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Last week's meeting of American bishops in Baltimore was pathetic. To start, there was the surprise directive from Rome (and the Congregation for Bishops, in particular) not to vote on any proposed resolutions to the domestic clerical sex abuse crisis. The rest of the meeting became an awkward attempt to produce some sort of unified, credible vision without Rome's direct approval. As far as anyone can tell, that failed. Many—perhaps even most—bishops returned home shaking their heads. Any credibility the bishops' conference still had would now dry up, and fast.
The bishops' lack of credibility isn't based on the number of votes they take or don't. Instead, it's a direct result of their endless doublespeak. And sadly, it's not just a corporate problem: it's one that stems from personal failures of leadership and accountability. Even in a world of political extremes and unhinged pragmatism, we still expect our spiritual leaders to be better men than us. And that means acting like thoughtful, decisive, sometimes even stern fathers instead of tyrannical children. This is something about which all the faithful could probably agree, even from among our fractured factions and various "tribes."
Doublespeak - Politics - Metropolitans - Status - Abuse
If there's doublespeak involved in playing curial politics to bolster metropolitans' status to handle abuse cases, it's also doublespeak to fan flames of rage among the laity into an indiscriminate, all-consuming inferno. The American Church is not a crumbling conservative bloc, it's the Body of Christ. Sometimes intense heat—radiation—is needed to treat a cancer, but not at the expense of the whole body. When the tumor is easily accessible (i.e., proactively turning over records to secular authorities for civil prosecution), better to just cut it out.
Instrumentalizing the laity could also be called "clericalism." And it comes in many forms. Obviously, when bishops lie or steal or commit sexual offenses they prey...
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