Our Therapeutic Bishops | Darel E. Paul | First Things

The see their role as the CEO tamping down a situation lest matters get out of hand. The big picture is their focus, as if their responsibility is for the totality of a situation, managing it.

The line between a therapeutic CEO and a therapeutic bishop is vanishingly thin. By Tuesday, January 22, [following the
Covington boys incident after the March for Life] Catholic leaders began backtracking their earlier condemnations.

Bishop Roger Joseph Foys of Covington spoke less as a shepherd than as a therapeutic manager when he said, “We pray that we may come to the truth and that this unfortunate situation may be resolved peacefully and amicably.” He announced the beginning of an “independent, third-party investigation” into the matter, and declared there would be “no further statements until the investigation is complete.”

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of neighboring Louisville could only echo the managerial cant, lamenting “the regrettable polarization in our Church and in our society” while offering vaguely to “reach out and respond to those who were impacted by these events and media reports.”

This is even worse than cravenness. Many have suggested that [Covington HS] Principal Rowe, Bishop Foys, and Archbishop Kurtz simply lacked moral courage. Yet these men also lived out our elite’s moral ideal by condemning their own children in the interest of self-realization and social order. Perhaps they rushed to judgment not so much out of fear as out of fidelity to an ideal of character—an ideal foreign to Catholic Christianity but quite at home in a rival church.

In this case, the church of public opinion, apparently.

The author,

Darel E. Paul is professor of political science at Williams College and author of From Tolerance to Equality: How Elites Brought America to Same-Sex Marriage.

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