(November 10, 2020)
Millions of Americans chanted, “Defund the Police” following the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, among many others.
I believe we in the US Catholic Church can similarly chant, “Defund the Bishops.”
Just as the first statement has a more in-depth connotation than meets the eye, the same goes for the second statement.
The release of the McCarrick Report supports that bishops wield excessive power and may use it for self-interest as opposed to the good of the Church.
Therefore, the need to defund the bishops is not solely financial, but to ensure there are rightful checks and balances to prevent an egregious use of power for personal gain.
For far too long, bishops have acted like temporal lords in their respective dioceses without proper safeguards to temper this “lordship.”
The following activities of bishops (not exhaustive in nature) warrant the removal of access to Church funds and the need for appropriate checks and balances:
- Engaging in or covering up a scandal, whether or not it is sexual in nature
- Engaging in partisan politics to the extent of representing that such and such candidate/position adheres to Church teaching, and the opposite is a sin
- Promoting abuse (whether spiritual or sexual), clericalism and toxic masculinity
Below are examples of those following points (again not exhaustive in nature):
Engaging in or covering up a scandal, whether or not if it is sexual in nature:
- Bishop Michael Bransfield, the former bishop of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, resigned following credible allegations of sexual abuse and financial misconduct, the latter being near $800,000. Bransfield only paid slightly more than half of this amount, and the Church accepted this as final payment. Moreover, he offered a weak apology letter in response to these heinous acts. Bransfield ought to repay the balance of this money and divest of all personal belongings and funds to truly atone for these sins, and this in itself does not suffice as reparation.
Engaging in partisan politics to the extent representing that such and such candidate/position adheres to Church teaching, and the opposite is a sin:
- Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island disparaged then presidential candidate Joe Biden’s Catholic faith.
- Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas endorsed a video from Fr. James Altman that propagated that no Catholic can be a Democrat.
- Bishop Rick Stika of Knoxville, Tennessee questioned the Catholicism of then presidential candidate Joe Biden and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
- Archbishop George Lucas of Omaha, Nebraska insinuated that abortion as a preeminent issue ought to be the guiding principle for a Catholic voter.
Promoting abuse (whether spiritual or sexual), clericalism and toxic masculinity:
- Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois condoned the spiritual abuse of one of his priests towards a lay female theologian, arguing that it was a mere “theological disagreement.”
For the aforementioned bishops who are still active, they have a duty to step down and accept judgment.
If they are unwilling to do this, I urge the faithful to not underestimate the power of their financial contributions to their respective dioceses and withhold these funds until these bishops account for their actions and receive their due punishment.
Moreover, I urge that new canonical checks and balances be established to prevent a bishop’s egregious use of power for self-interest as well as to continue and cover up for abuse.
The Church has spent too much time and money defending the bishops. Now the Church must defund the guilty bishops.