Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Personal Aside: Cut the USCCB Off at the Pass (When the Basket is Passed at Mass for its Lavish Upkeep at Their Marble Palace).
As a general group with a few notable exceptions Catholic bishops are mostly pols and eminently forgettable. I remember watching them in solemn conclave a few years ago when they were trying to recapture respect after their lamentable weakness in ditching Anne Burke as Review Board chair because she called the turn on them.
EWTN was running the entire plenary session and swigging my obligatory scotch and soda (one only per day) I was watching when they got involved in theological semantics. Of course Bishop Wilton Gregory was presiding who was desperately concerned with his image theology not being his thing and the mitered class fell into minor disputesthe only ones making sense being (as could be predicted) the doughty bishops of Lincoln, Nebraska, Fabian Bruskewitz, Camden, N.J., John Myers and the fabulous auxiliary bishop of Chicago civil lawyer, head of a poverty law center and long distance runner, Thomas Paprocki. Sitting there I said to myself: Hell, I know the answer theyre struggling for from either Fr. Ernies Philosophy or Fr. Emeric Lawrences Theology.
They rambled on and on until the chair decided to call on the venerable Avery Cardinal Dulles for an exposition. Named a cardinal because of his erudition since he did not have an apostolic see, Dulles advanced in years hobbled to the microphone and gave concisely the same answer I had. Minor league question which Bruskewitz-Myers-Paprocki all knew and agreed on but which Dulles clarified. It was then I saw for the first time that these bishops excepting the above three are for the most part about as gifted as the people you could find jostling together on any El platform.
In fact if I had anything to do with communications at the largely irrelevant USCCB (United States Catholic Council of Bishops) Id terminate the TV coverage: doesnt do them any good. A better idea yet would be to end the legacy that Joe Bernardin left us in his Italianate climb to the top: the entire USCCB. Its nothing more than a trade association and a very poor one at that. There they sit in a marble temple in Washington, D. C. playing UN Security Council, each festooned with a microphone. Thats where our contributory money goes: for little boys to play big shots.
Of course as our own archbishop is the head of it, they wont close down their marble temple and unhook the individual microphones. For many, it makes them feel important. But they are not important most of them. By the time most of them get to the bishopric they have learned to play the game and have had their backbones replaced by spaghetti, all the more to be dominated by the highly perfumed, wily old fraud who can parse his way around with the best of them and who has often escaped unwelcome media attention by the skin of his teeth, Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, aka the Democratic National Committees personal agent in the hierarchy.
They wont get rid of the marble palace or McCarrick either but one thing they can do for me they can stop issuing these goofy press releases from USCCB HQ such as appeared in The Sun-Times the other day.
The story was headlined: BISHOPS GROUP PUSHES CHEAP DATES FOR COUPLES and starts off: The U. S. Conference of Bishops has pitched 10 ideas for cheap datesincluding a pedicure for hubby or midnight bowlingto help; couples maintain wedded bliss in tough economic times.
It continues: `If money is tight, dont worry. Weve come up with 10 suggestions for romantic dates at little or no cost. It includes seeing what you can do without electricity on a tech free night, when phones, computer, television and lights are turned off Planning a picnic by spreading a blanket on the living room floor. Romanticize the occasion by adding some wine, a rose and mood music. Another is midnight bowling. Yet another is Evening at the Ritzdress up and go to the lobby of an elegant hotel. Sit in the lounge and order a drink or snack. People watch and fantasize. Also: Home spa. Create a home spa for the evening. Put on some soothing music, light some scented candles, give each other a massage. Give your husband a pedicure or paint your wifes toenails, if you dare.
I have two suggestions.
One: Let them paint their own toenails. Some already do Im sure.
Two: Take a piece of paper and refigure your contributions to the bishops preferably down to zero marking the occasion by memorializing the weak-tea formulation they made at election time which can be construed as allowing support for Barack Obama remembering their fund-raising which just so happens to give a million or two to ACORN.
That and deciding to cut them off entirely at the pass the passing of the collection basket at the times when the USCCB is begging for its lavish upkeep. I mean it. You should continue to give generously to your parish and auxiliary charities (not Catholic Charities which is a wholly owned subsidiary of the corporate state) but to specific ones (I nominate The Port which deals effectively with the South Side poor).
Cut them off at the pass, I say and end the ridiculous suggestions from celibates on how married people can spend their time. And if there are no special pass-the-basket occasions, ask your pastor how much he is assessed for charades like this and formulate your own giving to him accordingly, deducting with precision.