Just about two decades ago Rev. George Rutler received me into the Church of Rome. I adore the man–he’s brilliant, witty, and (dare I?) holy–yet since he lives in New York and I in California, it’s been ages since we’ve been in touch. But now? Well, now we’re both on the Corner. Up for a question, Father?
You mention that the Church is reforming itself through “the removal of incompetent bishops.” But shouldn’t the National Conference of Catholic Bishops also issue an apology? I don’t mean an apology for the sexual predators they’ve been harboring–that apology is already on the books. I mean an apology for at least two decades of cowardice, meddling, and general pusillanimity.
In particular, shouldn’t the bishops apologize for their two major pastoral letters of the nineteen-eighties? One, you’ll recall, was on the economy. It was an attack on Reaganomics–at the very time when Reagan’s tax cuts, restraint on spending, and program of deregulation were launching the most sustained economic expansion in American history, conferring more benefits on poor Americans than any government program could have begun to match. The second represented an attack on Reagan’s nuclear policy, in effect granting the full authority of the Church to the nuclear freeze movement–at the very time when Reagan’s policies were putting forces in play that would bring the Cold War to a peaceful end.
The American bishops exceeded their authority, meddled in the political life of the nation, caused scandal to thousands of devout Catholics (I have a friend who left the Church as a direct result of these pastoral letters)–and got it all wrong.
I’m quite serious. Wouldn’t it be an entirely salutory step–indeed, isn’t it very nearly a necessary step–for the American bishops to indicate in some unmistakeable manner that those two letters represented a grave error?