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A Warning to Catholic Bishops
Lionel E. Deimel

The leadership of the Roman Catholic Church in America is operating in crisis mode, and a major objective in some dioceses has become the preservation of church assets. Bishops fear that the need to pay compensation to victims of abuse by priests could force the sale of church real estate. Some dioceses Liturgical objectsare claiming that property is held by individual parishes and is not an attachable asset of the diocese. At best, this argument is a stretch, but it may also have some unforeseen and unwelcome consequences.

I have often wondered when American Catholics will conclude that their church’s connection to Rome is a liability. Pope Paul II has great sympathy for his flock in Third World countries, but he seems to have little understanding of American Catholics or American society. His failure to recognize the seriousness of the current church scandals—the child sexual abuse scandal, the cover-up scandal, and the unfolding scandal of the church’s attempts to avoid legal and financial responsibility—are but the latest examples of the American church’s dysfunctional relationship to Rome. Meanwhile, American Catholics endure an ever-shrinking supply of priests because the church will not reconsider its positions on celibacy or women’s ordination. They continue to have no say in church administration. In many areas of morality, such as the use of artificial methods of birth control, Catholics simply ignore church teachings. At some point, the Catholic laity may conclude that both its American and Roman leaders are hopelessly arrogant and out-of-touch, and they will begin to ask if they should not be members of an American Catholic Church.

For somewhat different reasons, Episcopalians are not only questioning the national and diocesan leadership of their church, but, as parishes, they are leaving their church to join newly formed Anglican organizations. This has caused Episcopal dioceses to assert more aggressively their ownership of parish real estate, lest disaffected parishes take away not only members, but also buildings and grounds.

The irony of the opposite trends with regard to real estate in the Episcopal Church and in the Roman Catholic Church in America should not be missed by Catholic Bishops. By abrogating responsibility for parish real estate, they may be playing into the hands of the insurgents when the revolution comes.

— LED, 6/13/2002

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