Tuesday, March 7, 2006

The Archbishop, The Caesars, and Love

By Mitchell

Well. For a man who proclaimed he wouldn’t have much to say, I do seem to have allowed the words to flow like happy hour at a political convention, haven’t I?

But I meant what I said at the time, and I’ll restate it now. We’ll provide regular updates with any new information we think you’d find interesting, and rest assured that we’ll continue to provide proper coverage of breaking developments when they happen. But until then, we’ll attempt to ease back to our regular programming.

After this word from our sponsors.


It’s important to recognize that often, how you do something is as important as what you do. That’s why, throughout the lifespan of this blog, we’ve tried to comport ourselves in a professional manner, as well as a Catholic one. Namecalling and mudslinging don’t often advance the cause you’re trying to promote, unless the names are accurate ones and the mudslinging consists of proven facts. Even then you have to be careful; the purpose of public debate is frequently to educate, illuminate, and ultimately convince the public on the position you’re taking.

In the case of Archbishop Flynn, at the risk of sounding like a broken record I’ll repeat that at no time during this debate have we attempted to impugn the character or beliefs of the archbishop. I would like to think that were I in desperate trouble, at the point of death, or in dire need of counseling, I would welcome the archbishop’s assistance.

I would like to think that. The fact that I can’t make it an absolute statement is in part due to my own weakness, and in part because of the lack of confidence I have in the archbishop based on his track record here in the archdiocese. As Bearing Blog put it in one of her comments below, there's too much of "Just trust me" in the archbishop's manner.

And yet I recognize his legitimate authority as archbishop, and do not dispute it. Those of us who have opposed his actions, not only it the case of Fr. Altier but many, many times over the years, have had in mind always the good of the Church, and have had as a desire the true teaching of the Magisterium of the Church. To the extent that this is not being done, we will continue to raise questions. Charitably, respectfully (at least from this blog), but persistently. If we here at Our Word have ever fallen short of that goal, either by perception or fact, we apologize.

Unquestionably some part of the problem consists of the liberal attitude on the part of those in the diocesan administration, including the diocesan newspaper. Just as is the case in business or politics, the chief executive is not always responsible for the sins of his subordinates. However, as Harry Truman said, the buck stops here. To me, it would appear that the archbishop has one of three choices:

  1. Clean house and bring in permanent lay staff dedicated to reflecting the attitudes and views of the archbishop and the Magisterium of the Church.
  2. Admit that he has delegated responsibility for key decisions to lay administrators who may be influenced by an ideological – not theological – agenda.
  3. Announce that he is in complete and total agreement with the actions being taken in his name, and provide full disclosure on the reasons for his decisions.

Having read what has happened in other dioceses, both here and around the world, I am convinced that we are far from being in the worst shape. And yet there is something terribly, terribly wrong here; and the frustrating thing is that we do not know the entire story, and cannot do anything about it.


Whenever something happens that causes the faithful to despair of their leadership, there is a tendency to ask “Why doesn’t the pope do something?”

Well, this pope has. He has given us a great gift, and a great reminder. Deus Caritas Est. God is Love. For it is clear that speeches will not correct the problems we face, nor will protests, nor dictates from on high. Even prayer is not the answer unless it takes into consideration that which we need most – love.

Only the love of God will give us what we need to overcome whatever obstacles come in our way. We must humbly pray, as St. Francis did, to be made instruments of God’s peace. Then, fallible creatures though we may be, we might – just might – have a chance.

In conclusion, I’d like to reflect on one of Jesus’ more mysterious statements, Render unto Caesar that which is Casear’s, and to God that which is God’s.

In Robert Graves’ magnificent novels of Roman life during the time of the future emperor Claudius, he summarizes the difference between the emperors Augustus and Tiberius as follows: It didn’t matter if Augustus was loved as long as he was respected; it didn’t matter to Tiberius if he was respected as long as he was feared. As far as we can tell, both men accomplished their goals; Augustus was respected, Tiberius was feared.

Perhaps this is the enduring legacy of the Caesars, and this is what separates their due from that due God and His servants. We should not fear our archbishop; it would be nice if we could respect him. But above all we must love him, in Christian charity, and act out of those pure motives. And that includes providing fraternal correction when it appears to be needed.

There is much to hope for in the legacy of Archbishop Flynn – the abundance of Eucharistic Adoration, the increase in vocations, to name a few. However, there is also so much more – rainbow sashers, liturgical abusers, disobedient priests, the appearance of arrogance in administration, and VIRTUS - which at its best is deeply offensive to many parents and at worst represents an insidious evil which must be combated.

What a shame if all this – and not the positives – is the legacy for which he will be remembered.

He still has it in his power to do something about it, to change the direction in which he is taking the archdiocese. But the clock is ticking, and his flock is waiting.



UPDATE: In the original version of this post, there was a typo that changed the word "personnel" to "personal". Since the typo changed completely the meaning of the paragraph in which it was contained, that entire section was deleted. The remainder of the post stands as originally written, as to the sentiments.

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