Thursday, October 18, 2007
Personal Aside: The Weakling San Francisco Archbishop.
Archbishop George Niederauer.
The only way I can rationalize what the San Francisco archbishop did is like this: There have been times of persecution in the Church which strengthened clergy and laitywhich is when the earthen vessels of the congregation reacted nobly. The two great persecutions of the 3rd century came under emperors Decius (249 tos 251) and Diocletian (284-305). Decius who determined to rid Rome of Christian traditions jailed Origen, then an aged ascetic, put him in chains, imprisoned him and beat him. Pope Fabian was himself jailed and beaten to death. Tens of thousands suffered similarly. Peter was crucified upside down. From his bravery came the concept that the Church is strengthened by the blood of martyrs.
Similarly, the Church is weakened, becomes flaccid, effeminate and irresolute...led often by trimmers when it is accepted unduly. When I was a child a quite civil persecution against Catholics occurred which I venerate in memory now. It crested with the celebration of the defeat of Al Smith for president in our northwest side of Chicago neighborhood was keenSmith having lost the year I was born. In our neighborhood friendly, middle-class the defeat of Smith (who was really not worthy of election by nature of his barren lack of civility) was hailed as a great validation against a foreign Oriental despot, the Pope, seeking to pull political levers in this country. Similarly when Notre Dame, then a little-known Catholic college in South Bend, began its winning streak under Rockne (a convert from Logan Square), our neighbors were up in arms. The case was made that it gained its fame because the Tribunes sports editor, Arch Ward, had gone to Notre Dame and was as a student in charge of athletic publicity. Whats more it was true: Ward was a shameless Notre Dame booster.
I was the only boy on our block to go to Catholic school.St. Juliana
where two of my grandchildren have since gone. To defend our faith, we were trained in the rudiments of the Baltimore Catechism and learned by rote the articles of faith. All my fellows on the block went to Ebinger public. When they had off for public school teachers conferences and the like, I had to go to school. When I had off for certain saints days, they had to go to school.. It was delicious to be singular. The so-called discrimination was welcome. Our faith was strong because our loyalty to this country was quietly suspected by our neighbors. We were called mackerel snappers because we ate fish on Friday; we were called cracker-deifiers because we truly believed the consecrated host was in fact the body and blood of Christ. I can tell you it was such a sweet bigotry.
The priests and prelates we had were strong and we loved them for the enemies they made. There was George Cardinal Mundelein our bishop; New York had Patrick Cardinal Hayes and later Francis Cardinal Spellman; St. Paul had Archbishop John Gregory Murray. Our auxiliary bishop was Bernard Sheil. Even and this is heresy to listen to Father Charles E. Coughlin was fun because all our neighbors threw up their hands in holy horror at him. Later Msgr. Fulton Sheen. Those were I daresay the golden age of the Church. The Church, imbued with self-confidence, lasted until the 1950s.
In the 1950s as the author Charles Morris points out in his exemplary book American Catholic, Catholicism was on the way to becoming the central cultural force of the era. What began as an immigrant church had grown to huge respectability, aided by such books as The Greatest Story Ever Told by Fulton Oursler, a best-seller; The Day Christ Died another best-seller by Jim Bishop; Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton and a series of popular books, radio and TV appearances by Sheen. Catholic educational institutions were first-rateGeorgetown, Notre Dame, Catholic University of America, Loyola University here, Loyola in Los Angeles, Loyola in New Orleans; DePaul here. Catholic hospitals were gaining great reputations. What happened was a terrible miscalculation. A revolution that started at my own St. Johns University, Collegeville, Minn. incardinated intellectual skepticism and a misnamed ecumenism that robbed the Church of its individuality and self-confidence. The election of John F. Kennedy who declared that he would not allow his Church to stand in the way of his public stands was the denouement.
It culminated in a Vatican II that began as a reformation but whose public face was hijacked by radical theologians. The idea popularized by Andrew Greeley and others that Catholics should not live in a ghetto but should be homogenized with secularism gained currency. Relativism in philosophy which started at St. Johns, spread to other universities culminating in the Land o Lakes document among Catholic educators that debased individual Catholic currency. Relativism in thought inevitably leads, I believe, to relativism in moral approach. It is no coincidence that homosexuality grew as a mode of expression based on the concept that to achieve sexual completion is far from a serious sin.
Because we are at a time when toleration of all kinds including toleration of falsehood masquerading as truth is dominant, we should not be surprised that the Churchs weakness had led to selection of very weak men to lead it. There is little doubt that the archbishop of San Francisco is one such weakling. When you get to the position that an archbishop gives Communion to two congregants dressed in drag with whitened faces like clowns, calling themselves members of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, you have an all-time low-point of weaklings in the hierarchy. And the fact that there is no outcry either from hierarchal officials in this country or in Rome is a tragic consequence of such decadence.
Looking at the video of the Mass you see Archbishop George Niderauer seeming at first reluctant to give Communion to those who are behaving sacrilegiously. He seems to indicate that he will bless the transvestites. Then it seems as if he asks the first outrageously painted figure if he is a Catholic; when seemingly assured, he gives the Eucharist to the figure to the figures merriment.
His subsequent apology is insufficient. He should resign; if he cannot summon the strength to do it, he should be retired immediately.
Weakness in the prelature comes from the great fear not to offend. Here the archbishop is in a church that the transvestites invaded. He is a weak imitation of a prelatefearing to be denounced in officially pro-gay San Francisco. A collection of weak prelates are in Connecticut, the flexibly-spined ones who agreed to allow the state to order Catholic hospitals to administer the Plan B emergency contraception to rape victims.
As for Archbishop Niederauer, his behavior is indistinguishable from a lowborn, low-minded man. He could be compared to Archbishop Thomas Cranmer who cut a course favored by the king (in Niederauers case a mob), or Wolsey. He is frankly a disgrace to the Church and a rebuke to the many men before him including those before and after St. Thomas Becket and St. John Fisher who paid for their faith with their lives. . His apology is insufficient. Someone with this fatal sense of cowardice and accommodation comes to the point of heresy itself having lauded the pro-homosexual film Brokeback Mountain having publicly opposed a Utah ballot initiative in 2004 that banned same-sex marriage because it included a ban on civil unions having, as bishop of Salt Lake city, helped form a coalition to oppose the ban on high-school gay-straight alliances that had been proposed by the Utah legislature.
One cannot be sanguine for the immediate future of the Church when men like this are elevated to and allowed to continue in high church office. But the Church will survive. We can only hope for a return to what would frankly be called anti-Catholic persecution where Catholics are unjustly penalized in employment, in acceptance in certain social clubsso as to make recompense for people like Niederauer. . If the 2000 year history of the Church gives any guidance, only a return to healthy, penitential persecution like this, will cause the Church to raise up as it has so often in the past men in the clergy who will possess what is understood and which I cite without shame as manly virtue. Manly virtue. Niederauer is living testament to the neglect that has come to the Church as result of a too benign toleration--neglect that comes from absence of persecution.,
For my part, I would hope that God would allow me to live long enough to see the purifying fire of persecution return.