Thursday, November 01, 2012

From a distance

This is just sad:

In a letter, Jenky told the priests in his diocese “[b]y 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.” The letter leaves little doubt that Jenky wants Obama out of the White House:

Neither the president of the United States nor the current majority of the Federal Senate have been willing to even consider the Catholic community’s grave objections to those HHS mandates that would require all Catholic institutions, exempting only our church buildings, to fund abortion, sterilization, and artificial contraception. . . . Nearly two thousand years ago, after our Savior had been bound, beaten, scourged, mocked, and crowned with thorns, a pagan Roman Procurator displayed Jesus to a hostile crowd by sarcastically declaring: Behold your King. The mob roared back: We have no king but Caesar. Today, Catholic politicians, bureaucrats, and their electoral supporters who callously enable the destruction of innocent human life in the womb also thereby reject Jesus as their Lord. They are objectively guilty of grave sin.

For those who hope for salvation, no political loyalty can ever take precedence over loyalty to the Lord Jesus Christ and to his Gospel of Life. God is not mocked, and as the Bible clearly teaches, after this passing instant of life on earth, God’s great mercy in time will give way to God’s perfect judgment in eternity.

I therefore call upon every practicing Catholic in this Diocese to vote. Be faithful to Christ and to your Catholic Faith.
It is not sad because of the opinions expressed, though I disagree with them.  It is not sad because Bp. Jenky has already gone full Godwin in comparing President Obama to Hitler.  It is sad because the Biship seems to actually imagine his words will be given full effect by all of the faithful.

I've been watching "Call the Midwife" on PBS.  It's set in the East End of London during World War II (or thereabouts), and it concerns a group of midwives working for a facility run by nuns (I haven't been watching it that carefully, so if I'm off on the particulars a bit, forgive).  What strikes me is the imminent practicality of the nuns, which I finally realized was simply their pastoral care.  One set of characters, for example, were a brother and sister, both elderly, both clearly the victims of childhoods of Dickensian brutality.  I didn't at first realize they were siblings, because they presented as an elderly married couple.  The midwife/nurses are shocked when they realize the two have been sleeping in the same bed, but the nun who overhears their conversation is nonplussed.  When pressed on the matter, ("It's incest, Sister!"), she tells the nurses the couple's story, one of losing their parents at a young age, and being separated in a work house, and only later reunited.  She concludes: "There was nothing of family left by the time they were reunited."  And it is clear the relationship, however incestuous it might be in some particulars, is spectacularly healthy and supportive for both of them.  Later, still, the sister/wife commits suicide during the night vigil over her brother/husband, who dies of cancer.  The nun who enters to find them overlooks this mortal sin in favor of recognizing the humanity of the two, who had borne so much inhumanity in their lives.

Is this all fiction and a secularizing fable about the lives and concerns of the religious?  Is it cleaned up for modern sensibilities, and represents not the Church but the world?  Perhaps.  I don't know if this telling is true to the source material or not, or even if the source material is true to history.  But I do know the responses of the nuns are both practical and pastoral.  The the pastoral, especially, is something sorely lacking among members of church hierarchies.

I occasionally got a letter from my church hierarchy, congregationalist as we were, that I was expected to read from the pulpit.  My superiors hadn't the authority of a Roman Catholic bishop, but one church member called me in horror that I would read the letter I was asked to read, from the pulpit.  I had no intention of doing so, because I knew I would pay the price with my congregation.  I also knew, aside from the anger I'd stir up, that it wasn't the pastoral thing to do.  From a distance what seems clear and clean and comfortably abstract, becomes messy and complicated and bewilderingly concrete at ground level.

The Bishop may consider that he has the eagle's eye and from his aerie sees more clearly than that priests on the ground; and on some occasions that may even be true.  But it is rare enough, especially in this age, that is shouldn't be presumed upon.  Take a lesson from the Nuns on the Bus, and get out among the people and see what they are concerned about.

It will be far removed from what provisions now have to be included in health insurance policies.


  1. Windhorse5:32 PM

    It is not sad because of the opinions expressed

    I must respectfully disagree on this bit. The outrageous, inflammatory language used by the Bishop to demonize an entire class of people is inexcusable. The Catholic Church's innovative, modern position on abortion, not to mention its attitude towards it as as the sole issue of import, is like moral theology done by a first grader. Having the other stuff on the books just to cover your ass is not enough. Absurdities like this give rise to atrocities. And being tied to the concept of infallibility, the bishops can't back down, only double down. It would not surprise me one bit to hear calls - or at least dog whistles - for overthrow of the government down the road.

    My own tendency towards wroth does not permit me to opine on this matter any further without sin. Mea maxima culpa indeed.

  2. Always a pleasure to read an informed point of view.

  3. The bishops have trashed any credibility they have with the majority of Catholics. Most of the Catholics I know, from my mother who is almost 100 to my younger nieces and nephews, have or will vote for Obama. My mother voted for marriage equality against the urging of the pseudo-bishop who was rewarded by reappointment to a larger diocese after closing a number of parishes, including the one in our town, to pay for the aftermath of the pedophile scandals. Needless to say, that's something the Pope and the bishops figure the lay people will just accept but I'm guessing a lot of them will not attend the new church two towns away. They will either cross the bridge and go to the still open church in the next town or, as one of my sisters has says, she'll go to a non-Catholic church because she's so disgusted with the hierarchy.

    Your story reminds me of listening to one of the Medical Missionaries of Mary telling about how she was approached to be sterilized by a woman who almost died after her last of many, many child births. The woman pointed out that she'd probably die the next time the Sister arranged for the surgery against official teaching. Nuns have more credibility than bishops or the Pope.