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Sunday, November 04, 2012

What to do when a Bishop goes bonkers?

The Catholic Bishop overseeing the diocese of Peoria, Illinois, is named Dan Jenky. He recently sent out a letter to all the churches under his bishopric, more or less commanding Catholics to vote for Mitt Romney.
By virtue of your vow of obedience to me as your Bishop, I require that this letter be personally read by each celebrating priest at each Weekend Mass, November 3/4.
Of course, many priests will ignore this "command." Nothing will happen to them, despite the Bishop's quaint threats to get Medieval. The supply of Catholic priests is so thin that, in practice, few priests ever lose their gigs. If Father Michael Pfleger can't get himself fired, nobody can. Seriously, if you want job security with decent bennies -- and if you don't mind celibacy or the company of people who believe in the supernatural -- be a priest. You're set for life. (Almost forgot: You must also possess a penis.)

Firing a lot of priests would necessitate closing churches. If that happened, Bishop Jenky's bosses would probably find him guilty of mismanagement. Bishops have rather less job security. There will always be people vying for Jenky's position, because in any hierarchy, people want to clamber to the top.

Our friends at Skydancing have it wrong, as they usually do on such matters. Jenky is not making "all Catholic priests" everywhere read this letter. His snit-fit can't reach beyond Peoria -- and even there, in that formidably blue part of a blue state, most people will react with a shrug, a smile, and eyes rolled toward heaven.
Great story of dissent right in your own backyard, Joseph:
I agree, Joe, once again. The Bishop's questionable shout out will only have influence on those who care to listen. The Church is not monolithic in attitudes or philosophy, despite what the public loud mouths and/or Rome would have you believe and individual Catholics have gone their own way on many social issues, contraception, for instance. That's been an issue for generations and the majority of Catholic women use contraception and never look back.

I was raised a Roman Catholic in an Irish/American family. Our holiday dinners were a perfect crosscut of varying perceptions about the Church, its role and influence and the varying degrees of belief systems. The battle between the traditionalists, moderates and liberal factions in the Catholic Church is nothing new, anymore than cranky priests and Bishops are a new phenomenon.

Change is hard, particularly for a 2000 year old institution losing its life/death grip on members, who will, I think, ultimately redefine and clarify the message of the faith, which boiled down to its essence is all about compassion not power.

Illinois isn't blue--Chicago is. Downstate is purple at best, with huge swaths of bright red.

Which is one reason I left my home state over 40 years ago for the more enlightened West. ;-)
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