Monday, March 20, 2006

Will O'Malley Double Dog Dare?

When Sean O'Malley returns to Brighton from Rome, he surely won't do anything for gay Catholics and non-Catholics. What do you suppose he'll intend to do to them?

First, let's imagine a huge army in which only the commissioned officers routinely obey orders. That's pretty much the Roman Catholic Church in the First World, including very RC-heavy Massachusetts. As in Boston, Catholics in Spain and Italy hear priests and bishops preach of absolute morality and mortal sins, but favor and vote for liberal social causes and laws.

The Church has a very poor history of political results. It has threatened parishioners, legislators as well as citizens, on issues from abortion to gay-rights to adoption. Even with that Hell thing, it hasn't gotten the votes it wants. That doesn't seem to dissuade the hierarchy from retrying coercion.

Sean, the friar, is about to return from Italy with roseate vestments -- indicating that he is a prince of the Church as well as the traditional that he would be willing to shed his blood for Christ and the Pope. He has been an extraordinarily loyal officer so far, allegedly conquering his pinko leanings to obey his commanders.
We have to wonder what it all means for commonwealth politics when he sets it down in the cathedral again. This becomes important because of the pressure from the Vatican and minor influence from local Catholic rightwingers. Pope Benedict has a long and unpromising history heading the Inquisition for a quarter of a century. He appears absolutist and neither compassionate nor reflective.

So, O'Malley was a champion and stalwart for the working poor in D.C. Here, as in Fall River, he was brought in as a hired gun to clean up the dirty down. The disgraced Cardinal Law skipped town to hid in the Vatican, before any possibility of indictment for his active role in protecting abusive priests. This is not the first time O'Malley has gotten septic-tank-cleaning duties.

That underway, he has been brutally active in carrying out orders to:
  1. Promote anti-gay/anti-same-sex-marriage legislation and amendments, and
  2. Overrule Catholic Charities and make them stop their good works of adoption to avoid a secondary association of his Church with them damned homosexuals.
From what a couple of private emailers have send here, these are not in O'Malley's nature. Yet he is a good officer and does what he's told by higher-ranking men in cassocks.

Sunday's Boston Globe ran a current interview of the not-quite-Cardinal O'Malley. As befitting the fairly gutless broadsheet, the questions were gentle.

Movie Dialog Memory: Local Catholics are fond of playing the religion card; they may have earned it from slights real or imagined. Criticism of any of the flock can earn the anti-Catholic claim, even if sometimes a shmuck is just a schmuck. It recalls Woody Allen's paranoid character in Annie Hall. He heard an NBC executive ask, "Did you eat yet?" Outraged he asked how that villain could be so anti-Semitic as to confront him with, "Jew eat yet?"

Asked whether he personally agreed with the order to halt adoptions, Sean fudged it with:
Well, it's a very tragic moment for us to have to step away from adoptions, since that has been such a characteristic Catholic Charities type of activity, and one that has been in many ways the centerpiece of our Catholic Charities programs throughout the United States. But I understand the Holy See's concern that in our works of mercy, in our social programs, that we must be consistent in teaching the Catholic faith in one voice. And certainly the church's teaching on marriage is very central to our beliefs and how we see that the institution of marriage in today's world is very much threatened on many fronts, and yet it is the very cornerstone of society. And the best way for a child to be raised is to be conceived and nurtured and raised by committed, loving parents in a marriage. And so, for the church, in our social service activities and other works of mercy, we need to be consistent. And it was your newspaper that pointed out the anomaly to us, and we have tried to deal with that.

On the other hand, it's always difficult when people look at Catholic teaching on the periphery, and don't see that the core of our teaching is the love of God above all else, and the love of our neighbor as ourselves. And I was very pleased that the Holy Father's first encyclical is 'Deus caritas est,' that God is love. And I know that many people would cast our actions as mean-spirited or to denigrate people. But it is our desire to be faithful to that love that is the very core and reason for our church and our religion, that we must love God, obey his commandments, and try and create a civilization of love. And in our highly secularized, individualistic world, I know that that message doesn't come across too clearly. But we will try to do our best to communicate it in the most clear way that we can.
The Globe reporter definitely did not say, "Hell, it's a less than 3% of CC's budget. Why didn't you suck it up as so many non-profits would and keep doing it on your own dime?" Instead the smooching Q&A went:
Q: Why not make a kind of prudential judgment that the good done by placing a large number of children with traditional families outweighs the harm done by placing a small number with nontraditional families?

