Monsignor Harry J. Byrne, JCD * * * Comment/

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Location: 3103 Arlington Avenue,, Bronx, NY 10463, United States

March 1, 2009


President Barack Obama, faced with a never-before economic crisis, summoned up his youthful vitality, his analytic and synthesizing intelligence, his articulate genius and, with advisors, put together a series of programs to bring some solution to the the nation's crisis. As in his campaign, he sought the support of the nation's people by calling for "the audacity of hope", "change we can believe in", and the "si, si puede" - "yes we can" - spirit that brought him to the presidency. He saw that the old constructs of governance and management had not only failed but had, indeed, been the very agents of the collapse.

In the fanciful future year of 2035, a new pope, Appolinarus I, became the navigator of the barque of Peter, storm-tossed in a secular mileau by a shortage of vocations, both male and female, and by a catastrophic epidemic of sexual abuse of children, caused by many bishops disobeying Church law - Canon 1395. That single canon was at the heart of the scandal. It called for punishment of abusers. Instead, many bishops covered up and reassigned them, exponentially multiplying damage to children. Civil society charged them with malfeasance and set a price of more than $2 billion for damages, paid, not by these bishops, but by the faithful. These bishops received no punishment whatever, or even a specific reprimand, from their Church.

Pope Appolinarus was aware of how President Obama had approached the crises of his country. He felt that the same spirit was needed for a Church in crisis - "the audacity of hope", "change we can believe in", and "yes, we can". He established a commission to study what to do if a bishop does not follow canon law, esp Canon 1395.
Canon 1389 provides that a bishop who misuses his power by failing to perform a required act of governance, not punishing an abuser, is to be punished even by removal from office. Why had this not occurred? A Metropolitan Archbishop has authority over his subordinate dioceses but it is limited. If he finds abuses, he is to inform the pope. (Canons 435 and 436) This is not likely to happen. The pope is far away. Bishops protect bishops. Some management technique was required to make the Metropolitan accountable for his responsibility. Avenues of appeal must be opened up for visible input from other bishops, lower clergy, and laity. Not an easy task for the new commission.

Appolinarus was worried about the shortage of priests. He was well aware that mandatory celibacy deters the average young male from the priesthood but would be more acceptable to gay men. He knew that most of the many priests, who had left, had done so to be married. He knew how celibacy was not universally practiced in many parts of the world, yet curiously accepted as a reality by previous popes. He was aware how JPII stressed the natural right to marriage. In a spirit of audacity, he established a commission to study mandated celibacy and its implications. He was preparing himself for a new construct in church discipline.

From his extensive reading, Appolinarus remembered a 16th century Muslim scholar commenting on how the exclusion of women left the Muslim body half paralyzed. The comparison with a half paralyzed Catholic community - the Body of Christ - from the exclusion of women was immediatetly evident. He was appauled at the prohibition of women from giving the Mass homily, even when an imported foreign priest could only stumble through his homily in undecipheral English. And this at a time when women were state governors, legislators, judges, CEOs, and held other prominent roles in society. The glass ceiling existed only in the Catholic Church. Appolinarus was being prepared for another new construct in church discipline.

It would not be long before Pope Appolinarus would replace the old constructs of church managment and discipline, having shown themselves as part of the problem, with new constructs that would make canon law enforceable on bishops, especially the long neglected Canons 1395 and 1389; with new constructs replacing mandatory celibacy, which no longer existed as an ascetical practice or simply prohibitive of priests, as in medieval times, from passing church holdings on to their children; and with new constructs breaking the glass ceiling that kept women beneath it.

Yes, Pope Appolinarus will need "the audacity of hope", "change we can believe in", and the spirit of "si, si puede' - "yes.we can".


Anonymous Anonymous said...


March 2, 2009 at 4:41 PM  

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