought is that this needlessly endangers innocent children “for the sake of one man”. But I see no evidence that keeping Law in Boston these past six months endangered children. What it really did was a) serve notice to the American episcopacy that the suffering they have inflicted on others is going to be theirs to suffer for quite sometime and b) piss off a large number of laity who have definite ideas about what punishment should look like for a miscreant bishop. No kids were endangered by it.

But it hurt. Yes. And that is sinful why? It’s the answer to that question I’m not so sure of. American bishops are not grown in hydroponic tanks in the Vatican basement. They are a product and reflection of American culture. Rome appoints the people that the American Church, in its infinite wisdom, tells them are our Best and Brightest. The frightening thing is, maybe they are.

So from the perspective of Rome, looking at the weird degeneracy of American culture, I can see how the complaint that the suffering we have to endure by soldiering through with the bishops our culture has produced is somehow terrible and unfair would be rather unpersuasive. Law’s gone. A couple more will, I suspect, go. But Rome is not going to decapitate and the entire American Church. Ain’t gonna happen. And this means that, at some point or other, the American Church (that’d be us) will have to ask itself how our culture came to produce so many of these Sergeant Schulz’s and how it was we thought men like Paul Shanley were so cool for so long. The proposition that we poor suffering laity have nothing to do with it becomes more and more unconvincing and the proposition that we have no need to share in the redemptive suffering of the Church strikes me as increasingly untenable.


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