According to the Wall Street Journal, “(s)ome 40% of Roman Catholic parishes in the Boston area can’t pay their bills, and only 16% of local Catholics attend weekly Mass.” So the Archdiocese of Boston announced an overhaul plan in late November 2011 to increase membership.The plan is to evangelize—meaning “knocking on doors” to get more people into the churches. William P. Fay, a monsignor and co-chairman of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Planning Commission, said in an interview at the time, “what we’re saying is that we’ve got a responsibility to reach out to other people and get them engaged and involved. Once you’re baptized, you’re supposed to go preach the gospel to other people,” he said. “It wasn’t something that was on the front burner, but we are trying to bring it to the front burner.” In other words, Fay’s response to the decrease in church attendance was to stress an obligation of others—specifically, of the laity. His external orientation, moreover, evinces his view that the problem was “out there”—in the Catholics who were no longer attending Mass—rather than closer to home. In other words, his assumption that people need only be convinced to return ignores the very real possibility that the problem was not them, but, rather, the officials in the archdiocese. Pushing the remaining laity to go out and round people up would do nothing to correct the underlying problem, if indeed the church hierarchy had been the problem. Indeed, Fay’s approach bears all the earmarks of projecting the problem away from its source—a rather convenient albeit futile approach.
About a week before the archdiocese’s announcement of its evangelizing plan, Cardinal Bernard Law, who according to USA Today had “resigned in disgrace as Boston’s archbishop in 2002 after the priest sex abuse scandal exploded,” retired from “his subsequent job as head of a major Roman basilica”—archpriest of St. Mary Major basilica to be specific—at the Vatican. The low percentage of church attendance in 2011 can be attributed to 1) rapes of children by homosexual priests, 2) the failure of the archdiocese under Bernard Law to hold those pedophiles to account, and 3) Law’s own re-appointment at the Vatican after his resignation in disgrace. Just the seemingly ascetic priests manifesting as a new bird of prey would be enough to discredit the Catholic Church in Boston; Law’s handling of the rapists should have utterly discredited it.
According to USA Today, “(t)he abuse crisis erupted in Law’s Boston in 2002 after church records were made public showing that church officials had reports of priests molesting children, but kept the complaints secret and shuffled some priests from parish to parish rather than remove them or report them to police.” That the Pope went on to hire the rapists’ accomplice is consistent with the charge made by the prime minister of Ireland publically in parliament on July 20, 2011 that high-ranking Vatican officials had been uncooperative and even arrogant in regard to that government’s investigation of rapist papist priests in Ireland. The Prime Minister, a Catholic himself, was pained to have to acknowledge that he no longer trusted the Vatican.
Indeed, there is good reason to conclude that the Vatican’s hierarchy itself has been populated by men so arrogant as to be incapable of sufficient contrition to hold “their own” accountable. In other words, the entire organization may be infected. According to USA Today, “Law’s 2004 appointment as the archpriest of one of Rome’s most important basilicas had been harshly criticized by victims of priestly sex abuse, who charged that bishops who covered up for pedophile priests should be punished, not rewarded.” Lest it be thought that future bishops might be different, Law remained a member of a half-dozen important Vatican congregations, including the office that helps the pope select bishops, even after his resignation as archpriest.
One new bishop, David Kagan, who was ordained as bishop in North Dakota a week after Law’s resignation as archpriest, had such a reputation for arrogant coldness among parishioners at his former parish in Illinois that the resulting steady decline in membership compromised the parish’s finances. As a pastor, Kagan had regularly refused to meet with parishioners who sought to make appointments, and one of his most proud homiletic lines was, “Don’t worry if you don’t understand the Marian miracles; just obey.” Doubtless Law had a similar “law and order” line. The obvious question is how such men ever got to become priests in the first place, much less bishops.
What is surprising about the 15% attendance rate in the Boston archdiocese in 2011 is that it was so high. It is utterly emetic to witness a loyal parishioner make excuses for clerics who enabled other clerics to continue to rape boys. It is sad that any parishioners effectively reward a corrupt organization by continuing to frequent it, as if tacitly doing its bidding. It is a sad commentary on religion itself, moreover, that the Boston archdiocese was still afloat years after Law’s resignation in disgrace, while he was able nonetheless to enjoy the pomp of ceremonial office in the Vatican.
As for Boston, presuming that the remaining beguiled herd animals have an obligation to knock on doors to bring people back (while presumably nothing has changed internally) adds insult to injury and demonstrates that the infection was indeed in denial of its own nature and in control of the patient. The only viable solution to enabling arrogance that cannot be wrong is to relieve that arrogance of any office, for such a nature is completely averse to facing itself, not to mention holding itself (and those “of its own”) accountable. It is particularly sad to witness this arrogant “can’t be wrong” attitude among the pets of the hypocrites. By the laws of nature, arrogance should not even be able to exist, as it is by definition excess beyond its underlying substance. Even so, it presumes the right to rule on stilts. If only it were as easy as simply watching those ruled walk away, freed from the hypocrisy and deceit in the name of religion. Then perhaps the old order could collapse and be replaced by another. Yet as it is, the old hangs on, even though discredited societally, forestalling any nascent rebirth. It is as if the sordid bishops carry their crosses publicly but resist being crucified for fear that they would lose the earthly power they love. Consequently, they do not see resurrection, which is vindication of a power the world knows not.
USA Today, “Disgraced Former Boston Archbishop Leaves Rome Job,” November 21, 2011. http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/story/2011-11-21/vatican-cardinal-law/51328536/1
Jennifer Levitz, “Archdiocese Turns to Evangelizing,” The Wall Street Journal, December 2, 2011. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204397704577072760933178218.html