Friday, February 29, 2008


The only word that comes to mind is "hypocrisy". Boston Magazine has a story about the current status of Cardinal Law who is now in charge of the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome. The argument is often given that he no longer has any significant power--that the basilica is a sort of unimportant assignment. That may be true, though the description of the place in the article would tend to indicate otherwise, but he has other duties and privileges that have nothing to do with the basilica.

Where else but in the Catholic Church can someone with heavy responsibility for the organization mess up his responsibilities so badly that millions of company dollars are lost and children and families are damaged, then subsequently find himself in a better position than the one he flubbed?

Seeing him honored to this extent, and knowing that he allowed priests to abuse children, calls into question the very nature of the organization that he represents. Is it really what we here on the bottom of the hierarchy believe it to be, or is there a secret among the elite about its true goals and purposes? Does this Church still represent Christ? It's a question I never want to have to ask, yet one I ask repeatedly in the contemporary Catholic climate.

According to the article

Law now sits on eight of the Curia’s “dicasteries,” or policy-implementing committees, a total far above average; Boston’s Archbishop Seán Cardinal O’Malley, for instance, is a member of only two. Cardinals living near Rome typically belong to more dicasteries than those overseas, so it is a measure of Law’s ambition that in his last year in Boston he served on no less than nine. Thanks to his new station, his participation is more intense than ever. “Since he’s in Rome he can attend the meetings on a regular basis,” says Thomas J. Reese, a Jesuit priest and scholar of church administration. “He couldn’t do that when he was in Boston. So his ability to influence has actually increased.”

The cardinal’s dicasterial work covers a broad range of policy areas, from Catholic teaching on the family, gender, and reproduction; to the governance of religious orders, such as the Franciscans and the Jesuits; to oversight of the church’s missionary work, including the appointment of bishops in much of Africa and Asia. He sits on the Congregation for Catholic Education, which issued last fall’s controversial document banning gay men from seminaries—a policy many commentators suggested was a response to the sex abuse crisis. As a member of the Congregation for Divine Worship, Cardinal Law will have a say in the new English translation of the Mass, which U.S. bishops approved in June, a project beset by years of controversy over issues including the use of gender-neutral language. Father Reese speculates that Law could make a significant contribution to this particular debate: Despite his reputation as a conservative, the cardinal has a progressive record on questions such as inclusive wording and the role of altar girls.

By far the most consequential of Cardinal Law’s roles is his membership in the Congregation for Bishops. While the appointment of prelates is ultimately up to the pope, he chooses almost all of them on the recommendation of this body. Each of the congregation’s 36 members has a vote on appointments, but members reportedly defer to colleagues from a given country on appointments in that land. The congregation has five American members, though one, William Wakefield Cardinal Baum—Cardinal Law’s mentor in the early 1970s and one of his oldest friends in the hierarchy—reportedly suffers from failing eyesight and other ailments that limit his participation.
Cardinal Law, therefore, is one of a handful of men in charge of choosing the hierarchy of the American church.

Phil Lawler, editor of "Catholic World News" and previously editor of the Boston archdiocesan newspaper, says "It seems to me unfortunate that he is where he is... We're still waiting for the evidence that he understands what happened in Boston. And if he doesn't understand what caused his resignation, that raises questions for me about his perceptions of other problems, his ability to recognize what's good for the Church."

The article also reports that when Cardinal Law needed back surgery he did not come to the U.S. despite the "generally iffy quality of Italian healthcare." Was he afraid to come to the U.S.? If so, what of?

The whole article shouts hypocrisy to me loudly and repeatedly, and has me wondering what else over in Rome is not what it appears to be.

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