Pat Buchanan hits the nail on the head with his column on the bishops’ meeting. He connects the common acclamation that nobody will listen to the bishops on war with Iraq because of their loss of moral authority. But the authority was not lost overnight to the Scandal, but over 40 years as many of them consistently compromised with a culture of death rather than give it “zero tolerance.”
But can the bishops do anything to regain that moral authority among the press? Maybe not, even though as Joe Fitzgerald, a columnist for the Boston Herald points out so many moral midgets who should have lost their voices regained them:
Mass. Congressman Barney Frank’s gay lover was found to be running a gay brothel out of Frank’s Washington, DC, basement and the Boston Globe called for his resignation. Now he’s running around everywhere, bloviating on every subject. Similarly and relevantly, Mass. Congressman Gerry Studds was censured by his colleagues, 420-3, for having sex with a teenage boy working for the House of Reps. He was re-elected six times. Bill Clinton, James Carville, the list goes on in the column. The common thread is that these “moral voices” are the liberal voices of immorality.
So here’s what I predict: Every bishop who mouths liberal pieties, whether it be Archbishop Rembert Weakland or Cardinal Roger Mahony, will quickly be rehabilitated by the press and allowed to become a “moral leader” again—at least on their TV cameras and the pages of their newspapers. And every bishop who remains solidly orthodox and resists the culture of death will remain marginalized, even more than they all were before. Every time a bishop speaks about the pro-life ethic and the life of the unborn child, the liberal press will place that side-by-side in their stories with reminders that such-and-such bishop didn’t care so much for the welfare of children abused by Fr. What’s-his-name.
What to do? The bishops must stand strong and do what must be done. Look at the lessons of the last election: Despite an almost universally liberal media, conservatives and conservative policies have begun to creep into power and bring about changes. So the bishops need to adapt, to use their bully pulpits to get the message out, to enforce orthodoxy among the priests and bring recalcitrant Catholic colleges in line.
The thing is a moral voice and moral authority is not something you get because you wear a special hat—that works for a few days after you get the hat. That standing remains only if the bishop shows by word and deed that he is a moral man and man so intensely in love with Christ, His Word, and His Church that he can’t stand sin and the rejection of Christ’s Church.