For comic relief or abject disgust, depending upon your personal faith perspective, the U.S. Catholic bishops continue to embarrass themselves. Their duplicity of self-righteousness is only surpassed by their delusional self-importance.
Last week as the bishops gathered for their virtual meetings – somewhat like teenagers for electronic war games – they debated and voted (yes) if they should draft a document on the Eucharist and eligibility to receive it. Their self-proclaimed moral high ground is rooted in a narrow reading of Catholic doctrine that many of them view as the only one. How Pharisaical of them.
Over these recent years. they never sought that moral high ground in regard to the abuse of minors by either themselves or their clergy. Yet those abusers were able and permitted to continue not only to receive the Eucharist, but to celebrate the Eucharist. Now, some of these same bishops call for a document that prohibits Catholic politicians from receiving the Eucharist based on their political views. It seems that raping and abusing minors ranks lower on their scale of offenses than supporting policies that do not match up with what these bishops envision as in keeping with church teaching.
This week’s behavior by these ‘spiritual’ leaders screams of their disconnect with their people and Pope Francis. Their rationale is rooted in “doctrine” and not in the mercy of Jesus. But then again, look at the churches, empty in no small part due to bishops’ and priests’ condescending preaching and autocratic lifestyle. The bishops’ behavior as an assembly, also, is saddled with disunity and open contempt among themselves. What a mess, and how fundamentally uncatholic.
It might be helpful for the American bishops, since more and more Catholics (especially, and most troublingly, young Catholics) are just ignoring them and their pronouncements, to postpone debates in order to retreat and reflect on the works and behavior of Jesus. Maybe, then, they would also eat with today’s prostitutes and tax collectors. They might even come to understand and accept Pope Francis’ call for synodality.
Imagine – how refreshing! – bishops listening to the people of God. Imagine, the Eucharist being food for the soul rather than a political weapon. Just imagine, pastors and not Pharisees.
John J. Petillo is the president of Sacred Heart University, Fairfield, CT.