From Under the Rubble…A Bang and a Whimper

Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg recently complained, “I am convinced that many so called Pro-Life groups are not really pro-life but merely anti-abortion.”

Of course, this canard is common among the professional pro-abortion crowd, but it sounds strangely out of tune coming from a Bishop who, in the past, has been supportive of the pro-life movement.

So what’s going on?

There’s a history here. Since 1960, when candidate John F. Kennedy famously promised in Houston that he would not allow his Catholic faith to interfere with his politics, there has existed among the Catholic hierarchy an influential segment that valued liberal politics more than Church teaching. Various members of this informal cadre advised JFK, welcomed the 1967 rebellion of Catholic universities against Church authority led by Notre Dame, and carefully managed the reputation rehab of Teddy Kennedy after he killed Mary Jo Kopechne at Chappaquiddick two years later.

A key player in the leftward descent of the Catholic Church since the 1960s emerged during the same era. Bishop Joseph Bernardin, who eventually became Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago, was the major influence guiding the Catholic bishops’ conference from 1969 until his death in 1996.

At Notre Dame in 2009, Barack Obama repeatedly invoked Cardinal Bernardin, whom he had first met at a community organizing meeting on Chicago’s South Side. Bernardin had a “profound influence” on his life, he later told journalists.

Bernardin also had a profound influence on the life of Bishop Lynch. Russell Shaw, longtime spokesman for the USCCB, identifies Lynch as a key player among the “Bernardin Bishops.” Lynch joined Bernardin at the headquarters of the bishops’ conference in 1972, and served as his alter-ego there for a quarter-century. He became bishop of St. Petersburg the year that Cardinal Bernardin died.

A longtime collaborator of Bernardin is candid: “he wanted to make sure the conference stayed liberal long after he was gone,” he tells the Rubble.

With the help of Bishop Lynch, it did. In fact, as Russell Shaw writes, the Bernardin era endured until 2010, when the bishops passed over Bishop Gerald Kicanas, another Bernardin understudy expected to be a shoo-in, and elected instead Timothy Dolan, now Cardinal-Archbishop of New York, as conference president.


The Bernardin years were troubled times for the American Church. As Cardinal Dolan candidly admitted after his election, the bishops hadn’t taught the fundamental moral truths of marriage and the family during the Bernardin years – since “the mid- and late-1960s,” he said.

Instead, they created a huge bureaucracy that aggressively lobbied Congress, advocating welfare-state programs in the name of “Social Justice,” while leaving the Church’s moral teaching to gather dust on the shelf.

At the same time, the bishops were taking in a growing amount of federal taxpayer funding for their own charities, which had once been independent, supported by voluntary contributions.

There was a price to pay for this shift in priorities: while the bishops’ silence on sexual morality coincided with a startling rise of divorce, contraception, and even abortion among the faithful, it had unhappy consequences within the clergy as well.

The Bernardin era featured dozens of bishops who enabled and covered up for the predominantly homosexual clergy that caused the abuse-and-cover-up scandals. Unfortunately, none of those bishops (save Cardinal Law, and several bishops who were abusers themselves) resigned when the scandals broke. Meanwhile, every priest who was accused of even a remotely indecent act with a child was immediately “disappeared.”

“Our credibility on the subject of child abuse is shredded,” said Bishop R. Daniel Conlon of Joliet, Ill., a year ago, after he was named to lead the bishops’ belated effort to restore that credibility.

The sad truth is, the Bernardin Bishops, having lost it, could not regain it themselves.

That’s why the liberal media favorite and Bernardinite Fr. Thomas Reese, S.J., called Dolan’s 2010 election “an ecclesial earthquake of monumental proportions.” America’s younger bishops recognized that they have a gigantic mess on their hands. They had to make up for fifty years of lassitude – and nothing short of an earthquake would do it.

One of the major challenges they confront addresses a cherished legacy of the Bernardin-Lynch years: massive government funding of Catholic entities like the conference, Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities U.S.A., and the Catholic Health Association (whose support was essential to the passage for Obamacare).

While Bishop Lynch does complain about the bureaucratic paperwork required by receiving billions of dollars of taxpayer dollars a year, he does not display a similar concern regarding the funding’s possible moral consequences.

