June 13, 2019

Politicians, Bishops, and Other Swear Words

So the U.S. bishops are gathering in Baltimore to rearrange chairs on the deck of the U.S. Catholic Titanic. A few things come to mind: One, why is it that groups and committees are so ineffective? I’m thinking of Congress as well as the bishops. A decent number of individuals within these groups seem reasonably smart or well-intentioned and yet as a group they mire in a blackhole-like suckitude. It’s a mystery. They say the only effective committee in history, the exception that proves the rule, was the one that created the King James Bible.

We see it on a federal level in that the branch most effective is the executive, answering to one. The second most effective is the judicial, answering to nine. And the least effective, the one begging the other two to take away the little power it occasionally exercises, has hundreds.

The other thing that comes to mind is how disgust at bishops rhymes with our disgust with politicians, which could be because bishops act like politicians. What are the prime characteristics of a politician?

1. He values his job and reputation more than the common good.
2. He refuses to call a spade a spade (in D.C., a gaffe is said to occur when someone inadvertently speaks a truth).
3. He spouts content-free bromides that are intended to be inoffensive and speak to the widest possible audience.
4. He abhors transparency and accountability.

But these characteristics can lead to a disgust that leads to whistle-blowers. Trump, for sure, who calls spades spades and tells all sorts of inconvenient truths, inconvenient as far as if his goal is to expand his base. Pope Francis was intended by the cardinals to whistle-blow the corrupt Vatican bank, but alas he turned out to be corrupt as well. And Cardinal Viagno, the volatile anti-politician who leaked that McCarrick had been under sanctions and that Francis essentially lifted them, is the whistle-blower extraordinaire.

One thing the bishops have done is give priests and laypeople a chance to bond, a “misery-loves-company” feeling, both laboring under a cringeworthy hierarchy.

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