National Catholic Reporter

The Independent News Source

Bulletins from the Human Side

Now we know what the bishops 'don't get'


"The bishops," Catholics concluded of their supposed shepherds’ reactions to the explosion of the sex abuse scandal a long desert of a decade ago, "they just don’t get it." Laypeople were expressing their frustration that church leaders did not, or could not, see this tragedy -- even after it had been dragged kicking and screaming out of the darkness and into the light of day as a hypocritical betrayal of everything the church was supposed to stand for.

First, the bishops didn’t get that it was a scandal -- that is, as the Oxford English Dictionary describes the specific religious use of the term, a "discredit to religion occasioned by the conduct of a religious person." Like the astronauts who signaled "Houston, we have a problem," they sighed "Dallas, we have a problem" as they nervously assembled in that city to see what they could do about it.

Reform of the reform secularizes the sacred


Even their advocates make the new liturgical translations sound like medicine for -- instead of the symptoms of -- a disorder that demeans the sacramental nature of Catholicism. Swallow this they urge -- like mothers forcing a spoon aquiver with spring tonic on their young -- it will be good for you. Thus Our Sunday Visitor reassures readers that responding "and with your spirit" is superior to "and also with you" because it literally mimics the original Latin, which, of course, is exactly what is wrong with it.

Rigali's new old time religion


The theology of the body or how to keep catholics feeling guilty

Paralleling Groucho Marx’s famous line, "either this man is dead or my watch has stopped," Cardinal Rigali either doesn’t know that Pope John Paul II is dead or his watch has stopped and he doesn’t know that he can stop running for a red hat. The old clerical gag during his time in Rome was that his cassock was always rain spotted from standing in St. Peter’s Square during the ambition storms that are to the Vatican what tsunamis are to the South Seas, waiting for the lightning strike that would transform him into a cardinal archbishop.

New Vatican leader 'positive on women' in a classic clerical culture way


Clerical culture's constituents resemble golf club members afraid that women, if accepted, would storm the locker room and see the emperors without their clothes on or the raw truth about monsignors. But also like many golfers they are mostly nice guys with good taste and good manners. And that, of course, is where they get those Catholics who, in the Wagnerian weather of the Ratzinger regime, search for a break in the massive thunderheads that trail back to the lightning filled storm that broke over Vatican I after it voted for papal infallibility and hurried to a close.

Watershed moment for clerical culture: more bishops than monsignors in Chicago


The news that, including retired prelates, Chicago is now home to more bishops than monsignors means that the tipping point has been reached for clerical culture. Imagine the hierarchical church as a crumbling amusement park on whose lonely and littered midway one battered attraction survives -- a huge teeter-totter, one end dug into the ground like a dagger under the weight of its once easy rider bishops while the other sways like a construction crane clutching a cargo of lighter-than-air monsignors.

The church in 2010 and France in 1940


Eric Sevareid began his career as a reporter for CBS Radio just as France buckled and fell to the lightning strike onslaught of the German armies in the fair spring of 1940. The country of so many remembered glories seemed in denial to the journalist who described the "unreality in it all." The professional classes displayed "a determined effort to retain ... a way and habit of life which the closing in of history was grinding away."

What are we to assume about the Assumption?


The current issue of Our Sunday Visitor, that still point at the whirling universe of church publications, reminds its readers that the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is rising like a midsummer moon over the calendar pages. They urge them to celebrate this commemoration of the direct assumption of Mary, body and soul, into Heaven. This really happened, the church is said to teach, as a fulfillment of Mary’s remaining both sinless all her life and a virgin after giving birth to the Savior.

Frock coats and fiddle back vestments


John Allen reports that in a forthcoming papal equivalent of an executive order, Pope Benedict XVI will initiate a "liturgical movement" that, with unintentional irony, he terms "new" even though it is old enough to be appraised on "Antiques Road Show." Allen concludes that the pontiff, invoking the mantra of "continuity," wants to "restore what (he)… and like-minded observers believe was lost in the post-Vatican II period." In short, this is the latest move to "reform the Reform" of Vatican II.

The devil is back


Not since the early 1970s, and the novel and movie "The Exorcsist," in which the main signal of satanic possession of a pubescent girl was her accuracy at picking off ministering priests with projectile vomiting, has the devil enjoyed so much attention. This time, however, the wily one's card is placed on our tray not by moviemakers admittedly out to make a buck but by church officials apparently out to make us pay attention to them.

If celibacy is such a jewel why won't the pope let us look at it?


Determined to put down any threat to his already tottering autocracy, Tsar Nicholas allowed his troops to shoot into the crowds who were gathering before his palace seeking to tell him of his people’s widespread grievances. Is this the precedent for deploying Vatican sharpshooters on the roof of St. Peter’s to pick off anybody, from low level Catholics to high ranking Cardinals, who tells the Pope that celibacy may not be the “brilliant jewel” he thinks it is.


Subscribe to Bulletins from the Human Side


NCR Email Alerts


In This Issue

September 12-25, 2014


Not all of our content is online. Subscribe to receive all the news and features you won't find anywhere else.