Cardinal Bernardin recognized, late in life, that tens of millions of dismayed Catholics had left the Church since Vatican II, and millions more who stayed were no longer so generous as they had once been. Perhaps he saw the transformation of the Church’s charities into an array of government contractors as a necessary evil: “If we can’t trust the faithful to contribute voluntarily, well, we’ll ask the government to make it mandatory,” the Bernardin bishops seemed to say.

“When the church wants to flaunt its size, build organizations, make departments and become a bit bureaucratic, the church loses its main essence and runs into danger of turning itself into an NGO (Non-Governmental Organization),” said His Holiness, Pope Francis, last April 24.

Yet the Church’s charities, universities, and the conference itself now jostle every year alongside thousands of other NGO’s for their share of government funding.

Is the price we paid merely Bishop Lynch’s “paperwork”? Or has it been more costly?

The Payoff

Imagine that, for the past fifty years, the Bernardin bishops had followed Canon Law (the law of the Church) and barred from the Eucharist prominent perpetrators of public scandal – specifically, well-known pro-abortion Catholics like Ted Kennedy, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, Rudy Giuliani, Dick Durbin, John Kerry, Patrick Leahy, Nancy Pelosi, and countless others of both parties.

Would the excommunicated in Congress continue to shell out the dough?

The bishops might actually think that they would. After all, they are nice guys. But that grim bunch of pro-aborts is decidedly not nice. And nothing on Capitol Hill happens without the classic tit-for-tat.

So is the money a payoff for a silent, crucial concession?

Perhaps the bishops don’t think so, but the politicians sure do.

Are they right? Consider: why do the bishops lobby for welfare-state programs that harmonize with the liberal agenda, but avoid taking positions that would offend the Left – even though, from Patrick Moynihan in the 1960s to Dr. Patrick Fagan today, researchers have proven many of those welfare programs to be destructive of the family?

And why have conference leaders actually supported legislation that contains hundreds of millions of dollars a year for contraceptives and other “family planning” programs worldwide that are a pivotal priority of this administration?

Meanwhile, the conference is silent on vital issues that collide with the liberal agenda.

Take inflation: it hurts everyone – students, families, the poor, the elderly – all groups which the Church undoubtedly desires to protect.

So why don’t we hear moral outrage from the bishops condemning the damage caused by deficit spending and inflationary monetary policies?

And what about domestic “family planning” programs, federal destruction of education, the homosexualization of the military, and the anti-family tax provisions in Obamacare? When have the bishops stormed Capitol Hill in sustained and vocal opposition to those programs the way that they zealously lobby for amnesty, food stamps, and foreign aid?

Perhaps Bishop Lynch complains about “alleged” prolifers because they support the Church’s teaching across the board – including Humanae Vitae, which the Bernardin bishops failed to teach. Perhaps they welcome Pope Benedict’s critical revision of Church law that requires that “charitable agencies dependent upon [the bishop] do not receive financial support from groups or institutions that pursue ends contrary to Church’s teaching.” [Intima Ecclesiae Natura, Nov. 11, 2012, No.10.3]

Now consider: does the U.S. government, under the most anti-Catholic, anti-life administration in history, “pursue ends contrary to [the] Church’s teaching”?

Yes, there is another “earthquake” coming. The marriage of convenience between the bishops and the government, which Bishop Lynch so lovingly nurtured during the Bernardin years, is on the rocks. The real earthquake will come when the funding stops.

The divorce is long overdue. Plead the cause: “Moral cruelty.”

In the future, bishops and laity will together have to step up to the plate and revitalize the liberated Church to make it vibrant, independent, charitable, and holy. And then the New Evangelization can proceed with honesty and vigor.


This article, From Under the Rubble…A Bang and a Whimper is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
Do not repost the entire article without written permission. Reasonable excerpts may be reposted so long as it is linked to this page.

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Christopher Manion

  • “And then the New Evangelization can proceed with honesty and vigor.” Really? I’m afraid the errors of the Council will still impede: ecumenism, religious liberty. We will continue to call back only fallen away Catholics, since all other paths, even atheism, lead to heaven, in the New Church.

