The Corner

Calling for Surrender

Maureen Dowd, unsurprisingly, hits back at New York’s Archbishop Timothy Dolan today (who has criticized some of her columns on the Catholic Church as well as the New York Times itself), though not substantively so much as with sarcasm and a total lack of appreciation of the role of women in the Catholic worldview, once again.

There are many things to say both about her column and about what’s going on in the media and in the Church (and what the media says is going on isn’t quite the story). But what sticks out from Ms. Dowd’s column today is this closing line: “How can we maintain that faith when our leaders are unworthy of it?”

Reading that line made me jump right back to this, also from her column today: “The priest was always a revered figure, the embodiment of Christ changing water into wine. (Older parishioners took it literally.)”

If the pope himself were possessed, if every priest and religious were evildoers, there would still be Christ and there would still be the fact — which, if you’re Catholic, you believe to be true, or so claiming to be Catholic suggests — that He died for your sins. If the pope were corrupt, I’d like to think I’d still have faith. It’s not the human leaders with free will who are at the heart of the faith – and the Church — but the Eucharist, literally.

Mercifully, evil has not overtaken the pope or the Church. And the Catholic Church is not dying. There have been crimes. There are sins. But much of what is being reported on does not always live up to its billing. And the solutions pundits present are not all that they think they are.

For one thing, celibacy is not the problem. It’s easy to see why people who live in a culture that has made a religion of sex — believing it is the road to love and fulfillment rather than the expression of it – would insist that a man surrendering it, as well as his whole will, to Divine service, is simply impossible. In truth, the problems that have led to all kinds of “filth” — to use the former Cardinal Ratzinger’s term of disgust for crimes and sins that he was made aware of while a cardinal at the Vatican and did not tolerate – and breakdown in so many American and other seminaries and dioceses stem from issues of integrity and fidelity, not the existence of celibacy.

And, by the way, I don’t blame Maureen Dowd for her misunderstanding of the Catholic Church’s love for her in all her femininity — if by “the Catholic Church” one means what she teaches in her doctrines and papal encyclicals and in the very architecture of St. Peter’s in Rome. Maureen Dowd attended the same Catholic university that I did, which, at the time she attended, was mixed up in a fog of dissent that took away from its ability to teach its students what exactly is at the heart of the Church and what we truly believe as Catholics.

All of these crimes, sins, and confusions are fruits of Catholics not being Catholic. Fidelity is the key to renewal, integrity, faith, hope, and love. And while being the father of fraternal correction, crackdown, and cleanup, Pope Benedict XVI, in word and deed, is teaching and modeling what exactly being Catholic means to a few generations who haven’t been clear on it. He is an example of a leader who is living up to his office, while calling others to account. If there were easy, across-the-board solutions that would do away with sin, I’m sure he’d be all for it. The truth is that there aren’t. The answer to preventing moral breakdown — whether we’re talking about the Catholic Church or a marriage — is fidelity.

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