The Betrayal: How to Save the Church

Continued from page 7

Still, no amount of procedural tinkering will help the Church if the men who lead it refuse to be candid. Put differently, bishops must be chosen for their humility and honesty. As in every case of sin, what is ultimately called for is less a change of policy than a change of heart. In the late 1790s the first Catholic bishop in the United States, John Carroll, welcomed a group of nuns from France by making them a gift of a slave woman and her daughter. We read this and recoil in horror--how did he not understand that trafficking in human beings was a moral enormity? We do not know that any more than we know what men and women 200 years hence will see with a similar sense of puzzlement and disgust when they look back upon our age. The Catholic bishops should remember this when they feel themselves inclined to stridency in all but their charity.

In studying the long history of Catholicism, one realizes that as bad as things are, they have been worse before. And yet the Church survives because the life of faith, in a man or in a people, is an unpredictable thing. As Monsignor Albacete recently told me, "If, in addition to all the terrible things we have learned, if tomorrow it was revealed that the pope had a harem, that all the cardinals had made money on Enron stock and were involved in Internet porno, then the situation of the Church today would be similar to the situation of the Church in the late twelfth century ... when Francis of Assisi first kissed a leper." Saints, not bishops, will remake the face of the Church, and the making of saints is God's work. It would be wonderful indeed if every bishop were a saint. But the current crisis could have been avoided if the bishops had merely remembered they were human beings.

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