In an article entitled “How to Recover the Catholic Vote” over at Crisis magazine, Matthew Hennessey makes the case that:
Ensuring our survival in the public square will require brave and faithful Catholics to step up, sally forth, and get their hands dirty doing politics. Politics leads to power, and power is what it will take to beat back these unprecedented intrusions on our basic rights and constitutionally guaranteed religious freedoms.
This is not a job for the bishops. This is a job for Catholics who are interested not just in fighting the battle, but in winning it.
He says it’s “unclear why the bishops have been so reluctant to meet steel with steel” but maintains that it’s really up to the average faithful Catholic to get the courage to step up to the plate and change things.
This is a very naive perspective in my opinion and completely discounts the role of Bishops in shaping the moral and political landscape of a nation, particularly one with a ready-made Christian heritage. The author doesn’t expect much from the Successors of the Apostles. One wonders why Jesus even inserted them into the equation if, when the going gets tough, the only tough ones to get going are the laity.
Some of the comments accompanying this article indicate that a good number of readers hold Bishops responsible but if lay Catholics are to do anything they must start expecting much more from their Bishops and Priests. If there is any hope of recovery in our land, the key lies in the words of Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen:
"Who is going to save our Church? Not our bishops, not our priests and religious. It is up to you, the people. You have the minds, the eyes, the ears to save the Church. Your mission is to see that your priests act like priests, your bishops like bishops and your religious act like religious."
Take this statement very seriously…and decide today what you can do to fulfil your “mission”, as the Archbishop described it. Apathy is not an option. It will prove fatal.
UPDATED: The quote from Archbishop Sheen may seem contradictory, on the surface, to my point that Catholic Bishops must lead in the spiritual (but also moral and political, if at times only indirectly) battle. It may appear that the Venerable Archbishop is saying that the laity--not the Bishops--must save the Church but note carefully the means by which the laity are to save the Church. They are to save it by holding Bishops and Priests accountable to their calling and responsibility under God. At the end of the day the words and actions of duly ordained Church leaders will mold and fashion our society into a righteous or unrighteous people. Clearly then, our future is greatly dependent on a sort of dynamic tension between laity and ecclesiastics.
I think it's fair to apply this passage to the relationship:
Iron sharpeneth iron; So a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend. Proverbs 27:17