My first glimpse of Bishop O’Connor after his appointment as successor to Cardinal Cooke was on the Cable News Network’s Goodman Report and the eye was quickly drawn to the Right to Life rose on his lapel. It proved to be a good index to the bishop’s forthright, calm and unwavering Catholicism. Here clearly we have a spokesman who will not waffle, lose respect by trying to win unwinnable friends, or fail to defend the faith.
The appointment of O’Connor to New York and Law to Boston — I will forego any asides on Law and Order — are immensely reassuring to those who have been appalled by the recent drift of the American hierarchy in the direction of trendy liberalism of the political kind. Without being triumphalist, one can fittingly thank God for these two appointments.
It has been said that the Pope will go about shoring up the hierarchy of the United States in the way he is that of Holland, by crucial appointments that turn the tide and start things back toward orthodoxy. Not all appointments made up to this time gave one the sense things would be different under John Paul II. Now we can look forward to a near future when Cardinal Law and Cardinal O’Connor will lead the hierarchy in the direction John Paul II wishes it to go.
That American bishops have been less than responsive to the Vicar of Christ is all too clear from a number of recent instances. The suggestion that somehow the Pope is so Polish and provincial that he does not understand the highly sophisticated issues which confront prelates in North America could simply be milked for the humor it contains. But far more is at stake than the unwitting provision of occasions for chortling.
Item. Rome is said not to understand the peculiar difficulties of seminaries in the United States. The Augean stables provided no more puzzle for the mind than do some, perhaps many, seminaries.
Item. The Pope’s command that bishops not en-courage those who favor the ordination ‘of women found American bishops shortly thereafter subjecting themselves docilely to the haranguing of harridans whose problems are more psychiatric than theological. These poor things could only have been encouraged to think that the Church’s future would encompass their demands.
Item. The response to the New Code of Canon Law has all too often been one of suggesting that it does not really apply to our situation, that it must be interpreted in such a way that . . . etc. . . etc. As has been the case for too long, the first note struck is indocility; a mood of defiance is engendered.
The chaos, confusion and, yes, crisis in the Catholic Church in the United States will not be altered by a few episcopal appointments. True. But it is all too easy to imagine alternatives to these appointments that would have caused shudders of apprehension.
When George Bernard Shaw wrote Chesterton, he would open or close the letter with a fervent, “To hell with the Pope.” This sentiment, perfectly appropriate in a reprobate like Shaw, does not become Catholics, lay, theologian or cleric. Not even when it is couched in such weasel phrases as “our co-religionist, the Pope.” For bishops to suggest by words or deeds that there is some doctrinal distance between them and the Bishop of Rome is appalling.
Let us hope that even the suggestions of such nonsense will soon be less than a memory.
To both of the new appointees: ad multos annos.