Has discipline replaced love and charity as the hard edge of discipleship? Does the pastoral practice of love and charity out way the practice of discipline, or is authority at odds with love when it comes to Church discipline?
In April, Emily Herx, a Catholic teacher in Fort Wayne, Ind., was fired from her school after it was revealed that she had received in vitro fertilization treatments. Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend explained the firing, saying that priests must offer “correction” to parishioners. Earlier, Christa Dias, who worked at two Catholic schools in Cincinnati, was fired for using artificial insemination. And at Saint Mary’s Parish in Platteville, Wis., Bishop Robert Morlino reportedly threatened parishioners who had been critical of pastoral decisions made by their traditionalist clergy with interdict. Yet these same bishops remain silent on the part they played in accepting responsibility for the part they played in the clergy sexual abuse scandal.
What is becoming obvious to most observers is when it comes to the Bishops rules are to be followed no so much on what they do, but rather what they say. Christian discipleship is not so much about following by example of Jesus Christ in a very complex world, but rather to go along to get along with those in Church authority. Authority from this perspective has been perverted to translate I am the boss.
When looking at Christic behavior in the Church it would appear that love and charity are replaced with pejorative judgementalism. If reform of the individual is the vision of correcting the behavior of individuals than certainly education is the operating mechanism of this effort. Yet the US Bishops and indeed the Vatican seem to hold themselves to different standard of behavior when applying the yardstick of Christ life to any given situation.
Clearly the New Testament points out that correcting someone in a public fashion is more about humiliation rather than reforming through education of one’s behavior. That is why the New Testament recommends a gradual process of correction over a confrontational form which has become the Church leadership current style of correction. Modesty is a Gospel principle when it comes to Church leadership who attempt to correct their fellow Catholics. Our bishops need to be reminded that tradition holds that where possible, correction should be done privately, not in public.
Amy Smith Rainbow Sash Movement