A few days ago, someone on Facebook posted a link to this article, which concerns statements made by the auxiliary bishop of LA about “certain kinds of blogs”. The remarks are clearly aimed at Catholic blogs of the pro-life/”orthodox”/conservative sort, and seem to give a pass to the venom spewed at places like Commonweal, America, National Catholic Reporter, etc.
Anyway, they lady who posted it commented that she actually agreed with this bishop and said she believes very strongly in never criticizing a priest (I was surprised by this as, that same evening, she had posted a link to one of those “Real Catholic TV” podcasts).
Anyway, I have a great deal of trouble, as anyone who reads this blog, can probably guess, with the principle of “never criticize a priest.” Where does that end?
After all, “Never criticize a priest” (or “the Order”) was one of the founding principles of the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi. About 5 or 6 years ago, I interviewed for a job at a Regnum Christi school. I asked the principal if they did Mass in Latin. He said, “No, because to support the Latin Mass is to criticize Vatican II, which goes against the principles of our Order.”
St. Francis Xavier, in the passage quoted in Matins for his feast day, has some pretty harsh words for the priests teaching theology in European universities when they should be out doing missionary work. St. Jerome famously had harsh words for a lot of people.
What about every theologian in the history of the Church? When Aquinas, Bonaventure, Scotus and others were having their epic debates in the 13th Century, did that not constitute “criticizing a priest”?
It seems to me that “never criticize a priest” is a relic of what Dietrich von Hildebrand calls the “ossification” of the pre-conciliar church, and one of the very things Vatican II meant by its emphasis on the laity. Indeed, while we have US bishops criticizing blogs for criticizing the Church, we’ve also had statements from the Holy Father and other Vatican officials–cited previously on this blog–which *praise* the lay Catholic media for keeping the clergy in check.
After all, isn’t “never criticize the clergy” the mentality that got us into the mess we’re in, at every level?
“Never criticize the clergy” is what most abuse victims were told by their families and others when they tried to report the abuse.
“Never criticize the clergy” is what the victims were told by the hierarchy.
“Never criticize the clergy” is what Fr. James Haley was told when he tried to report that his pastor was committing adultery with a parishioner, or that another pastor was engaging in financial impropriety.
Every liberal priest will talk about Vatican II and the laity, and how important is is for laity to have a greater role in the Church. Yet challenge that same priest on his heterodox teachings, and he’ll immediately fall back on, “Never criticize the clergy.”
Oh, by the way, what was the first action Pope Benedict XVI did to reform the LC/RC movement, other than the suspension of the late unlamented Fr. Maciel? He told them to get rid of their “Never criticize the clergy” rule.