    • John M says:

      There were no errors in the Council – only conveyed misunderstandings, miscommunications and obfuscations. A Council of the Holy Catholic Church cannot be in error! Pope Benedict has spoken at length trying to clear these up and reveal the true beauty of Vatican II. Basically, many aspects were “diabolically spun” to confuse the faithful and the world.

      • Phil Steinacker says:

        Pope Benedict said the Council was NOT a dogmatic council but a pastoral one, (whatever that’s supposed to mean). He illustrated his remarks by pointing out that no new dogma was declared; taht which was had been already long established.

        Therefore, Vat II most assuredly can contain error – and it does.

    • I can hear your frustration but also gross exaggeration. There were no errors in the Council. There may be loose cannons out there agreeing with you, but I don’t know a single priest that agrees with you, in my 46 yrs of hanging around them. I suppose you may be referring to “invincible ignorance”, but that is an iron clad conclusion. Salvation is ONLY thru the Catholic Church.

  • Very interesting article! However, I too am concerned about what I call the dominance of “doormat Catholics” whom seem more than willing to allow everyone and everything to walk all over them in the name of “ecumenism”. I think it is long past time for bishops to start dusting off the “H” word: heresy. How can you fight the enemy of Truth when you dare not speak its name?

    • I have found that hounding our priests to have the
      courage to stand up to the butchy women, knowitall specially more than the pastor people, that we, those who need him to be courageous and strong will stand, not only behind him but in front of him, and at each side of him, we can take on those bullies so father can do his thing, hear the Holy Spirit and be our Spiritual guide.

  • Gwen Green says:

    Great informative article! Keep them coming! I’ve followed the Wanderer since we were newlyweds in the early 80’s! People start to wake up when first, they are informed. Then the pieces start to fall into place if they are also trying to nurture a prayer life at the same time. I had a friend who was finding out stuff at the same time as me- early 80’s – we were both newly married, but her finding out made her leave the church. She was a new Catholic and vulnerable,and I think her and her husband had no prayer life. The discovery of what is going wrong only serves to make the person disillusioned, if their faith is really weak. One needs to be in a strong position to see the faults of Catholic leaders and yet maintain hope in the one true Church.

  • J Alvarez says:

    Thank God he (Lynch) will soon be hanging up his red speedo and riding a train out of Florida.

  • John P says:

    I have lived in the Diocese of St Pete since 2005 when I moved here from the DC area. I have met Bishop Lynch and I have have visited many of the key churches in this diocese and I also know (not personally, just know) who the players are around Bishop Lynch. I have gone from frustrated when I first arrived here, to angry during the Terry Schiavo fiasco to peaceful now. My advice for everyone is pray for Bishop Lynch and pray for all priests and Bishops because they have a huge responsibility and they need our prayers. I have gone around the diocese to attend masses and I’m always amazed at the quality of the priests at every Church. If you have a problem with a priest or bishop, just pray for that Bishop or priest during your rosary. Our Lord is firmly in command of his Church, he will handle everything.

  • Ed says:

    The New Evangelization needs to start with our American Bishops.

    • OH NO IT DOES NOT!!!! It begins with you and me!!!!! listen to Pope Francis, take the Catholic Church into the streets, MAKE A MESS, meaning don’t let it be cooped up in the building but take it to the streets, that is not the job of the Bishops!!!! that is the job of you and me lay people!!!!!

  • Joe says:

    Bernardin’s “seamless garment” is more like a hospital robe, leaving a lot of the patient exposed.

    The Catholic Church is losing adherents not because it is too conservative but because it is too liberal. How many former Catholics have become Muslim? Is Islam liberal?

  • “And then the New Evangelization can proceed with honesty and vigor.” An excellent and jarring last sentence. When read in the context of the sentence that precedes it: To make the Church “vibrant, independent, charitable, and holy,” Chris’s hope for the New Evangelization is justified. Whatever was problematic about Vatican II can still be overcome by a Church that is charitable and holy. It seems that Pope Francis is steering the Church (under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary) to focus on the basics and the very core of our faith, as revealed by Christ and taught by the Apostles. A simple, strong, holy Church is what will renew her in this age. God grant us powerful preachers; the marytrs will soon follow.

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