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