An old ditty goes:
Three things the pope does not know:
What the Dominicans are thinking,
What the Jesuits are doing,
And how many orders of nuns there are.
It’s a big and messy church–the biggest and the messiest–and if there are some things about it that elude the pope, there are assuredly many that elude the rest of us.
Take, for instance, the pope’s decision to reinstate four excommunicated bishops of the Lefevbrist Society of St. Pius X, including one notorious Holocaust denier. Not only has that drawn the predictable ire of Andrew Sullivan, but also the troubled distress of George Weigel, who told the NYT:
It is not easy to see how the unity of the Church will be enhanced unless the Lefebvrists accept Vatican II’s teaching on the nature of the Church, on religious freedom, and on the evil of anti-Semitism, explicitly and without qualification; otherwise, you get cafeteria Catholicism on the far right, as we already have on the left.
I’m afraid, George, you’ve already got it.
Which brings us to question of how the Church will be relating to the new administration in Washington. The bishops’ initial reaction to the election was equal parts hysterical, irrelevant, and insulting–focusing almost exclusively on the Free of Choice Act, a piece of pro-choice legislation that’s got an iceberg’s chance in Hell of getting through Congress. By contrast, the Vatican has taken a far more balanced approach, as outlined most recently here by Rocco.
There are substantial areas of policy where, from Rome’s standpoint, Obama is much to be preferred to Bush. And there are indications that the Americans are getting the memo. Hardly a peep of protest could be heard against Washington archbishop Donald Wuerl and his auxiliary bishop taking prominent parts in the National Prayer Service last week, and an official statement is up on the USCCB website welcoming Obama’s executive order banning torture. Like the Supreme Court, the Church follows the election returns, as much as some within its copious skirts might wish otherwise.