Bishop Accountability
  What Went Wrong

By Fr. Paul Mankowski, S.J.
Address to the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy
July 15, 2003

A priest from New York sent [The Wanderer's] From the Mail the text of an address delivered by Fr. Paul Mankowski, SJ, to the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, July 15, 2003, titled "What Went Wrong."

There is not a Wanderer reader who would disagree with Fr. Mankowski’s reflections on "priestly turpitude, episcopal mendacity, and the resultant bewilderment and fury of the laity."

"No one who has been fighting the culture wars within the Church over the past twenty years can fail to recognize his own struggles with a hostile bureaucracy and conflicted hierarchy in the struggles of those pleading for relief from sexual abuse -- notwithstanding the disparity in the attendant journalistic drama. In fact, I'd contend that the single important difference in the Church's failure regarding abusive clergy and the failures regarding liturgy, catechesis, pro-life politics, doctrinal dissent and biblical translation is this: that in the case of the sex abuse scandal we've been

allowed a look over the bishops' shoulders at their own memos. Deviant sexual assault has accomplished what liturgical abuse never could: it has generated secular media pressure and secular legal constraints so overwhelming that the apparat was forced to make its files public..."

Fr. Mankwoski offers a number of very reasonable explanations on how "The Crisis" occurred: too many men of "low" character entered the priesthood in the post-World War II era, before the Second Vatican Council; too many bishops have a "time bomb" in their past which rendered them incapable of dealing correctly with problems; "clerical culture" in general, but his fourth reason, FTM believes, is the most compelling: clerical aloofness, and it is related to what E. Michael Jones describes in his new book, The Slaughter of Cities.

"A fourth element in the present corruption is the strange separation of the Church from blue-collar working people.

"Before the Council every Catholic community could point to families that lived on hourly wages and who were unapologetically pious, in some cases praying a daily family rosary and attending daily Mass. Such families were a major source of religious vocations and provided the Church wi[th] many priests as well. These families were good for the Church, calling forth bishops and priests who were able to speak to their spiritual needs and to work to protect them from social and political harms. Devout working class families characteristically inclined to a somewhat sugary piety, but they also characteristically required manly priests to communicate it to them: that was the culture that gave us the big-shouldered baritone in a lace surplice. Except for newly-arrived immigrants from Mexico, Vietnam and the Philippines, the devout working class family has disappeared in the U.S. and in western Europe.

"The beneficial symbiosis between the clerical culture and the working class has disappeared as well. In most parishes of which I'm aware the priests know how to talk to the professionals and the professionals know how to talk to the priests, but the welders and roofers and sheet-metal workers, if they come to church at all, seem more and more out of the picture. I think this affects the Church in two ways: on the one hand, the Catholic seminary and university culture has been freed of any responsibility to explain itself to the working class, and notions of scriptural inspiration and sexual propriety have become progressively detached from the terms in which they would be comprehensible by ordinary people; on the other hand, few priests if any really depend on working people for their support...."

Fr. Mankowski concludes: "I believe that the Crisis will deepen, though undramatically, in the foreseeable future; I believe that the policies suggested to remedy the situation will help only tangentially, and that the whole idea of an administrative programmatic approach -- a ‘software solution’ if I may put it that way -- is an example of the disease for which it purports to be the cure. I believe that reform will come, though in a future generation, and that the reformers whom God raises up will spill their blood in imitation of Christ. In short, to pilfer a line of Wilfrid Sheed, I find absolutely no grounds for optimism, and I have every reason for hope."


Original material copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.