instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Monday, May 17, 2004

For good reasons, or for political ones

Cardinal McCarrick answers his critics.

I am not one to insist your motives must be pure before you can act, and I recognize that criticism offered out of impure motives may well be valid. Still, I wonder at the spirit of disdain for bishops cultivated among many politically conservative Roman Catholic Americans. (And I do mean "cultivated": consciously nurtured, watered, fed, and trellised.)

It seems terribly convenient to be able to say, whenever a bishop says something you disagree with, "What else do you expect from the Democratic Party at Prayer?"; and whenever a bishop says something you agree with, to say, "At last, one of that hapless bench is showing some spine." I don't see how someone could ever learn anything from a bishop -- or, even worse, "the bishops" -- by judging everything the bishop says against what he already believes. And I'm pretty sure the documents of Vatican II don't say the laity are no longer to learn from their bishops.

And so I come back to this unfortunate appetite for "categorical evil," which seems to dull the senses to other evils. Cardinal McCarrick writes:
Certainly, the defense of life from the moment of conception to the moment that God calls us home is the primary of these [gravely important] issues, since without life no other human rights are possible. I have also been consistent in teaching, as our Holy Father does, that the care of the poor, the weak and the stranger, as well as the protection of peace and justice must be an essential part of our commitment as Catholics.
I can already hear the responses: "Abortion is always evil; how we care for the poor is a matter of prudence. But what can we expect from this Democrat-at-prayer but an attempt to obscure the fact that the Republicans are good and the Democrats are evil?"

Again, it's a matter of preternatural convenience: When the bishops agree with the Republican platform, they are preaching the Word of God. When the bishops agree with the Democratic platform, they are being ignorant liberals meddling in matters they don't understand. When they agree with neither, they are being spineless.