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What to Do With Cardinal Law?

I had put myself on a blogging hiatus, but the collective outrage about Bernard Cardinal Law saying one of the Masses during the novemdiales has forced me to say a few words in the Cardinal's and Cardinals' defense.

Rob Vischer at Mirror of Justice makes a sensible point about breaking tradition and maybe not have the archpriest of St. Mary Major preside over one of the Masses. Fair enough. He also states that he would even join the protesters who flew all the way to St. Peter's to make their point. Once again, fair enough, although in all of this discussion, maybe there is something obvious missing. It seems to all begin with the assumption that there is this indiffernt Vatican hierarchy that doesn't mind sticking their finger in the eye of abuse victims and elevate one of their own to a supposed position of honor after he caused the suffering of so many. I can see them now, all twiddling their fingers like Mr. Burns from the Simpsons, saying, "Excellent!" as they wickedly protect the evildoer in their midst.

Frankly, I've had enough of this discussion. I think there might be an alternative explanation, and the point is worth making. Rather than being a bunch of indifferent old men, maybe allowing (and even compelling) Bernard Law to preach at one of these Masses may be of tremendous service to a Church that could learn from the mistakes of its past. Perhaps putting someone like Law in front of the cardinals could be a powerful lesson about what can happen when they are careless in the exercise of their authority, as well as the spiritual consequences that may ensue. It gives him the opportunity to share his prayerful reflections over the past couple of years since his exile in Rome with the rest of the College of Cardinals. Perhaps he has something powerful to teach and preach to his colleagues. I'm willling to give him the benefit of the doubt and think that the other cardinals may feel the same way. He has certainly been shamed and chastened and has had to think alot about his mistakes. This could be a real positive for the Church.

The reason I think this is a possibility is because by all accounts, Bernard Law is a very good man with an amazing record of pastoral accomplishment, commitment to justice, and personal humility who happened to both make some gross errors in judgment as well as be in the wrong place at the wrong time. To impart to him sheer evil, malfeasance and bad faith is just plain calumny and fails to deal with the complexity of the sex abuse crisis. No doubt that he feels miserable and truly sorry for everything that happened. But perhaps he was mired in a Church culture that relied on "experts" and other specialists who believed with a little treatment or a change of scenery, these problem priests would be cured. Acting in the context of the post-conciliar era and its stupid deference to "science" and experts in all fields from liturgy to psychology and pastoral care, and relying on the fads and trends of the time out of a supposed duty to empower the laity and the wisdom of the new scientist/psychologist priests of the modern world, the Church mired itself in a huge crisis. But to have gone against the grain and resisted this at the time would have been nothing short of heresy. Most of the same activists that are championing reform in the wake of the abuse crisis, are the same that sought and built a church culture that relied on the wisdom of the age rather than ageless wisdom.

So my point is, let's all step back, take a deep breath, and maybe consider that this might be a positive moment for the Church. The way I look at it is this has to be a profoundly penitential moment for Law. Having the responsibility of preaching to all of the cardinals after screwing up and dragging the Church through as much mud as it was because of his mistakes can be nothing but chastening. I suspect he will approach this opportunity with much humiliity, and serve as a very important cautionary tale as the cardinal electors ponder the successor of John Paul the Great.


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 10, 2005 11:49 PM.

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