The St.Louis Journalism Review - Letters to Editor.
March 2005, Volume 35, Number 274, Online Edition 65.

It's not feudal.

     SJR: From afar, in Pine Point, Maine, on the shores of the Atlantic, I dare to speak my faith to the feudal system of church governance now being bludgeoned in the St. Louis Archdiocese, where a throwback to the ninth century fancies himself as emperor/pope rather than the mere baron/bishop he was ordained to be.

     He should know, by now, that most bishops in the Roman Catholic Church have become adults and really believe in the graces given them on their ordinations as Ordinaries, an unfortunate word belied mostly by the antics of the current holder of that office in St. Louis. Ordinary means that the power of that bishop is not delegated to him from anyone else; it is his and his alone, as ordinary power. To play on the word, the Extraordinaries are the parishioners of St. Stanislaus parish, formerly known in the ninth century as the peasantry, the illiterates, the very bottom of the pile.
    
    Since that Dark Ages century, the peasantry has learned to read and write and take their place in the Catholic Church, alongside of and equal to the Ordinary, the two of them being now classified in a dogmatic constitution as "The People of God." The issues involved clearly show a major conflict of interest for the Archbishop, who should obviously recuse himself as any judge of integrity would do, automatically. Instead we see him wield power as an authoritarian rather than in an authoritative manner as befits his being the Ordinary.
   
     His track record in Wisconsin could have predicted that he may well be unfit for the office itself, his only apparent interest laying in that lustful pursuit of some ultra-conservative bishoprics-power over others, in order to bring multitudes to heel, as if they were peasants.
     
    The Roman Catholic Church is the last, the very last, remnant of those ancient feudal systems. The only governances similar in our modern times are the despotic dictatorships, 10 of which were featured in Parade magazine just last Sunday. That's tough power, with military force. Thank God, Archbishop Burke does not have an army or a police department. All he has are edicts, decrees and that ancient tool of real frustrated martinets, the interdict, chosen when they were too frightened to go full bore with excommunication and death at a burning stake.
    
    Those days are long gone, although a Burke or two can dig up a relic of what it used to be like when bishops had some brawny power and could really slam the poor people around a bit.

     That time has long disappeared from human history. We are more civilized now. Why VIS just yesterday quoted Cardinal Martino of a Pontifical Council that we are praying for all nations to recognize the individual sacredness of all human beings. We don't use Interdicts any more either, another relic of the feudal system of the past.

     Obviously, the good and decent people of St. Stanislaus have counsel and need none from eastern shores. They do need and do have our prayers, as does the Archdiocese itself. We are talking "church" here, not battling corporations or stockholders in a shareholders' derivative lawsuit.

     If public opinion can be of any help, then everybody should read the Rev. Donald Cozzens, "Faith That Dares To Speak," just out, and a very short 138 page book on how to talk to bishops who still think that they have some absolute power, and yet are so terrified that they tremble in fear and lash out at anyone who fails to prostrate himself or herself in cowed obeisance.

     From what I see here in Maine, the archbishop should face reality and just resign, as did Cardinal Law in Boston. Maybe they could find him a nice mission chapel beyond the outskirts of Rome, out in the country, where he could find peace. He doesn't appear to have enough sophistication or rank for a Basilica. It's hard to place petty bureaucrats from the ninth century these days-not much demand.

     The situation in St. Louis and of the Catholics there is sad. They have some great universities, a marvelous group of the people of God with so much to offer to us pilgrims here in Maine. Maybe St. Stanislaus would move east? We'd love to have you.

     Our bishop is slashing our parishes from 135 to 100 in two years, because we'll be down to 90 priests or so by then, for 240,000 Catholics. He totally abolished all 44 missions, too. Plenty of room for a gung-ho Catholic parish like St. Stanislaus. We the people of God are going to have to ordain our own presbyters and elders, just as they did in the primitive churches in the first century. No bishops then. No Interdicts, either.

     Bishops didn't show up until the second century when some of our elders took on the extra tasks of being overseers. That is all a bishop was when the office started out, sort of a manager emeritus, someone who has been around, been there, done that, a trusted member of the diocese.

     No power grabs then, or later, not until after Emperor Constantine made the young church the state religion in the fourth century. Popes and cardinals and archbishops and bishops soon started swarming all over, trodding down the people into blind obedience. They haven't let go since. Until now. There's a new church coming. In the 21st century. No more Burkes or ilk. Feudal systems can't last without a feudal society, you know.

     One of the strongest, most impregnable, indomitable, diamond-like in impermeability, structure of our modern era has to be the Solidarity Movement in Poland, led by Lech Walesa in the 20th century, from whence Karol Wojtyla, known as Pope John Paul II. If I were a bishop, I'd never tangle with solidarity.
   
 P. Kelly
 Scarborough, Maine

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