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There is a tactic used by those who like to conceal evil agendas and deal duplicitously with people. It's called shutting down the debate or running out the clock.
For example, on the rare occasion that child killer-in-chief Emperor Obama deigns to grant an interview to one of the rare news outfits that does not worship him, he employs the tactic of "run out the clock" — meaning he knows from the beginning that the interview is only x amount of time long — say, 30 minutes — so when he answers the first question, he just keeps talking and meandering and talking until there is only a little time left.
It's a clever and common tactic employed by politicians who want to kill reporters' ability to get in meaningful questions by killing time. Then there is the strategy employed by liberal progressive advocates who are speaking directly about their evils, like contraception or abortion and so forth. Their tactic is to shut down the debate with the opposing side by name calling. It isn't exactly kill the messenger; it's more like kill their credibility — paint them in such an unflattering light that nothing they say should be given any consideration.
The debate then shifts from the original point to a whole new debate about whether this person should be allowed to speak or their position be given a hearing, because, well, you know, they are just out of bounds because they are a "hater" or any other convenient word to fill in the blank. It used be called "ad hominem," but most of the public doesn't know what that is.
Well, these same tactics — sometimes with slight variations — are used by various leaders in the Church depending on what the case might be. For example, let's say you detect a serious issue with regard to catechesis in your archdiocese and you want to discuss it with your spiritual father, the archbishop. So you write, or email or call — only to be met with either silence or a somewhat polite dismissal. So you try again and get the same result. Same thing happens over again a few times. So you give up.
And there you have it — the game played perfectly by the establishment. You are shut down, and the issue is never addressed. Or let's say you create something somewhat public in response to the problem. You get a few other people involved, publish an online petition, and the petition gains some social media traction. Church leaders can now either once again simply not respond or can issue a "non-response" response, which is the "go to" way of handling these situations.
You know the kind. You get a petition together about a gay priest in the parish cavorting with his boyfriend. It attracts some wider attention. The chancery does the calculus and determines loss or damage would be done by responding rather than by saying nothing, so they issue a statement or a letter that goes like this:
Thank you for your email and efforts of which we are aware. We want to let you know that we are aware of that which you want us to be aware and we wanted you to be aware that we are aware that you are aware.
The archbishop thanks you for your awareness.
Sincerely in Christ,
Msgr. Chancery Rat
But see, this is no way to deal with the faithful — to be dismissive and heavy-handed and condescending — but this is largely par for the course — unless, of course, you send a letter from an attorney that talks about money damages and the like. Then you get an entirely different type of letter.
In many, perhaps even most, local dioceses, the Church has morphed into a bureaucracy, content to let concerns of members pass into the great circular file. As these local churches continue to increase the size of the moat around their bureaucratic castles and make themselves even more remote and make the faithful feel even more isolated, the damage being done to the Faith continues to increase in scope.
We hear constantly about good priests being given "medical leave" — a euphemism quite frequently that an orthodox priest ran afoul of the liberal pro-gay heterodox crowd in control at the chancery. Or in other cases, where a lack of transparency helps create a climate of secrecy — like for example the case in El Paso, Texas a couple of weeks ago where two Franciscan brothers ripped off close to a million dollars and possibly more from a Catholic school and spent the money on personal expenditures. The diocese of El Paso Bp. Mark Steitz had a meeting with angry parents at the school and admitted what they had done, and then said he didn't want to say what the brothers spent the money on and that parents should forgive them in this Year of Mercy.
That lack of transparency and laying out of events that can easily be construed as not forthcoming only serves to bolster the image of an institutional Church that feels no accountability to its faithful. Even if that's not the bishop's intent, his actions lend credibility to that interpretation, especially when the district attorney's office is ramping up an investigation.
Questionable financial dealings, ongoing sexual scandal cover-ups (usually homosexual in nature), attempts to influence or even suppress press coverage like those suspected in the archdiocese of New York recently of other scandalous situations — all of these have a cumulative effect on the faithful and result in a deep suspicion and even mistrust of the shepherds.
That should not be the case. But it is increasingly the case. Too often, as a result of their own actions, the bishops — the guardians of the Catholic faith — continue to paint themselves as a group that is out of touch and tone deaf with the ever-dwindling number of faithful Catholics.
Is there no one from whom they can seek counsel — good counsel, not the chancery rats around them — who could help them understand that they need to both be squeaky clean and look squeaky clean? That must be evident that they have nothing to hide.
This election cycle shows that enormous numbers of run-of-the-mill Americans are disgusted with business as usual and have caused a significant revolt in the Democratic Party and a major upheaval in the GOP. Yet establishment types everywhere just keep plodding along as though this will all just blow over. In politics, people change leaders. But in the Church, because they can't change their leaders, the sheep instead just abandon them.
This can't continue. The faithful must be able to trust their leaders, and the leaders must demonstrate they are worthy of trust. All of this has the deleterious effect of making what the bishops say about faith and morals dead on arrival.
First, not many are out there slugging it out for the Faith in the first place. Secondly, when they do, people hit them right back in the face with all the questionable stuff. An apostle must be beyond reproach, and those around him must be supremely cognizant of this. Secrecy, weird or strange dealings and so forth have no place in the Church.
Members of the hierarchy should be able to be completely transparent about anything public and not play the ignore game, or run out the clock, or be involved in "shut down the debate" shenanigans. It's unbecoming of their office — and the results are devastating.
Let your yes be yes and your no be no, as Our Blessed Lord said.