Defending vs. Explaining

I keep getting the sensation that when I *explain* what I think the Pope is up to in his actions toward our bishops, people think I am necessarily *defending* his prudential judgments. “But Mark! What about this and that and the other thing?”

Please understand. You can plead with me all you like, but I’m not the guy making the decisions here. As I’ve already said, there are a number of bishops who, if it were up to me, would be gone.

It’s not up to me. It’s up to the Holy Father. Since it is up to the Holy Father, I figure the best thing I can do is try to educate myself (and others) on why he acts the way he does and what informs his thinking. I figure this because I have a basic conviction that the prudent thing to do is to always have a grasp of the world as it actually is, rather than of some fantasy world. So, for instance, when Rod complains below of how Rome’s actions will *look* to people, I naturally grant that, of course, they will look that way. And I can do nothing about that.

What I *can* do is ask, “Okay. Rome’s actions *look* like the Pope doesn’t care. But is that really the case? Does anything we know of the Holy Father actually suggest that he does not care?” And of course, nothing that I know of does suggest this. So I’m forced to ask “What then *does* account for his actions?” and the answer I come up with is what I have already discussed.

It is an entirely separate question whether I think his Tradition-based prudential judgment is going to actually work and is, in all situations, the best. In fact, I am skeptical of this, at least in some cases. But, as I said before, given his track record in facing down other colossal evils, I’m willing to suppose the Holy Spirit is guiding him in ways I don’t necessarily grasp.

One final thing: I don’t buy the “Children are still in peril!!!!” line that goes with the complaint about leaving the Demonstrable Idiots in office. Priests may well be in danger (from bishops ready to perform human sacrifice on them at the drop of a miter). But I am highly skeptical that there will be a repeat performance of the past 20 years. There will, of course, be future cases of abuse. But the climate has altogether changed. A supercharged laity and unintimidated media and state will pound the living hell out of a cleric and his bishop in future, should abuse and coverup happen. And I doubt the coverup is likely. Irresponsible bishops are now much more likely to dump on their priests over flimsy accusations than to dump on victims for real ones. Note the resounding successes of McCormack when he tried to live on a business-as-usual basis in NH by sticking some gay priest into a parish and had whole congregations screaming at him. Note the happy situation in Dallas and the docile sheep like Wick Allison. It won’t be business as usual anymore.

No. What seems to me to be the real objection is not that children are in danger but that there is One Proper Punishment for Demonstrable Idiots and One Only and that the Pope, failing to administer this, is failing to administer punishment. My contention is that the Pope is administering punishment but (as is characteristic for him) punishment with an eye to redemption and healing, not just for the idiot bishop, but for the culture that produced him and which he reflects. This is a Pope who believes in the possibility of radical redemption.

Again, I say this, not because I think this desperate attempt at remedy is going to work, but because I believe it to be essential that we understand the Pope’s thinking if we are to navigate in the real world as it actually is and not in some fantasy world. Attempts to analyze the situation which begin, “The Pope, in his cold autocratic and monarchical indifference…” or “The Pope, hopelessly senile and drooling on his throne…” or “The Pope, secretly desiring to micromanage the American Church…” or “The Pope, egomaniacally seeking to fend off all challenges to his reputation as St. John Paul the Great…” are all attempts to navigate from false premises. We should at least begin our thinking by knowing how the Pope thinks, if only so we can argue a different strategy more effectively.


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