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Brendan Miniter asks that question in today's Wall Street Journal, but doesn't really answer it except in a uselessly general way. He mentions the pedophilia scandal, and the lack of faith among the clergy, but doesn't really get into the reasons these things happened. Rant about the Church follows...


One of the things you notice about Catholic parishes is the lack of community. This has been an endemic problem for most of my life, and as far as I know nobody is doing a damn thing about it. This is one of the factors that drives people into the arms of the evangelical and charismatic Protestant churches; people feel like they belong, like they're part of something bigger than themselves. The other thing that you notice is that the teaching, both from the pulpit and in whatever they're calling CCD this week, stinks. What the late John Paul II referred to as "the deposit of faith", the beliefs and history of the Church, is not being passed on either by the priests or the catechists - and this has been going on for decades. It's a wonder anyone knows anything about what we believe as Catholics, since the clergy seems content to leave it up to the media to teach the flock while they obsess over whatever the current liberal political rage is. I am not exaggerating when I say that 90% of what I know about the Church comes from self-study. It damn sure didn't come from the six-hour catechesis class I took when I was teaching at Holy Name.

This failure to teach and reach out is a fundamental failure of the American episcopate, and at its root is a failure to lead. American Catholics for too long have suffered from a need to be liked, and this makes us weak when it comes to defending the faith and standing up for what we believe. Too many of us are afraid that people won't like us if we insist on respect, especially since half the time we can't even explain why the magisterium is correct when it says that abortion is wrong and condoms aren't the answer and women cannot be priests. The fish rots from the head, and the bishops have been too accommodating for too long. There are and have been exceptions, of course; John Paul the Great appointed many worthy men to head the dioceses here, most of whom have been condemned by the MSM as "extremists", "reactionaries" and (oh, horrors!) "conservatives". For doing their jobs.

Given the near-complete malversation and dereliction of duty the American bishops have exhibited these past four decades, the surprising thing isn't that none of them are considered papabili, but that the American cardinals aren't being jeered out of the Sistine Chapel. The Western European bishops have done little better, but they mostly have the handicap of an established church to contend with. What's our excuse?