Phyllis Zagano’s NCR column begins with an assessment of Rome’s apparent retreat on the investigation of US women religious, but concludes with a broader assessment of the state of the Church:
The world is beginning to see two Catholic Churches: one for bishops and priests and another for the rest of us. The one for clerics collects the money and controls the sacraments.
Now I’d hasten to say that this is too starkly drawn–it’s not the ordained against the rest of us. Many priests, along with countless laypeople, women religious, deacons, (and even the occasional bishop!) are doing the work in the trenches that speaks Christ to people. The divide happens somewhere within the clerical ranks–somewhere in their formation, it seems, clerics-to-be pick a side. Over and over, when Rome or the local hierarchy or the pastor says or does something troubling, I hear people say, “they’re not my church. My church is…” and they name the parish, or the ministry, or the small group to which they belong.
This split troubles me. First, the cappa magna-clad (and their ilk) among the leadership only have their powerful and well-funded positions because the rest of the Church continues to acknowledge their leadership. We pay them. Ignoring the leadership does nothing to stop them from speaking for us, and nothing to stop the rest of the world from thinking they represent us. Consider how influential bishops can be on matters of public policy involving, say, contraception, when by and large the people of God dissent from or ignore that teaching?
Second, the disconnect of the two churches disrupts church polity. We are a universal church, not a Congregational body. The disconnect fragments the people of God. To say that those not in synch with Rome or local leadership should put up or leave is tantamount to saying they’re not doing God’s work in a distinctively Catholic way, and that’s just not true. New USCCB head Dolan seems to notice the flood of young people out of the Church, but seems puzzled. So…what next?