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Saturday, December 17, 2005

Things That Don't Make Any Sense

The recent scandals and law suits in the Church have led many dioceses to take a long hard look at how they hold their assets. In Memphis, for example, the diocese owns all the property and possesses all the assets itself -- the parishes aren't independent corporate entities. The same is true of many dioceses, including, apparently, Boston. This is why the people who had the unmittigated gall to sue the Church took the diocese there for such a ride, because they were able to get at the assets of the entire diocese collectively. Now, on the one hand, that's a bad thing, and something ought to be done about the arrangements in other dioceses to prevent it from happening again.

However, the solution is NOT to make every parish its own little happy independent non-profit corporation. Why? Because then you get St. Stanislaus, where half a dozen self-absorbed lunatics can jerk the entire hierarchy around, lead their parish into schism and spiritual death, and corrupt priests simply because a piece of paper in Jefferson City says that they're in charge of the church.

This is a perfect example of the gross modern idiocy of Doing Things That Don't Make Any Sense. Somewhere in the 20th century, we went around a corner too fast and the idea of intellectual consistency fell out of the car. It's all fine and dandy to hold two conflicting ideas in your head at once, but only for the purpose of deciding which one is correct and then junking the other. The moral reality of the Church is that the Bishop of a diocese controls the property and activities of the parishes within his borders. Because of the way our society is constructed, that moral reality has to be backed up by a legal arrangement-- that legal arrangement must reflect, as closely as possible, the actual, true moral reality that it represents. The diocese should not be broken up into little pieces where lay boards of directors can do whatever they please. The court isn't going to give a brass farthing for the Bishop's apostolic authority unless its reflected in the documents in the secretary of state's file cabinet. This disassociates the legal arrangement from the moral reality, and therefore Doesn't Make Any Sense. The same is true of things like no-fault divorce, but at least there it's not the Church itself setting up the Nonsensical Arrangement. I hope every Canon and lay Church lawyer out there is watching this circus in St. Louis and taking notes on how to do things that make sense.

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