|As the gay marriage vote comes in, Archbishop Dolan hides his unhappy face and prays it isn't so.|
Readers may notice the side of the blog is now a little different. I had intended to add a couple of more blog feeds to the side. I was talking with my daughter at the same time and mindlessly managed to delete that whole section. I remember distinctly a time when I was good at multi tasking, but back then I used to be able to put names with faces as well. So much for all those quantum physicists who maintain that time is an illusion.
The reason I was even fiddling with the side of the blog was to add a feed for Vatican Insider. VI is an Italian effort and it's pretty slick. I encourage readers to check it out. It's like a hall of fame publication for global papal correspondents which means John Allen is on the roster. He has an article which posted on 6/21 about Archbishop Dolan and Dolan's powerful status as the voice of American Catholicism. Given the gay marriage vote that happened in Dolan's Archdiocese on 6/24 maybe Allen should have waited a bit before he posted his article. But being things are as they are I found this following part very interesting:
Beyond his charm and media savvy, what makes Dolan truly interesting for Catholics all over the world is that he’s the apotheosis of one option for the future of the Church: “Affirmative Orthodoxy.”
If generals are always fighting the last war, journalists are forever handicapping the last election. For the past fifty years, the conventional journalistic way of sizing up Catholicism has been in terms of a struggle between left and right. After more than thirty years of bishops’ appointments by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, however, that contest is largely over at the leadership level. (I would agree with this. It's doubly true since hardly anyone is following anymore.)
Instead, the real battle for the future runs between different currents in the broad conservative camp – between cultural warriors who see the outside world primarily as a threat, and evangelists who see it as missionary terrain. The first instinct is a prescription for pulling back, the other for meeting the world halfway.
In that tug-of-war, Dolan embodies the open, positive version of Catholic conservatism that I’ve called “Affirmative Orthodoxy”. Both parts of the formula are important. It’s “orthodox,” meaning a tenacious defense of Catholic thought, speech and practice. It’s also “affirmative,” in the sense of presenting Catholic identity in a positive key. The emphasis is on what Catholicism embraces and affirms, what it says “yes” to, rather than what it opposes and condemns. (If Dolan's version is open and positive, I'd really hate to see the closed negative version.)
Dolan is Affirmative Orthodoxy on steroids. No one can question his commitment to Catholic teaching, and most regard him intellectually and politically as a neo-conservative. He’s equally legendary, however, for a deep conviction that most of life’s problems can be solved by sitting down over a couple of beers and talking things out. If faced with a choice between reconciliation and recrimination, Dolan will invariably prefer the former.(And when things aren't reconciled to his point of view, he will do the recrimination thing--or as with the case of Bishop DiMarzio, appoint someone make the strong arm attempt at 'reconciliation'.)
So John Allen has decreed the war between progressives and conservatives is over and that the conservatives have won, and that now it's just a matter of which conservative point of view will take the ascendancy. Hmmm. I beg to differ. Oh I don't disagree that the battles for Roman Catholicism will be fought amongst the conservatives. Allen at least has the part about all the bishops which have been appointed by the last two papacies correct. They were hand picked precisely because they are conservatives. Allen seems to say the choice we have now is between happy face lock step authoritarian conservatives and sour face lock step authoritarian conservatives. Some choice. I happen to think Mathew Fox is much closer to the truth. The current curial church is actually schismatic. Vatican II expressly called for collegiality and consultation between the Vatican curia and national bishops conferences and much more lay involvement. We don't have anything close to that intent, and since Councils are supposed to trump popes, this Vatican is in schism. But back to Dolan.
I think Dolan knows his stock took a hit with the gay marriage vote in New York. That victory, orchestrated as it was by lay Catholics--his lay Catholics, is indicative of sea change in American Catholicism. Lay Catholics are not paying attention to their bishops. Not the happy faced ones, and not the sour faced ones. The cafeteria is not just open, it's spawning numerous franchises. In spite of John Allens positive PR, Dolan is not the face of a resurgent positive orthodoxy, he is the posterior of a positive disintegration.
Religious Dispatches has an interview with Mathew Fox about his new book "The Pope's War". It's mostly a rehash of what he's said before, but his answer to the last question sort of sums up my own thoughts as they pertain to the recent vote in Dolan's Archdiocese:
Polls here in America have shown that a majority of laypeople in the pews of the Catholic Church are supportive of marriage equality for gay and lesbian people. Nearly three-quarters, in fact, favor either marriage or civil unions for gays and lesbians. Will the Vatican ever catch up with its flock?
I think the Vatican in its present state is beyond redemption. I think it is a very closed boy’s club. I have a section in the book on bullying. Ratzinger is a bully. I know him. He was in a 12-year battle with me before he won, I guess, and expelled me. Part of bullying, according to the studies that I’ve found, is that the bully likes a wolf pack. That wolf pack is the Curia (the central governing body of the Roman Catholic Church). It’s interesting that he appointed 24 cardinals in December and ten of them are in the Curia. They have lots of power and it’s a very tight circle, which is of course why they don’t want women in the club, it’s a boy’s club.
The point I make in the book is that the laypeople have to take over the church, period. It’s not going to be reformed from the inside, or from the top down, at all. It’s rancid, and so, these people have to assert themselves and that’s the next step, for laypeople to realize it’s their church. They should only hire ministers who are willing to serve and not to be served, and that means starting over.
Archbishop Dolan and the USCCB are maybe beginning to get the picture that they can no longer deliver the votes and that the vast majority of their flock is not listening to their moral advice on all things sexual. That should send them a very big message because it's a short step from ignoring them politically on sexual morality to ignoring them completely. Catholics are being forced to make choices about how they personally relate to the Church and how they want their faith to be expressed, both privately and publicly. In the future we will see more and more Catholics opting out of Roman Catholicism and into some form of lay driven catholicism. That small c catholicism may not have the buildings and assets of the big C Catholicism, but it will have the most spiritually driven and openly inclusive people--- and that could turn out to be a very amazing thing indeed.