Boston Globe columnist Scot LeHigh follows the editorial template in his “advice” for Archbishop O’Malley. Let me boil it down for you: Hierarchy bad, laity good. And who are the “laity” as LeHigh sees it?
This city, this state, this country now see an engaged, energetic laity. The Voice of the Faithful, its organized expression, commands the allegiance of thousands of Catholics and the attention of thousands more, making it a force to be reckoned with. Catholic universities, once quietly compliant, are now critiquing important elements of the faith. And Boston is the center of it all.
What world is LeHigh living in? When were Catholic universities “quietly compliant”? More than a half century ago? And VOTF as the “organized expression” of an “engaged, energetic laity”? VOTF is nothing more than the last gasp of an aging husk of dissenting Catholicism, one last attempt to sneak in their bankrupt agenda.
Indeed, it wasn’t so long ago that the mere word that the cardinal was visiting the State House would send a frisson of attentive interest through the ranks of Catholic lawmakers. Or that a letter from the archdiocese on a public policy matter could have a real effect on its disposition.
Again, when was the last time a Catholic lawmaker cared what a bishop said? Sure, they loved to get their photos taken with the cardinal, so they could publish them as an implicit endorsement that hoodwinked the little, old ladies in the parish hall into believing that they were just good Catholic boys. But the days when a bishop could oppose legislation and convince lawmakers to change their votes is long gone, not recently gone because of the Scandal.
Even at the height of his prestige, back before the devastating scandal leached away the last remnants of his moral authority, Law was more respected than revered. A rigid, regal, reserved figure cloaked in a self-importance so insistent it bordered on pomposity, the cardinal could nevertheless wield his power confident that the deference accorded his office was enough to compensate for the lack of a strong bond with the city he served.
Cardinal Law has become a caricature of himself, a bete noir for the dissenters and anti-Catholics to lash in absentia. I don’t recognize this figure they’ve pasted up in front of us. Was he regal in bearing? Yes. But reserved? My brother saw him put on a gladiator’s helmet and sing songs with teens on pilgrimage in Rome. I’ve recounted his efforts at providing spiritual comfort to the sick and grieving and participating in the spiritual joys of new birth, new marriage, and the like.
So, for now, Archbishop O’Malley represents promise to a certain crowd who hope that he will be a Weakland, a bishop who will break with the Pope and with Church teaching and let the dissenting laity head off on their merry way toward oblivion.
I’m hoping they will soon be sorely disappointed.