A: Well, particularly at a time when the marriage is threatened, it's very important that the church's teaching on the institution of marriage be reflected in our works of mercy and our social services.
So, here we are back in Beantown and Worcester, in Lowell and Fall River -- predominately RC towns that poll and vote opposite of what the bishops mandate. Interestingly enough, O'Malley ordered his bishops to order priests to have anti-SSM petitions at masses and in some parochial schools. That was wrong and muddled church and state in bad, bad ways. That can certainly backfire if the bishops, and Cardinal-t0-be, continue to come on heavy in disregarding commonwealth constitution and laws.

We shall soon have an elevated O'Malley in town, figuratively with new brass on his collar. If history is an indication, he'll continue saluting as long as Benedict is his C.O. That can mean some very unpleasant fights.

There's some serious unfinished business with same-sex marriage, adoption, and particularly the recent tack of the RC hierarchy to step out of the religious role into the political one, only to dodge back in the sanctuary when it is convenient. I don't think even our jovial friar can play that game well enough to avoid tripping. It would be a damned shame for him to go down because he's following orders.

What the C.O. orders for Boston and Massachusetts and how that plays out may well be an indicator of church/state politics nationwide and beyond.


Uncle said...

If sticking up for the culture of a highly conflicted laity who get screwed whenever the Catholic hierarchy screw up is "playing the religion card," I plead guilty. The "slights" visited upon that laity were very real, were endured at the same time the hierarchy were fattening themselves at the tables of the wealthy of other faiths, and were not quite dead in my own childhood. That a bias is dead, or a least deeply buried, doesn't mean it did not exist, or can't resurface in another form. That's the same error made by anti-gay black clergy.

I do not support or spin the actions of a hierarchy which, along with every other defect, are hypocritically at odds with the doctrine they profess to defend. I have no objection to anyone holding clerical feet to the fire. One might ask O'Malley, for instance, why he raises all marriage, civil and non-Catholic, to the same level as The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony [sic]. Ask him why he makes a virtue of heresy and see if he squirms. I guess if you're a cardinal you get to choose your cafeteria.

Nor do I give a rat's ass for O'Malley's quondam virtue. (q.v., "what have you done for me lately?") He's merely the newest proof of an old notion that any Franciscan who takes the crimson has sold out. What he was in the old days doesn't signify. Now he's a Cardinal and a certified suck-up.

I'm not dealing from anyone's deck. I'm just saying "be wary" to all progressives, who find it so easy to blame each other instead of their common opponents. Getting sucked into a culture of blame that screws the laity plays the old game for the powerful. Whether of a church, or business, or politics, princes prosper by setting the disadvantaged and disenfranchised against one another. We should have none of it. Of course current and former Catholics are on guard against those who don't seem to get the inner conflict between the pull of church-as-culture, and disgust with a hierarchical arrogance unmatched in 500 years. "Slights" be damned: I just want people outside of the turmoil to admit that they too bring some baggage to the bus, and help to make common cause with the growing ranks of disaffected Catholics. Maybe you can't understand the conflict, but try not to throw lit matches or sharp words around. Just stand by with a blanket or a hose and you can do a lot to forge alliances.

When we point fingers, let's all point them directly at those who turn their power to do good into a power to do immeasurable harm. They may die of the shock.

massmarrier said...

Well, having only gone to RC churches for cynical reasons -- accommodating female companions -- I am not as jaundiced...yet. Perhaps its the sparkling eyes or his populist history. He's going to have to perform the evil deeds of Benedict a little longer for me to accept that he turned in his morality to his C.O.

Logic says you're right. I'm not quire ready to admit it. Our red-hatted guy has some more stable mucking to do here, plus the SSM second front.