The Bishop Blair Witching Project
Faithful (as well as faithless) readers may recall our dear Friend in Christ ™, Leonard P. Blair, the comically grinning cleric of Toledo, Ohio. When last we encountered this faithful repository of medieval philosophy, he was directing the children among his sheep to stop collecting money for a cure for breast cancer. You can read the explanation yourself; we hesitate to explain his thinking again, lest the reader doubt our own credibility. It involves the threat of possible (but non-existing) evil (in his view) against present, undeniable suffering. I should add that the suffering is done by women, so in the venerable tradition of the institution he is part of , he feels that undeniable as the suffering is, it doesn’t really amount to much the grand scheme of things. But again, I don’t want to ruin my credibility by actually quoting him, because you will have a hard time believing me.
Anyway, this time Bishop Blair wants to calm the concerns of American nuns, or at least those involved with the Leadership Council of Women Religious (LCWR). Rome has had dark suspicions about this group since at least 2001, when the Vatican first expressed “doctrinal” concerns. And of course, when this Pope has doctrinal concerns could the Inquisitor be far behind? Well, no. So the head of Rome’s Inquisition, William Joseph Lavada (who sports the more bureaucratic title of Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) sent a letter to these ladies on February 20, advising them of a planned “doctrinal assessment.”
To understand what is involved it is helpful that you know some Latin and essential that you adopt ways of thinking that almost everyone in Europe discarded about the time of the Enlightenment. According to the National Catholic Reporter, which claims to have seen the Inquisitor’s letter, the investigation will involve three areas: the 1994 apostolic letter Ordinatio sacerdotalis, the 2000 declaration Dominus Jesus from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and “the problem of homosexuality.” Everything always comes back to sex with these guys.
The squeamish should skip this paragraph. It deals with the first two issues. You can safely skip to the next paragraph where we’ll get to homosexuality. Okay, the rest of you were warned. Ordinatio sacerdotalis was an Apostolic Letter issued by Pope John Paul II in 1994, whereby the Pope explained the Church’s position requiring “the reservation of priestly ordination to men alone.” The explanation was that women, not being men, could not be priests. Dominus Jesus was a proclamation of the Congregation of the last Inquisitor Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, which once again affirmed that the grace of God through Jesus only pours through the corrupt vessel of the Roman Church. The reasoning is not important, but for the moderatley curious it can be illustrated by a dog chasing its tail, but Inquisitors never relied on rational discourse to make a point. And Ratzinger didn’t elbow his way to apostolic succession by putting a fine point on things. (The immoderately curious will have to go elsewhere for a detailed exposition of why only Catholics go to heaven.)
Now, homosexuality. First, it’s important to note that aside from Ratzinger himself, Levada is probably the most qualified person in all Romish domains to investigate the sexual sins of nuns. Levada, after all, was in 1985 given by Father Tom Doyle a report of a 3-person panel on all aspects of the widespread practice of sexually abusive priests in the hope that it would be presented to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops at their June 1985 meeting. Doyle was told by Levada that it would not be presented. Shortly thereafter, Doyle was demoted from his post in the Vatican embassy. And later Levada denied having any knowledge of widespread sexual abuse by priests. After all, teh report was not presented to the Conference of Catholic Bishops, so how would he know? Thus, the Inquisitor has the moral authority we have come to expect from the sole representative of Christ on Earth: Impervious to the widespread abuse of children, protective of those who (at very least) abused their trust, hypocritical and a perjurer. The perfect holy man (and there could be no woman) for the job.
And he also had experience with the very issue of homosexuality. Not that he cared to minister to any actual homosexuals (perhaps other than priests), but he was the Archbishop of San Francisco, so at least he heard about it occasionally. This gave him enough moral courage to lead a march of 1,000 in April 2005 (annus mirabilis) against gay marriage. He’s been quoted as saying that “[t]o extend the meaning of marriage beyond a union of a man and a woman, their procreative capacity, and their establishment of family represents a misguided understanding of marriage.” This from a man who has vowed never to engage in any “procreative” activities, much less heterosexual marriage. But experience has never been important to the church. Experience is the lifeblood of the law. Faith is what the Church is all about. And authority. Male authority.
So we can rest assured that tbe “doctrinal assessment” will be handled as all such in Rome are handled. LCWR claims it will cooperate with the Inquisition. And since I’m unaware that anyone is forcing these women religious to remain in this rigged game, I will have to agree with Jefferson here: This whole religious thing “neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” Of course if you believe that criminals should be held accountable, men like Levada and the upper echelons of the Church are a danger to society. But on this point, what could be the harm of Levada looking into “doctrine” of some nuns?
And as further comfort, the Inquisitor turned over the investigation to our dear Friend in Christ Bishop Blair. But all is not godly harmony in this endeavor. In the captive voice of the Toledo archdiocese, the Catholic Chronicle, His Most Reverendness expresses the spiritual agony of a man (there can be no woman) of God who directs a doctrinal assessment such as this:
When you are in a position of leadership or authority, it is a great cross sometimes to know firsthand the actual facts of a situation and then have to listen to all the distortions and misrepresentation of the facts that are made in the public domain.
You can just feel the agony of nails going through his hands when such things as “what is now being said, both within and outside the Church, regarding the process and the recent steps taken by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) to remedy significant and longstanding doctrinal problems connected with the activities and programs of the LCWR.” One can only hope that someone like Ferrabosco the Elder would compose a Lamentatio Leonardii Prophetae to celebrate his suffering. In the meantime, we have to wade through his whining about how secularists, who don’t even subscribe to the beliefs of Catholics, are taking the office of the Inquisitor to task for investigating the proceedings of LCWR, who frankly are so wild-eyed that they think a woman should administer the Eucharist. (Or at least one speaker he quotes says.)
And who could doubt the fatherly care that this Bishop, deeply steeped as he is in preventing the funding of a cure for breast cancer? He simply is trying to ensure that some of his church’s sheep, the ewes specifically, are not led astray, possibly by hormones, on questions of the proper handling of wafers and whether or not to talk to Methodists. Nothing wrong there, right? He is, after all, a member of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, who have ever followed the benign path of squealing about having to provide insurance coverage including contraceptives to their employees (their teachings against its use are not enough, they must have laws designed especially for them) and who have tried to deny communion to (liberal) politicians who did not call for the overthrow of the Supreme Court.
No, as our dear Friend in Christ rightly points out, it is truly a crucifixion to be right in this country. To know too much is simply a burden that those who are much holier than the rest of us have to bear. And so what if this celibate men always seem to be on the side of unchecked power and against the poor and oppressed and the powerless? We can always have faith that the next time will be different. Faith, after all, is the product these little men sell.