February 26, 2008

Lawler's The Faithful Departed

Read “The Faithful Departed” about the destruction of Boston Catholic culture. This book certainly exercises your "forgiveness muscle" given outrages that make you want to scream -- all those children's lives who were so needless scarred. It is amazing that Cardinal Law could get the Vatican equivalent of a CEO’s golden parachute. It’s hard to watch the hierarchy function like a business, in which those at the top suffer little from their sins while those at the bottom, those who were victims of priest sex abuse, suffer disproportionately. But that is the way this world works. Justice doesn’t happen in this world, it happens in the next, even in ecclesiastical matters.

Reading this book I finally “get” the existence of the magazine New Oxford Review. It always seemed over-the-top in its meanspiritedness but then I was mostly unaware of the liturgical craziness that occurred in the late ‘70s and ‘80s both out of ignorance and not having a clear picture that there was anything but liturgical craziness. (i.e. “We didn’t know we were poor because it was all we knew…”) But for my elders it must’ve just drove them nearly mad and the New Oxford Review must’ve served as a place to vent, a sort of “parody is therapy” model.

Reading the book you also get a really good insight into how useless we are apart from Christ. There’s a tendency to imagine that the people of God complement each other, each of us having different strengths -- but that just as easily plays out like it did with the sex scandal – our differing weaknesses combining to bring disaster: the ruthless lust of a small percentage of pedophile priests combined with the timidity of the bishops bent on protecting the Church’s image. If there is an imminent chastisement it's hard to see it as not justified.

The irony is that even when we try to play the secular game we lose. If bishops, as a group, acted mostly as businessmen they missed the obvious fact that they were leaving themselves in an extremely vulnerable position given how we’ve became a society dominated by lawyers over the past four decades. A good businessman would’ve recognized his risk and acted accordingly. (They would seem to have had sufficient notice.) We live in a society now where sin and mistakes are punished severely by lawyers and courts, for we live in an "attorology", rule by lawyers.

Ultimately there's no greater "take away message" than we are helpless without Christ and that we can do nothing without Him.

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