Monday, November 16, 2009

Bishops Re-Assigned in America: Including The Most Reverend Kevin C. Rhoades

I've made the point before: The Roman Catholic Church isn't an American institution. Sure, there are Catholics like me, who were born in one of the 50 states, are American citizens, and don't mind being called "Americans."

But I'm aware that I am part of an organization that's been international from the first years.1

This global2 organization is headquartered in Rome, but it isn't Italian, either. Rome was the hub of the Roman Empire, and for at least four centuries it made good sense to have the base of operations that most people around the Mediterranean recognized as the hub of civilization and commerce.3

And, units of the Catholic Church in America have gotten new administrators. On orders from the Holy See - or Vatican, as just about everybody in America calls it. Specifically, some bishops have been shifted around.

Last digression: The priest attached to one of the local parishes here in central Minnesota got called to Rome recently. Why, we don't know. Maybe he'll come back with a red hat.

Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, Notre Dame, and Being Catholic

Notre Dame got in the news last May, for boldly supporting academic freedom - and President Obama - or ignoring Catholic teaching. Depending on how much you know about the Church. (May 17, 2009, and particularly May 3, 2009)

I can see where some of America's self-described best and brightest would like to see a new bishop. And, they're getting one: The most reverend Kevin Rhoades. Not to worry, though, he's a "moderate" - not one of those "hardliners:"
"Bshp Rhoades (moderate) defeats Naumann (hardliner) 145-93 to head key USCCB commttee#usccb"
(ReligionNewsNow, on Twitter (November 17, 2009)
That United States Conference of Catholic Bishops committee is almost certainly the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth. (Catholic News Agency)
Being a "Moderate" doesn't Necessarily Mean Practicing Moderation
In the American subculture I was most familiar with in college, a "hardliner" was someone who had the effrontery, the unmitigated gall, to say something against the 'right' ('left,' actually) ideas. A "moderate" was someone who nicely supported the more reasonable liberal positions, or someone who would say anything - as long as it got him elected. A woman couldn't be a "moderate" under the last definition - but that's a different topic.

So, it looks like someone called a "moderate" will be the next bishop in Notre Dame's diocese.

Their old (figuratively and literally) Bishop, John D'Arcy, just wasn't marching in step with the latest intellectual fashions:
"...Bishop Rhoades, who will turn 52 Nov. 26, succeeds Bishop D'Arcy, who earlier this year was at the forefront of strong criticism of the University of Notre Dame in South Bend for inviting President Barack Obama to give the commencement address and its decision to give him an honorary degree.

"Critics of Obama, including dozens of bishops, said his support of legal abortion and embryonic stem-cell research made him an inappropriate choice to be commencement speaker at a Catholic university and to receive an honorary degree...."
(The Catholic Review Online)
Bishop John D'Arcy did what a bishop is supposed to do: tell the truth, and explain how Catholic teachings apply to current situations. Even if that means saying that a beloved, charismatic leader is un-right.

I can see where that might not sit well with people who expect bishops and other religious people to be nice and 'spiritual' - and do spiritual things decently and quietly, behind closed doors. Certainly not going out in public and saying that God doesn't approve of killing babies, or that "ethics" has a place in contemporary society
"...'President Obama has recently reaffirmed, and has now placed in public policy, his long-stated unwillingness to hold human life as sacred,' D'Arcy said. 'While claiming to separate politics from science, he has in fact separated science from ethics and has brought the American government, for the first time in history, into supporting direct destruction of innocent human life.'..." (CNN)
(from post of May 3, 2009)
Saying that President Obama is wrong about something? And that abortion isn't a good idea? Yeah, that's being seriously out of step with the times. From the look of it, though, the new bishop will be quite a disappointment to people looking for a "moderate" bishop: in one culturally-normative sense of the word.

For starters, the new bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Kevin Rhoades, is one of the many American bishops who made it clear that they didn't approve of Notre Dame giving President Obama, whose policies oppose Catholic teaching, a platform for expressing his views. May 3, 2009) And yes, that's against the rules:
"...The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions...." [emphasis by USCCB] (Catholics in Political Life USCCB (June 2004))
Who is Bishop Rhoades?
Here's a look at the now bishop of the Diocese of South Bend-Fort Wayne, Indiana.
"...During his short five years here in our diocese, we have seen a stable and permanent Extraordinary Form parish (Mater Dei) erected under the care of the Fraternity of Saint Peter; lots of vocations to the priesthood; restoration of the permanent diaconate. When the Cathedral was renovated, Bishop Rhoades insisted the Tabernacle be restored to its proper place in the middle and center of the sanctuary....."
(Padre Giovanni Trigilio, on The Black Biretta)
Maybe "moderate" describes his style of leadership. Padre Trigilio, in that post, wrote one of the better descriptions of what a bishop should be like:
"...Most of us priests consider ourselves blessed if our our bishop is at least friendly toward us. But even if he is not, it is far more important and necessary that he be a just, honest, orthodox, reverent, compassionate and courageous bishop. Just like parents should not seek to be 'friends' to their children, bishops do not need to be 'friends' they need to be pastors. Friendly, yes; friends, maybe; pastors, always. Bishop Rhoades is a pastor bishop. Friendly but still in charge....Like the Captain or Admiral, Colonel or General in the military, you have the authority to give orders but the respect of your men is something you earn by the way you treat them. Bishop Rhoades is the first bishop to personally thank me for the books on religion I wrote and for the shows I taped for EWTN. He is the first bishop to show enthusiastic support for the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy (a national association of priests and deacons committed to ongoing spiritual, theological and pastoral formation in a fraternal setting)....."
(Padre Giovanni Trigilio, on The Black Biretta)
There's quite a bit more. It's a post I suggest you read.

Sounds to me like Bishop Rhoades is a Catholic bishop who happens to be an American - not an American bishop who happens to be a Catholic. I'm glad to hear it - and I think we need more like him.

Finally, a sort of combination view of the Catholic Church in America, and prayer request, from Padre Trigilio on behalf of the Diocese of Harrisburg.
"...We are praying to the Holy Spirit and Our Lady, Mother of the Church, that we be sent another gem like Bishop Rhoades. Not an accountant or manager bishop, but a teacher/pastor bishop who also knows how to shepherd rather than relinquishing authority to sycophant bureaucrats who have political agendas and not the good of Holy Mother Church in their minds. PRAY FOR US...."
(Padre Giovanni Trigilio, on The Black Biretta)
Related posts: News and views:
1 Read Matthew 28:19 and Acts of the Apostles. I figure that when Jesus said "all nations," He meant "all nations."

2 "Catholic" translates into American English as "universal." And, since I'm inclined to accept what I've chosen to believe is a reasonable view of the current event and reality, "universal" could mean that we've got an awesomely big territory to cover. (April 5, 2009)

3 (I know: There were other centers of civilization, but we had to start somewhere. After the Roman Empire collapsed, Rome was still a relatively central location. And still is, if you take the American continents into consideration.

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