Saturday, October 06, 2007

After Asceticism & Bankruptcy

There's something wonderfully apt and ironic about dioceses filing for "bankruptcy." Bishops appeal to the mercy of the State, requesting absolution and salvation, by putting on the sackcloth of Chapter 11 of the Gospel According to Civil Bankruptcy. Woe's me, I am financially (but not morally or spiritually) bankrupt! Grant me mercy from the onslaught of judgment creditors, o thou great bankruptcy judge! It's divine comedy.

Has anyone in the American Church read the Linacre Institute's study, After Asceticism, on the deeper disciplinary and formation issues that conditioned the pedophile priest scandal? It doesn't seem like it, from Bishop Brom of San Diego's latest diocesan appeal, which asks priests to "donate" a month's salary and extends a "personal invitation" to the laity to contribute generously to a fund for "compassionate outreach to our brothers and sisters who have suffered sexual abuse within the family of the Church." Did earlier Christians ever "donate" anything to the Church? We used to use the language of alms, tithes, indulgences, penance; today it's tax-deductible donations and invitations.

More Oprah-esque therapeutic-bureaucratic claptrap that has come to be the hallmark of USCCB lingo. Total absence of language from the Catholic tradition. Zero ascesis. Why should anyone "donate" a dime to a hierarchy that looks to public relations science and the legal system for solutions rather than its own 2000-yr old traditions which it either callously ignores or contemptuously spurns. Where's the pentitential and sacramental framework for all this? Where's the soul-searching for the root spiritual causes of the scandal? I only hear about bankruptcy proceedings (legal), zero-tolerance policies (bureaucratic), compassion and forgiveness (therapeutic).

The "spirit of Vatican II" which suffeuses Bishop Brom's letter demonstrates how little the Catholic hierarchy has learned from the scandal. Too much of our clergy are functional atheists who slurp and swig language as if it were a smoothie, when it's not. Truth-language emanates out of the logos of God, and without a recognition of this dimension of episcopal authority, their statements have the roar of papers nervously shuffling.