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Eminence, the emeritis cardinal archbishop of HGN

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

November Bishops' Meeting Is All About Control

As the American bishops prepare to hide behind closed doors this afternoon to try to figure out how to better control universities like Notre Dame, and newspapers, like the National Catholic Reporter, I am reminded of this quotation from Emerson.

You have probably heard it. I think it fits this crop of bishops. In his essay on "Self Reliance," Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote a now oft-quoted admonition that, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines."

Here is a further comment about this meeting. I have also posted this at Enlightened Catholicism.

When Cardinal George leads the American bishops behind closed doors this afternoon to, in his words, love Notre Dame, the National Catholic Reporter, and some of us back into uniformity with what the bishops think, he will do so by ignoring reality and some other principles that exist for Catholics. He will have to ignore the reality that universities and even Catholic universities like Notre Dame exist for research and the free exchange of ideas in the search for truth. The same can be said for Catholic newspapers like the National Catholic Reporter. Good newspapers exist to uncover the facts in the search for truth. And finally Cardinal George will have to ignore or make light of the fact of the right of individual conscience in the pursuit of truth.

Cardinal George might talk of love, but does not seem to know much about love. What he does seem to know a lot about is uniformity and control. I am sure Cardinal George is a very smart man. He is also slick when he tries to couch the closed door session in terms of love. Here he is more like a used car salesman than a pastoral leader.

Actually, this closed executive session may be good for the bishops to talk to one another, and they will come from the meeting and say there was a good exchange among them. They will feel good. The Catholic Church on the other hand will not benefit. A better use of those three hours would have been to invite the president of Notre Dame and perhaps several other presidents of Catholic universities to talk with them. A better use of the time would have been to invite the editor of the National Catholic Reporter and several other editors of independent Catholic newspapers to talk with them. A better use of the time would have been to invite a group of Catholic blogger to talk with them. It will not happen, not with this crowd of bishops. They are about control, not love, even if that is what Cardinal George says the meeting is all about.