Sunday, July 7, 2013

E.J. Dionne on Francis's Decision to Canonize JPII and John XXIII: "One for One Side, One for the Other" and Why Centrists Drive Me Up a Wall

E.J. Dionne's statement at Commonweal right now about the "saintly politics" Pope Francis is ostensibly using as he canonizes both John Paul II and John XXIII reminds me of why centrists drive me up a wall. "One for one side, one for the other -- it's a good formula for harmony, something Catholicism needs right now," Dionne writes.

That's how centrists always approach issues like the serious fractures that have created virtual schism in the Catholic church in recent years: this side and that side. Both right, both wrong. And me in the middle--blessed me in the middle, able to see the rights and wrongs of both sides, so that I never have to choose one side or the other.

Blessed me: I stand in the middle and don't take sides. I wait to see how things will pan out as the dust settles--which side will prove itself right. I wait to see where power will lie when the fracas has ended. (Which means I really stand on the side of power, no matter what and no matter when.)

Meanwhile, I'm all for any arrangement that balances the two sides, since both are, after all, flawed, and blessed me in the middle: all I want is the kind of objectivity that transcends the flaws of either side and places me in the seat of judgment. I want the kind of "objectivity" that keeps me in the blessed middle, in the power-brokering position.

What I'm not for is analyzing whether one side or the other has a stronger and overriding claim to my moral allegiance. What I'm not for is employing critical tools to discern who abuses power, makes pawns of other human beings to advance his cause, and therefore forfeits my allegiance as a moral agent. What I'm not for is taking sides--with the weak against the strong.

I want balance, the virtue I've elevated above all other virtues, and, above all, over the virtue of standing with the weak and oppressed and against the powerful and oppressive. And if that means that I'm willing to write off the many weak ones who have been sacrificed on the altar of the strong in order to achieve the balance I cherish so much, then so be it.

For decades now, the Catholic church has been in the middle of a virtual reign of papal terror, in which one theologian after another has been silenced without cause or due process, women have been firmly and decisively slapped into their subservient places, gay and lesbian human beings have been told that they're intrinsically disordered and made subjects of violence, and people abused by priests when they were young have been denied justice and treated as human refuse when they dared to open their mouths and tell their stories.

And the church is split between two sides that need to be balanced?! Both equal, both equally good and equally bad?! And it's a wonderful decision to follow the lead of a pope who was right in the thick of the oppression to canonize another pope who set the oppression into motion with the assistance of the man pushing for his predecessor's canonization?

While John Paul II can be rushed to the altar in a whirlwind process of a few years, he himself having changed the rules of canonization to make this possible, John XXIII, whom many Catholics have long seen as a saint for our times, has languished in the shadows under the reign of papal terror we've seen in the previous two papacies. And so we have two equally balanced sides, both equally good and equally bad? Really?!

John Paul II and his right-hand man Ratzinger coldly ostracized Oscar Romero and actively colluded in making it dangerous for Catholic pastoral leaders to side with the poor in Latin America, helping create conditions that resulted in the oppression and outright murder of Catholic pastoral leaders in that region standing with the poor--and we have two equally good and equally bad sides in the church that should be balanced?!

John Paul slammed the door shut on the canonization of Oscar Romero, who was murdered at the altar because of his solidarity with the poor of his nation.

And we're to imagine that a pope who did this to a holy bishop is a saint?!

And we're to celebrate the decision to canonize him along with John XXIII as a wise and saintly decision that balances two sides which are equally good and equally bad--letting ourselves, who occupy that oh so precious "objective" spot in the middle, off the hook, letting us mask our self-serving refusal to stand with the weak as objectivity and wisdom?

(P.S. Remember how quick Dionne was to jump on the bandwagon with the U.S. Catholic bishops when they declared their phony "religious freedom" war against the Obama administration? If you've forgotten the details, see here, here, and here. Now there's centrist balance in a nutshell.)

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