Lax in enforcing church doctrine

Speaking of eccentric Catholic priests like Father Greg Boyle who care more about their oppressed and overwhelmed parishioners than they do about Vatican dogma, I’m reminded that Seattle had an archbishop like that thirty years ago…and that the Vatican sent an enforcer to suppress him.

Ever since the Vatican crackdown on Seattle Archbishop Raymond G. Hunthausen last summer [i.e. 1986], Patrick Jankanish has been coming alone to Sunday mass at St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church.

“My wife was a convert {to Catholicism} before we were married nine years ago,” Jankanish told a visitor, adding that the couple has been deeply involved in the vigorous social justice program of the Jesuit parish on fashionable Capital Hill.

To the Jankanishes, Hunthausen is “very important in the justice community,” encouraging Christians to apply their faith to problems ranging from battered wives to nuclear warfare.

So when Rome charged that Hunthausen was lax in enforcing church doctrine and stripped him of significant powers last year, Jankanish’s wife Lisa “left the church,” he said.

Emphasis added. That’s a major reason I loathe and detest the Catholic church – that preference for evil reactionary “doctrine” over embracing actual people and their problems.

In disciplining Hunthausen, Pope John Paul II has made clear the depth of his determination to enforce strict doctrinal orthodoxy on the church in this country. The church in the United States has long been viewed by many at the Vatican, and by some home-grown critics as well, as too lax on moral questions, too accommodating to the permissive culture that surrounds it.

Too “lax, accommodating, permissive” on moral questions – that’s one way of looking at it, and another is that the church is far too narrow and authoritarian and reactionary on moral questions. In other words it’s not that we’re all lazy and sloppy about moral questions, it’s that the church is fucked up on moral questions. Its morality is bad and evil. The morality of people like Boyle and Hunthausen is better than the church’s. Not looser, not more relaxed, not easier – better.

Until last summer, Hunthausen, 65, was best known for his social activism and his aggressive antiwar stance. An implacable foe of nuclear arms — he once called the Trident nuclear submarine base here “the Auschwitz of Puget Sound” — he has led several antinuclear demonstrations and for the last few years he has engaged in a legal minuet with the Internal Revenue Service in which the government garnishees from the archdiocese the portion of his income tax he withholds in protest against nuclear weapons.

The Vatican says its action against Hunthausen was prompted not by his pacifist views but by his failure to enforce church doctrine forcefully.

He was lax, Rome said, pointing to such things as his failure to ensure that 6- and 7-year-olds made their first confession before first communion; his allowing divorced and remarried Catholics to receive the sacraments; his not cracking down on Catholic hospitals that performed contraceptive sterilizations, and his permitting an organization of homosexual Catholics to celebrate mass in St. James Cathedral.

There you go – that’s not “lax,” it’s better. “Confession” to a priest is not the sort of thing that should be required of anyone at any time; divorced people should not be socially shunned; hospitals should perform contraceptive sterilizations if people request them; “homosexual” Catholics should not be socially shunned. The church’s morality is ugly and cruel.

So last year Rome installed a hand-picked auxiliary, Bishop Donald W. Wuerl, 46, and ordered Hunthausen to relinquish authority to him in five key areas, including education of priests, the liturgy, and church relations with health care institutions.

That last one is especially sinister. “Church relations with health care institutions”=the church’s interference with women’s reproductive healthcare and everyone’s access to contraception. The church should have nothing to do with any of that.

H/t Charles Sullivan

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