“We’re powerless! Nothing we do can change anything!”

Well, not exactly. Just got this from a reader who was one of the people who actually tried to *do* something about Abp. Flynn’s announced award to a St. Joan of Arc ninny:

May 20, 2003

Dear Martin,

Thank you for your e-mail of May 20, 2003 regarding the Catholic Spirit article that listed Ms. Kathy Itzin as one of the recipients of this year’s “Excellent Religious Educators Award.” Yours was one of many letters and emails I received on this matter.

In fact, Ms. Itzin will not be among this year’s recipients of this prestigious award. She is being notified of that decision.

As always, I appreciate your interest in matters relating to our faith and to this Archdiocese. Thank you for your prayers on my behalf and know that you are in my prayers as well.

With every good wish, I remain

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Harry J. Flynn, D.D.

Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis

What morals can we derive from this instructive vignette?

A) “The bishops” are not a Borglike monolith of imperturbable and Olympian bureaucrats unable to hear and understand the cries of the laity. It turns out that they are individuals and some of them (in fact, it would appear most of them) are not the bishop of Dallas. If that gives you a sense of relief, then your charity is still functional. If you are disappointed to hear that and vaguely and perversely hope that you can charge “the bishops” with all being Grahmann, then I suggest that the medicine of “righteous anger” (use only under the Divine Physician’s supervision) is becoming the addictive drug of Wrath and that you are playing with a mortal sin.

B) It turns out that we’re not as helpless as we tell ourselves we are. Indeed, it turns out that bishops, who are remarkably like human beings, do tend to respond to the application of pressure from lots of people and don’t always hole up in some Tower of Detached Clericalism. That is, in fact, the central lesson to learn from the Truce of 1968, when the bishops, responding to popular pressure, began the long slow process of self-castration to make themselves into the nice guy ciphers who would not challenge our cries for Imperial Autonomy, who would only say warm and fuzzy things to abusive priests and their victims, and who would always take the path of least resistance in the face of serious defiance of the gospel. They are, by and large exactly what the American Church (that’d be us) wanted–though the American Church didn’t quite foresee all the price tags that would come with that. But the central point is: the record from 1968 on suggests that the bishops comply with the consistent message their flock sends them.

C) Therefore, my suggestion is “Reward right action. Protest wrong action.” Abp. Flynn should be rewarded with a lot of emails and phone calls praising him for doing the Right Thing. Those who took action to contact Abp. Flynn should also be praise and their example followed. Those who sat on their hands, did nothing, mewled again about the Pope not fixing it all, protested their impotence, etc. should learn from morals A and B above. The fact that the laity cannot depose bishops does not mean that our options are exhausted and there’s nothing we can do. It’s up to us to remake the culture of the Church. We will have good bishop when we get serious about wanting them.