Rod Dreher has stepped in the big one, apparently.
The columnist for the Dallas Morning News has taken it on the chin lately, for holding the Pope responsible in the sex abuse scandal -- or, for not being responsible, as it were, specifically in cracking the whip with incompetent bishops, party-boy seminary rectors, perfidious chancery officials, you name it. This has earned him the wrath of a relative newcomer to the Catholic blogosphere, a retired Naval officer named Jonathan Carpenter:
"This situation with the News is not about championing reform over abuse. Many newspapers have reported and commented on abuse, but none have been as persistent as the News in painting a picture of the Catholic Church as an evil institution.
"'...the Catholic Church, of which I am a loyal member, is corrupt in its leadership,' wrote Asst Editorial Page Editor Rod Dreher on the News' Blog site Feb 7.
"Such a gross, sweeping allegation is followed by Dreher's call to Catholics not to contribute to the Catholic Community Appeal. The News supports his anti-church tirades on a Web log, or blog.
"Dreher, a political ideologue that the News hired two years ago to champion its battle against the church, has repeatedly criticized many Catholic leaders from the pope on down except for a particular bishop or priest that he supports." (excerpted from an e-mail bulletin sent recently)
This begs the question, who is right and who is wrong?
The answer: both, and neither.
First, we must distinguish between responsibility and blame. The current health of the Holy Father notwithstanding, we don't have to spend a day on the deck of a ship, to know that the Captain is responsible for everything that happens on, or because of, his vessel. There is honor in accepting this burden, for better or worse. In his suffering, and in refusing to put aside the Fisherman's Ring, John Paul II is bearing the weight of that Cross. His atonement will bear fruit, in ways beyond our natural senses.
Then there is blame. That the Pope was part of the cause of the scandal is quite a stretch. Indeed, there is much to demonstrate the opposite; that whatever has happened, has been despite every effort on his limited part. Yes, Mr Dreher, limited! The Scriptures are filled with God's chosen ones ignoring Moses, the Prophets, even a Man raised from the dead. You think the Pope's gonna score any better, having already been known to complain openly of how many bishops, including some in North America, refuse to listen to him? It's not as though he has enough Swiss Guards to go goose-stepping into every bishop's office that needs a makeover. Dreher (who's right about a lot of other things) hasn't always taken that into account.
Then again, it is more than fair to criticize the bishops, for spending years stumbling over one another in attempting to remedy the current scandals. It is also fair to criticize an individual bishop for the same. Or, as Saint Thomas Aquinas would have said: "When the Faith is in imminent peril, prelates ought to be accused by their subjects, even in public."
Even... in... public!
Three little words that mean, among other things, a free press, without which we probably would never have heard about any of this. And it most certainly would have gone on. Even now, after over a billion dollars has been spent on legal fees, compensation for damages, therapy, press conferences, and what-not, a bishop will still publicly shed tears over the loss of "a good priest" to the latter's own self-destruction.
But they still don't shed tears for the victims, do they, Mr Carpenter? I suppose when Catherine of Siena referred to the men surrounding the Pope in Avignon as "wolves and sellers of the Divine Grace," that was an "anti-church tirade" too, eh? (You gotta admit, it sounds like a pretty "gross and sweeping allegation.")
It is also more than fair to criticize ourselves. We always thought Father Feelgood was a really grooooovy Vatican Two kinda guy, telling us what we wanted to hear, taking cheap shots at Rome from the pulpit, until he got caught with his hand in the till, or his pants down. But how do we respond? Oh, let's appoint more lay people to yet another dumb-@$$ committee -- probably the same idiots who would look the other way if it happened again. (Think that's out of line? Keep an eye on this weblog, buckaroos; there's got a case in point that'll get your attention.)
Boycotting an annual appeal for a bishop's charity is a tough call. A case can be made (if the rosters of papal knighthood are any indication at one time or another), that money is the only language from the pews that a bishop can really understand. This may be one reason why, for example, the Knights of Columbus refrains from issuing opinions in internal ecclesiastical matters, yet still wields considerable influence. Those who choose to join a boycott should be completely honest with themselves regarding their motives, and send those contributions directly to the affected charities. They, and not the bishop, are the real losers of any such initiative.
Carpenter takes Dreher to task for not wishing the Pope well during his infirmity, and it probably wouldn't hurt if he did. But unless he wishes the Pope ill (which he hasn't, and won't), let's see who extends good wishes to the victims.
I wouldn't hold my breath on a bishop. Neither does Dreher, which is probably his point.