Crumbling Veneer

July 1, 2008 09:00 AM

It seems to me that I write more often these days about members of the Catholic hierarchy who are, in one way or another, presiding over the decaying structure once synonymous with the Catholic Church's perceived power. If it is true that in unity there is strength, then it has to be equally true that the unity of which we speak is one based on consistent truth and courageous leadership, not politically correct weakness.

I was reminded of the precarious nature of that unity again yesterday when I read this headline in the Washington Times: "Bishop knew of abortion plan."

The article's subtitle, "Told 'there was nothing he could do'," astounded me. When one reads the entire report, the result is a deep sense of discomfort not unlike a desire to vomit. It is literally impossible for me to imagine a time when such pabulum was produced to excuse an act of murder committed under the aegis of a Catholic diocese. Perhaps I have been living under a stone, but if I am wrong on this, please tell me.

It seems that Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo was informed about the abortion Catholic Charities was arranging for a 16-year-old Guatemalan refugee one day prior to the scheduled killing. And yes, the killing did take place, and now a federal investigation is being done because the girl was a ward of the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement in the Department of Health and Human Services.

And that's not all. In a related report, published by the Arlington [Virginia] Catholic Herald but conveniently not online, we read that Bishop DiLorenzo did publicly state, "This incident is a most regrettable stain on the record of excellence in the work of both the MRS [the U.S. bishops' Migration and Refugee Services office] and of Catholic Charities."

There is perhaps more to this story than meets the eye. After all, federal funds are involved and the employment practices of Catholic Charities itself are perhaps problematic as well. But there is something rather sinister and at the same time tragic about the idea that a shepherd of the Catholic Church would be told 24 hours in advance that a preborn child is scheduled for execution, and at the same time, be told that there was nothing he could do about it.

What exactly does that mean? Why wasn't the bishop able to stop the killing?

If I had the answers to these questions, I assure you I would share them with you. I have written the bishop and asked him, but I have this sinking feeling that the response I get, if indeed I do receive one, will be totally inadequate.

This latest episode reminds me once again of something Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen once said to a Knights of Columbus gathering:

Who is going to save our Church? Not our bishops, not our priests and religious. It is up to you, the people. You have the minds, the eyes, the ears to save the Church. Your mission is to see that your priests act like priests, your bishops, like bishops and your religious act like religious. 

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