These days, many Catholics are asking the question:
Why aren’t bishops doing more in response to the rioting, looting, arson, vandalism and shootings that have plagued our nation, especially when these incidents involve Catholic parishes and monuments?
Most recently, protestors have attacked statues of Saint Junipero Serra in San Francisco, Ventura, and Los Angeles. The California bishops responded with a relatively weak statement issued by their public policy organization. Only San Francisco Archbishop Salvadore Cordileone had the courage to issue a personal statement specifically condemning the action in San Francisco.
When a lay Catholic woman expressed her frustration with the bishops’ weak response on Twitter, Los Angles Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron responded by essentially telling her that it was not the job of the bishops to engage in the public square.
Barron was miffed enough about what he was seeing on social media that he felt compelled to write a column on the subject:
My purpose in this article is not to examine the specific issues surrounding Padre Serra but rather to respond to a number of remarks in the comboxes that point to what I think is a real failure to understand a key teaching of Vatican II.
Barron states that Vatican II teaches that it was the duty of the laity to sanctify public spaces. He has a point. If lay Catholics were more engaged in forming the culture over the past 50 years, it is doubtful we would be experiencing the violence we are now seeing in our streets.
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But Barron can’t get off the hook by simply quoting from Lumen Gentium. U.S. bishops haven’t hesitated in getting involved in other matters concerning the public square. If its primarily the laity’s job, then why are U.S. bishops:
- Raking-in millions of dollars in federal grants to resettle illegal immigrants?
- Traveling to the Mexican border to protest President Trump’s immigration policy?
- Participating in Black Lives Matter protests?
- Marching for judicial system reforms?
- Applauding the defeat of President Trump’s DACA reforms?
When the subject involves illegal immigration, gun control, the death penalty, judicial reform, universal healthcare and the like, it would appear U.S. bishops have no problem spending money, participating in protests and criticizing our elected officials.
The bishops have set a standard by their involvement in these issues. Bishop Barron cannot slough-off responsibility by simply pointing to Vatican II and claiming its not his job when it comes to anarchists in our streets.
When he points to Vatican 2 as justifying his failure to stand in the public square and preach Christ – Saviour and crucified – he is correct. Vatican 2 emasculated the faith to such an extent that anything that transgresses populism is invalidated. The Novus Ordo Church is a church emptied of her Catholic soul, leaving an empty shell. Those who are supposed to be our shepherds are not renewed by their spiritual nourishment but act on ‘good ideas’ and notions of ‘what is right’ – in the secular world, what is evidenced by virtue signalling. Their position does not come from deep faith because the faith they are following and preaching is a humanist approximation of Christianity. Nobody will die for a good idea, especially when the content of that idea is measured in relative terms. Hence, our bishops are emasculated. The answer lies in Catholicism, not almost Catholicism.
Bishop Barron is weak and I feel he won’t do anything that makes him unpopular. Good job calling people to sanctify the public places but did he offer to stand beside them? No he didn’t. He is a coward.
All I can say is: he’s pointing a finger in the wrong direction and this is a sad state of Catholic affairs!
I see why he doesn’t have to deal with statues of Jefferson, Lincoln, and Washington statues, but certainly St. Junipero Serra.
Whose responsibility this is more properly goes back to Unam Sanctam, which established two Authorities — the Religious and the Secular, i.e. in modern terms the Church and the State — each sovereign in their domain, though the Pope is clarified as to be held sovereign by all of those who seek their salvation in Christ.
So it’s true that this is a problem for the Laity — but insofar as the Laity come to constitute that State Authority.
(So here Lumen Gentium 36 is really just following on from Unam Sanctam : LG “Moreover, let the laity also by their combined efforts remedy the customs and conditions of the world, if they are an inducement to sin, so that they all may be conformed to the norms of justice and may favor the practice of virtue rather than hinder it. By so doing they will imbue culture and human activity with genuine moral values; they will better prepare the field of the world for the seed of the Word of God; and at the same time they will open wider the doors of the Church by which the message of peace may enter the world.“)
But by not wanting to “offend” I’d guess, Barron didn’t take his thoughts to their proper conclusion — that it’s the responsibility of the State Authorities to do something about this rioting. Probably a bit too conservative for his comfort …
Though I take note that Unam Sanctam provides a singular Authority to the Pope in such matters ; and what has Bergoglio said or established about these violent protests ? (genuine question, but so far it seems : “not much” ; but it might be delicate in face of the concurrent rioting for quite different reasons and against a very different State Authority in Hong Kong)
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