Law and Order, Dissidents Unit, starring Cardinal Francis E. George as chief enforcer, and a repertoire team of U.S. bishops.
Religion is a messy affair, and the messiness tends to take on a dialectical quality. In Catholicism, strong central control stands in tension with flexible, personal freedom. In America, where Catholicism met its first major challenge in a democratic setting, the decentralized pole has strengthened at the expense of hierarchical authority.
Cardinal George, in the first session of the annual bishops' conference, signaled that the bishops have felt the time was right to again assert their authority. He and others have demanded that Catholics affirm what the church says about major issues like abortion or quit calling themselves Catholic.
He also serves notice to Catholic publications and universities that it's time to examine whether they're worthy of the name. Already before the meeting, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Rhode Island rebuked Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI)for disagreeing with the church on abortion rights.