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Beware The Bureaucracy Between The Bishops And The Laity

November 8, 2017 Frontpage No Comments

By SHAUN KENNEY

The Washington Post opined in one of its op-ed pieces regarding the state of the Catholic voter, namely how the so-called conservative wing of the Catholic pew-sitting faithful had made an unholy alliance with our more evangelical cousins on the other side of the Republican benches.
The drive of the piece was rather transparent. Catholics on the right differ with those on the left regarding how best to provide questions of social justice. Seeing as Catholics can quibble about the how-to manual on social justice, why not quibble just a bit on the important things such as marriage, family, and the culture of life?
Of course, the piece smacks of Catholic integralism, the idea that Catholic values should and must be wedded to public policy. Such claims are often thrown at the political right as legislating morality; such counterclaims are thrown at the left as legislating from the judicial bench. Both should be familiar to Catholics who simply want to be good Catholics in the public square.
Naturally, Catholics cannot quibble on the right to life. This argument is riddled throughout both Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, enjoying the longstanding backing of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church and more recently the reinforcement of both Pope Paul VI and Pope St. John Paul II. Without this starting point, the entire social justice apparatus collapses as mere materialist functionalism. In short, social justice begins in the womb.
There is a terrible slander running amok within Vatican circles that somehow the pew-sitting faithful of the Catholic Church in America are wedded to a combination of power and ritual, an odd admixture of the much-derided Protestant prosperity Gospel and Catholic integralism mixed up in a neo-Thomistic predominance of rules.
Of course, not a single shred of this is true even in the smallest degree.
To understand the Catholic living in the United States, one has to understand three things. First, thanks to Pope Pius X, we are all Thomists and know of no other Catholicism because that’s what Rome told us to believe after the Americanist controversy. Second, the long experience in the United States of anti-Catholicism from our Protestant cousins has trained us to circle the wagons and recede when placed under strain — we are an immigrant Church; we are a mission faith.
Lastly, and this is something our friends around the world should understand in emphatic terms, there is a concerted effort to turn the Catholic Church in the United States into an arm of the secular left, one whose concepts of social justice are more wedded to materialist gain than to the salvation of souls.
Between our bishops and our laity is a thick bureaucracy of thorns, one that is interwoven carefully throughout our Catholic schools, parishes, universities, hospitals, charitable organizations, and financial apparatus. This bureaucracy has a litmus test, one that eschews Catholic values for secular ones and demands a chameleon-like adherence to the popular culture in ways that presents a faith emasculated, not a faith fully and truly lived.
Faithful Catholics are thus dealt with a dual problem. Though some bishops seem to keenly understand the problem, the bureaucracy sees the faithful not as souls but rather as donors to be kept pacified. Such resources keep the well connected well heeled, and those in power practice a game where fidelity contra mundum is viewed as the most dangerous virtue of all.
One might very well argue that there are such voices on the revanchist right looking to duplicate the success of the political left within the Catholic Church. Yet the effort by the left to pack every call for restoration into this box should be treated with the contempt it deserves, if for no other reason than that it is not honorable. Such voices serve the interest of self-preservation alone, not the Magisterium.
Thus, The Washington Post and a small but focused group of media outlets continue to hammer away at the legacy of Pope St. John Paul II, all at the behest of a bureaucracy utterly at the mercy (and in the service) of the political power behind the secular left — and certainly not the bishops whom they are supposed to serve.

+ + +

Mr. S writes regarding the condition of Georgetown University and its president, John DeGioia. For myself, I know precious little about DeGioia’s efforts at Georgetown to preserve its Catholic identity, and perhaps wonder aloud whether or not such an identity is viewed as something worth preserving at Georgetown — not as a criticism, because the condition of Georgetown itself is perhaps beyond criticism, but as an open lament of the current state of Catholic education in the United States.
Coincidentally, this is how the German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel ruined Western thought. Once upon a time, an idea could be considered on its own merit. After Hegel, everything had to be considered with its antithesis; truth became a mere synthesis between two opposite poles.
Of course, this is rubbish — there is only one side, and that is the Truth (with a capital T). All else are approximations. In the pursuit to become a postmodern university, we sometimes forget that the consideration of an idea should not become complicit in the idea itself. To take things a step further, ideas are rightly conceived from and by a perspective. When one surrenders this perspective, one cannot rightly adjudicate an idea.
Such is the condition on a great many secular campuses today — even the ones which call themselves Catholic. The late Pope St. John Paul II attempted to correct this with Ex Corde Ecclesiae back in the early 1990s, with what must be sadly noted is having very little effect. Instead of a new evangelization, the result seems to be more applicable to the criticism offered in Goodbye, Good Men, where an authentic faith was traded for a bureaucratic class more eager to be appreciated by their secular (read: leftist) peers than they are with credentialing the next generation of Catholic thinkers.
Naturally, this is not a problem that is exclusive to Catholic education. Education in America is entirely about credentialing students who seem aggressively keen to survive their four-year stint by telling the university what to teach, how to teach, and woe unto those institutions and voices which stand in their way. Likewise, professors seem trapped between a “publish or perish” mentality matched against a federal education bubble that puts fewer and fewer dollars into the classroom.
It has always struck me as strange that the drive toward mediocrity enjoys the seductive power it possesses today. Georgetown has the reputation of being the premier Jesuit university in the nation, and for good reason. It should not be traded as lightly as it has been.
The Jesuit charism has always been one of intellectual rigor in the face of emotiveness or sloth. The mediocrity has a name for this countervailing value to Jesuit rigor: inclusion. Catholics should call it lukewarm.

+ + +

Of course, I am succeeding (but not replacing) the inestimable Mr. James K. Fitzpatrick for the First Teachers column. Please feel free to send any correspondence for First Teachers to Shaun Kenney, c/o First Teachers, 5289 Venable Road, Kents Store, VA 23084 — or if it is easier, simply send me an e-mail with First Teachers in the subject line to: svk2cr@virginia.edu.

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