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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 11/11/18

Garry Wills' Diagnosis of the American Catholic Bishops

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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) November 11, 2018: Ever since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade in 1973 that abortion in the first trimester was legal, the American Catholic bishops and their priests have been fomenting anti-abortion zealotry. Over the years, Republican candidates for president, including Donald J. Trump in 2016, have courted the votes of anti-abortion zealots. Thus far, President Trump had appointed two conservative justices to the Supreme Court.

Now, the American Catholic bishops and their priests also launched a vigorous campaign against same-sex marriage. Unfortunately for them, many practicing Catholics supported same-sex marriage. This shows that the American Catholic bishops and their priests may not be as influential among practicing Catholics on this issue as they have been in fomenting anti-abortion zealotry.

However, in August 2018, the American Catholic bishops suffered a mighty blow to their influence over practicing Catholics when the Pennsylvania grand-jury report was released.

It prompted Garry Wills, a practicing Catholic, to publish an article titled "The Priesthood of The Big Crazy" at the website of the New York Review of Books (dated August 23, 2018):

Garry Wills uses the capitalized expression "The Big Crazy" to refer collectively to all the crazy rubbish (my word, not his) that the Roman Catholic Church officially teaches through its bishops and priests about "masturbation, artificial insemination, contraception, sex before marriage, oral sex, vasectomy, homosexuality, gender choice, abortion, divorce, priestly celibacy, male-only priests." He also succinctly explains why certain church teachings are not tenable.

But the bishops and their priests have been formed -- or, more accurately, mal-formed -- by holding that these and other church teachings are tenable. Not only the bishops and their priests, but also many gullible practicing Catholics have been mal-formed by the church's untenable teachings.

We might reasonably argue that bishops formed by The Big Crazy of the church's untenable teachings (in Garry Wills' terminology) cannot be expected to make prudent choices in cases involving priest-sex-abuse, because their consciousness has been mal-formed by The Big Crazy of the church's teachings.

In any event, the U.S. Catholic bishops are scheduled to meet in Baltimore soon to try to regroup after the devastating Pennsylvania grand-jury report. Consequently, the editors of the National Catholic Reporter have published an open letter to them:

The subtitle of their open letter is "It's over" -- an expression they repeat eight times in the text of the open letter. However, even though a photo of a chess game with a "bishop" accompanies their open letter, the editors may be seriously under-estimating just how wily the American bishops. We'll see.

In the meantime, it strikes me as safe to say that practicing Catholics need to make the church's official teachings about sex and sex-related issues -- The Big Crazy in Garry Wills' terminology -- less central in their lives. In short, practicing Catholics should not take the church's alleged authority about sex and sex-related issues overly seriously.

Next, I want to move a step beyond Garry Wills and propose a sliding scale about The Big Crazy, based on a person's zealotry for The Big Crazy.

The stronger a person's zeal for The Big Crazy, the stronger the person's mal-formation of consciousness.

Conversely, the weaker a person's zeal for The Big Crazy, the weaker the person's mal-formation of consciousness.

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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