Monday, March 22, 2010

All For The Want of a Horseshoe Nail: The Scapegoating Begins

Source: Bishops Share The Blame | Blogs |

[Disclosure: This article is an expansion of a response I wrote on another blog]

Let the Blames Begin…

For better or worse, health care has passed.  I believe it is for the worse of course.  Not because I oppose a reform of the system we have, but because it is a "reform" which makes legal things which must be condemned and opposed as evil.  What I find tragic however is to see that instead of a unified front to challenge the evils, we are now seeing infighting among the Christians, pointing fingers.  Among Catholics, this is shown as pointing fingers at "The Bishops."

The problem I have with the Register's assessment, in saying…

Again, while the Bishops have acquitted themselves well through this process recently, they cannot ignore the past.

The hard truth is that for years the Bishops have allied themselves with the pro-abort party in matters related to health-care, and now they claim 11th hour betrayal.

When you hang out with thieves, you shouldn’t be surprised when you get robbed.

Moreover, the Bishops silence for years in the face of pro-abortion Catholic politicians has given aid and comfort to those who seek the death of children.  The Bishop’s unwillingness, with some obvious exceptions, to effectively address or discipline pro-abort Catholic politicians allowed for the Democrats to portray the Church as divided on the issue.  They have also allowed a culture of dissent to flourish for decades that culminated in the shameful last minute endorsement by a group of radical nuns that seriously hurt the cause of life.

The bishops’ decades long collective silence on these issues allowed for this culture to develop and has resulted in the USCCB being understandably criticized as an extension of the Democrat party (the Democrat party at prayer they say).  This is the horrible result of that ungodly alliance.

…is that while many bishops may not have saw the danger at the time, they certainly stood strong during this Health Care debate.  I was never in any doubt that the USCCB opposed the Senate Bill from the time it was originally created, so I disagree with the "11th hour" claim.

Reflections on the American Bishops

Yes, American bishops had been weak for decades.  For that matter, German Bishops prior to 1517 were also weak in enforcing discipline in the Church, leading to the abuses that Luther opposed.  Does that mean the bishops after this time were to blame as they sought to repair the damage done?  Whatever happened in the past is past.  As Catholics, we believe that people can repent and begin working for the truth.  Many of those bishops responsible for the silence of the 80s and 90s are retired or deceased.  Many of those who remain seem to have been strongly encouraged when Pope Benedict XVI visited America and began speaking out.

Remote Cause vs. Immediate Cause

This is the confusing a remote cause with an immediate cause, like the old poem:

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail

Often (mis)interpreted as saying small things lead to big losses.  However, one has to assess how far back one can reasonably assign blame.  Is it reasonable to say because one nail was missing, the kingdom was lost?  Or is it more reasonable to assign blame to a failure to prepare for contingencies?

Did certain bishops back in the 1980s and 1990s often behave ineffectually?  Yes.  Did they sometimes identify Democratic policies with Catholic teaching?  Yes, tragically.  Did some bishops think Obama would be a good president?  Yes, it sadly seems to be so.

Is it correct to say that because bishops in the past failed to act as they ought, that this is the cause of the situation we face today?  I think not.  I am inclined to think the direct cause of this is too many placed all their trust in Stupak and failing to consider other contingencies.  The bishops who spoke out did not rely on Stupak.  They kept speaking out to the members of Congress, seeking to convince as many as they could of their moral duties.

Who Failed to do Their Job Now (As Opposed to the Past)?

Some failed in their duty and some did not.  This is why I must disagree with the Register article when it says:

Blame may be cathartic for some but that is not the reason I bring this sorry history up now.  Like the Republicans, the Bishops too must learn from their mistakes.  If they continue to ally themselves with the Democrat party and continue their cowardly and ineffective “pastoral” approach to pro-death Catholic politicians things will only get worse, and yes they can get worse.

So it is time for all of us to admit our mistakes and learn from them.  Lives depend on it.  We failed them before, let’s not do it again.

The problem I have is that it is clear from the actions of Bishops being increasingly vocal since the beginning of the Obama administration that they already have learned from their mistakes.  Yes, we now need to do more still.  Some may still do less than they ought, but this article seems to negate the strong witness bishops have given.

If We Wish to Judge, Let Us Begin With Ourselves

1 † “Stop judging, that you may not be judged.

2 For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.

† [Commentary from NAB] This is not a prohibition against recognizing the faults of others, which would be hardly compatible with Mat 7:5,6 but against passing judgment in a spirit of arrogance, forgetful of one’s own faults.

People want someone to blame.  If so, perhaps we should begin with ourselves, on our own failure to do enough at our level.  Did we do our best to oppose the bill, or did we decide to let Stupak do it for us, failing to consider he might be turned?

I believe that, if we examine our actions, most of us will have to say the latter.  Perhaps I should have written more on the subject than I did, for example.  I believed the statements of the bishops were quite strong, but perhaps I ought to have made them available on this site to inform the (admittedly small) number of followers of this site.  I could have looked for links to put on the site banner.  I couldn't have forced people to change their minds, but I could have perhaps let others know of other views.  For that, I can only say mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

Yes it is easy to point fingers.  Yes, Archbishop Niederauer (for example) should have imposed discipline on Pelosi long before.  Yes other bishops have been lax.  Yes, the USCCB can use a better system of vetting when people try to use their name to promote a political agenda.  Yes, the visitation of the American nuns should immediately be ratcheted up a few notches in intensity.

Indicting the Whole For the Acts of Some

However, there is a large difference between being disappointed in saying certain bishops should have done more and indicting "the bishops" as a whole.

The USCCB did make their voice known through the proceedings, urging changes and once it became clear that the final senate bill was set, shifted to outright opposition.  When the CHA made their 11th hour deceits, when certain nuns misrepresented themselves as speaking for 60,000, when the Stupak compromise was announced, the USCCB made clear that these things were unacceptable, and urged members of Congress to vote against this law.

Certain Catholics in Congress may have used the words of dissenters to justify their wrong actions, but they would be guilty of vincible ignorance in the face of what the Bishops spoke out about.

We cannot control what others do of course.  We can control what we do.  We can only make our voice be heard and pray.

What If They Opposed Obamacare and Nobody Came?

I believe this comic, from makes clear our duty now.  If we know this bill will impose injustices on us, it is up to us to fight, and not expect others to.  I think Berthold Brecht said it well:

What if they gave a war and nobody came?
Why, then, the war would come to you!
He who stays home when the fight begins
And lets another fight for his cause
Should take care:
He who does not take part
In the battle will share in the defeat.
Even avoiding battle will not avoid battle.
Since not to fight for your own cause
Really means
Fighting on behalf of your enemy's cause.

Let's avoid pointless recriminations now.  We have this to deal with now, and we need to face it united as Christians, not infighting among ourselves.  The infighting, the blame seeking and the scapegoating only aids those we must oppose.

Now, for better or for worse we have this system of Health care.  Now, it is our duty to challenge those aspects of it which are contrary to what we believe to be right and just.

Now is not the time to blame and scapegoat.

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