I am taking a break from blogging on the Catholic scandal, but I think Michael Sean Winters tells us something important about human nature in this short essay on one of the America magazine blogs. While he is quite strong about the need for leaders in the Catholic Church (he writes as a Catholic; America is a Jesuit magazine, in case you don’t know) to repent and do penance, Winters, a liberal Catholic, makes a great point in opposition to Nick Kristof’s
thoroughly partly dopey New York Times column yesterday, which blamed the scandal on “patriarchy” and the lack of democracy in the Roman church. Excerpt:
Kristof might take the time to learn a bit more about the early Church. He might learn that it took a while for the Church to figure out exactly what it meant when it called Jesus the Christ. He might, for instance, consult the history of Pope Silverius, elected in 536. He was devoted to orthodoxy at a time when the Empress Theodora was enamored of the monophysite heresy. When her husband’s army recaptured Rome, she had Silverius deposed and exiled, eventually dying of malnutrition. Theodora was a woman and a lay person, the modernist dream, but her effect on the Church was pernicious. Kristof might also consider the history of Pope Symmachus. He was the candidate of the clergy in 498, but the people elected their own Pope and placed Laurence on the throne of Peter. The laity wished for a stronger stance against the Goths and favored working with the Emperor in Constantinople. The lay leaders were, writes the eminent historian Eamon Duffy, “anxious at all costs for reconciliation with the Emperor, and willing to make doctrinal concessions to achieve it.”
Anyone who thinks lay control or female control of the Church is the answer needs to get better acquainted with the history of the early Church. It was not pristine. And, liberals should be especially aware that if there were elections for lay leaders, it is more likely than not that Bill Donohue and George Weigel and Raymond Arroyo would win at the Catholic polls. I will take my chances with the clericalist patriarchy, thank you very much. In his recent book, The Difference God Makes, Cardinal Francis George wrote that a principal problem for liberal Catholics is their willingness to become chaplains to the status quo. Kristof’s article could be exhibit A.
There’s a lot to be said for involving more females in the running of an organization that has shut them out, and maybe there ought to be a more flexible hierarchy. But if anybody really believes that flawed human nature doesn’t corrode the judgment of both women and the crowd, same as it does men and hierarchies, they’re dreaming. We are stuck with … us. As Winters avers, many people think they’re making progress when they’re only exchanging one set of evils for a different set.
I see new Pew study out today showing that trust in the US government on the part of the American people is at a historic low. Really? Who elected this untrustworthy government? Who indeed?