Crunchy Con Blog | Rod Dreher | Jan. 31, 2008
Some readers are aware that the Orthodox Church in America, my church, is undergoing a huge scandal now centered on the hierarchy — especially Metropolitan Herman and his coterie at church headquarters. It involves money, mostly, but also — it has been alleged — sexual impropriety of some of the players. The scandal has been going on for quite some time, and the bishops, being bishops, cannot or will not take decisive action to clean out the Augean stables. What is it with bishops, anyway? Anyway, should you care to, you can read all about the scandal at the exhaustive OCANews.org site, which has become an invaluable source of news and commentary on the mess.
I’ve not made this scandal an issue on this blog because I learned the hard way how easy it is for me to get caught up in this kind of controversy, to my own great spiritual detriment. It’s not that I’m holding the OCA to a different standard than the Roman Catholic Church, my former communion, which I devoted an immense amount of time and energy criticizing for its corruption regarding the sex abuse scandal. It’s rather that I know that I have to exercise spiritual self-discipline, knowing my own weaknesses. I must say, though, how impressed I am with the laity and some of the clergy of the OCA, who are in open revolt against the hierarchy. Read, for example, this recent thread on OCANews: http://www.ocanews.org/serendipity/index.php?/archives/202-Ansonia-Votes-to-Withhold.html.
People aren’t willing to sit silently and let the bishops destroy the Church by their dithering, their weakness and inaction (to say nothing of the kind of corruption that led the Diocese of Alaska recently to ordain to minor clerical orders a convicted child molester; did these people learn nothing from the public agony of the Catholic Church in recent years?!). It is interesting, and heartening to me, to see that people aren’t demanding changes in church doctrine, or anything like that. They only want the bishops to act like sober Christian men, and reform the church’s government.
This is something I never could understand as a Catholic, and that I cannot understand as an Orthodox: why do men who are given the awesome authority of shepherding souls act in this way? Why do they have such a sense of entitlement? Do they even fear God, or believe in Him?
I love my parish in Dallas, and the good people there. I have not troubled to learn about, or even think much, about that national hierarchy and its troubles. I’ve focused only on my own spiritual life, and the life of my friends in the parish. And I don’t regret it. I don’t often read OCANews.org, though I’m very glad it’s there. Lately, though, the more I hear from trusted laypeople about developments in the scandal, and the hierarchy’s response, the sadder it makes me because I have seen the same dynamic play out in the Catholic Church. And it has led straight downhill.
So, I commend to my Orthodox brothers and sisters — as well as my Catholic friends, and friends in every Christian church — the insights of Phil Lawler, a very brave and faithful orthodox Catholic journalist, and a friend. Phil has a new book out chronicling the demise of Catholicism in Boston, which Phil, as a Massachusetts Catholic, knows started long before the John Geoghan case in 2002. Here, from “The Faithful Departed,” is Phil on what happened to Catholicism in Boston, and why:
The entire massive structure of Catholicism totters along on borrowed time. But the trend is clear. That whole structure will come crashing down, perhaps within the next generation, unless there is some dramatic change. Yet the Church establishment gives no sign of changing, or even seeking to change. Quite the contrary; pastors and bishops alike studiously ignore the handwriting on the wall and pretend to conduct business as usual.
Catholic leaders today have resources that the twelve Apostles could never have imagined. They have undergone years of formal training, honing the skills for thier ministry. They have access to every means of instant communication, including newspapers and electronic media. They control schools at every level, from kindergartens to universities. Their holdings in real estate alone are worth billions of dollars. Their flocks are (by reputation, at least) the most highly educated Catholic lay people in history. Yet the Church they guide is a shambles.
The Apostles were poor, uneducated, provincial. yet their efforts brought the Gospel to every nation on earth. Today in comfortable suburbs, just down the street from the parish church, one can readily find people who, quite literally, have never heard the Gospel.
Phil goes on to catalogue the calamity that has engulfed American Catholicism. Empty seminaries and convents. Catholic families who don’t know the faith, and don’t much care. And so on. The glory days are behind the Catholic Church, he says — but there is always hope. The Church began with 12 apostles who had nothing but their faith. To be truly faithful, Phil says, to truly love the Church, is to see her as she is:
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