Egan to be deposed

Egan to be deposed

New York’s Cardinal Edward Egan will be required to give a deposition in civil lawsuit against his former diocese of Bridgeport, Conn. The only other cardinals to be forced to give such depositions are Cardinals Bernard Law and Roger Mahony. This is a good thing. Whenever bishops have been forced to testify under oath we have been granted a better understanding of the Scandal, what precipitated it, and the warped mindset that allowed it to fester. Perjury laws, a plaintiffs’ attorney, and a court reporter have done more to expose the rot in the Church than all the new offices, internal investigations, audits, and new policies the bishops’ conference has been able to come up with.

“The longer bishops and cardinals hide facts and secrets the more it hurts,” said Landa Mauriello-Vernon, state director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “Thank God people aren’t awed by the position any more.”

It may be hard to dispute what she says, but it still saddens me. We should be awed by the office of the bishop and cardinal, but the way it has been abused by most of their current holders, it’s not surprising it isn’t.

  • Hmmm.. the windows of my apartment overlook the Stamford Courthouse, and will have to keep my eyes open.

  • Dom, don’t you think it’s ironic that the heads of arguably the three most important archdiocese in the U.S. are the ones who have had to offer depositions? What does that tell you about the state of the U.S. hierarchy—or the fact that Egan and Mahony were appointed to their present positions by this pope?

    For my money, I must strenuously disagree with you about being “awed” by those holding episcopal positions. For one thing, God is no respecter of persons; St. Paul himself said that. For another, that “awe” was the product of blind deference cultivated (rather, demanded) by the hierarchs for their own purposes (isolation from accountability).

    To go back to encouraging such “awe” is to repeat the mistakes revealed not only by the sex-abuse scandal, but by centuries of malfeasance in Catholic governance.

  • Awe, in and of itself, is not evil. You assume that awe for the office of successor of the apostles was created for malodorous reasons. I think that if I stood in the presence of St. Peter or St. Charles Borromeo or Pope St. Leo the Great or any of the saint-popes or saint-bishops, I would have been awed, not by mere power, but by virtue of the office they hold as the duly appointed representative of Christ among us.

    Such awe is part of the gift of the Holy Spirit of fear of God, inasmuch as the awe is due to God’s work in a holy bishop’s ministry, and not by the mere power of the man. It is a great loss that we don’t look at most of our bishops today as potentially new Robert Bellarmines, but too often see today’s latest politician.

  • Dom, the men you mentioned deserved to be the focus of awe because of how they lived their lives, not merely because they held positions of authority. You seemed to suggest in your first post (if I read you right) that the laity and clergy owe “awe” to their bishops, regardless of who they are.

    If that’s correct, then you are making the bishops equivalent to God, Who is the only Being in the universe Who deserves awe.

    The question isn’t whether the Holy Spirit creates awe as part of the fear of God. The question is whether humanity can abuse God’s gives for malodorous purposes. Humanity has answered that question in manifold ways over the centuries—and I believe the hierarchy has manipulated such awe for selfish reasons.

    Moreover, Dom, the same Holy Spirit who gives awe as part of the fear of God also is the same Holy Spirit who inspired such men as Jeremiah and Ezekiel to condemn the religious authorities of their own day—the successors of Moses, if you will—for their narcissism and malfeasance. 

  • No, what I’m saying is that is their office that deserves awe, just as the priesthood deserves awe. Look, you won’t find anyone who has been more critical of corrupt bishops and clergy, but what I’m saying is that it is a shame that small men have led to the denigration and loss of esteem for their offices as successors of the Apostles and because of Christ who they represent to us.

    You need to read my original post more carefully. I said, “We should be awed by the office of the bishop and cardinal…”

  • Agreed.  The office of bishop—what it means to be a bishop—should inspire awe, and that is precisely why what has happened has been so painful for us.  It’s been more painful, I think, for many of us than it has been for those men who have squandered their vocation.  They have been given the benefit of the doubt for a great long time, and they spent every shred of credibility we could give them to do what??  It’s so sad.

    The office itself requires respect, yes.  But the man sometimes doesn’t.  Because of the intertwining of the man and the office—an indelible mark on the soul, remember—it is so so hard to distinguish between the two.  That’s what’s really hard…painful…awful.

    Like having a beloved father who has become a criminal and no longer recognizes his children.

  • Dom, I know you’ve issued forthright criticism of the current hierarchy. Regarding “awe,” however, most people confuse the office with the man holding that office. That’s true in religious as well as in secular contexts—perhaps especially in religious contexts; just look at how many Catholics (including people like Michael Novak and Richard John Neuhaus) were originally in denial about the bishops’ responsibility for the whole abuse mess when it first came to light. So that “awe” inevitably gets transferred to the individual himself.

    Now, if you say the office deserves “respect,” I would agree with you.

  • Dom, to my way of thinking, “awe” implies much more emotion than “respect.” People can respect an office without having respect for the person holding that office (cf, Bill Clinton in conservative quarters, Richard Nixon in liberal ones). Respect makes a distinction between the responsibilities of the office and the performance of the office holder. “Awe,” on the other hand, confuses the responsibilities of the office with the person holding it. That kind of confusion makes the office holder subject not to a dispassionate, objective evaluation but to blind passion from supporters or opponents, who might have their own agendas to promote.

    On an extreme level, secular totalitarian states attempt to instill such confusion in their favor by equating the dictator not only with the office, but with the state. Think Hitler. Think Stalin. Think Mao. Think the Kim family in North Korea. Think Khomeini.

    Does that mean that every bishop is a dictator? No. That does mean, however, that powerful organizations will try to make their leaders beyond reproach, if they can get away with it. Just look at the initial response of many conservative Catholics to the sex-abuse scandal to see how successful that strategy can be, and how pervasive such thinking is in the church.

  • I think that our disagreement just boils down to us having different ideas of what “awe” means. I don’t think “awe” necessarily confuses the person with the office.

  • You have a point, Denny.  There is that difference between “awe” and “respect.”

    AWE:  mixture of wonder and dread: a feeling of amazement and respect mixed with fear that is often coupled with a feeling of personal insignificance or powerlessness
    Filled with awe, they gazed at the ruins of the massive temple.
    I was completely in awe of her.

    RESPECT:  1. characteristic: an individual characteristic or point
    satisfactory in all respects
    2. esteem: a feeling or attitude of admiration and deference toward somebody or something
    won the respect of her colleagues
    3. state of being admired: the state of being admired deferentially
    4. thoughtfulness: consideration or thoughtfulness

    However, if you take it literally there has been an element of awe in our problems—ie. think Boston.  It was awesomely crazy.  Unfortunately it still is.