August 9, 2019
By William M. Shea
Answers to serious questions, especially political ones, tend to multiply and to develop and change over time. I began a spectrum slide from William Buckley-Barry Goldwater small-government Republican politics some sixty years ago and have landed in the past few years in the mystery called democratic socialism. I wish I could say that I slid on the basis of pure knowledge but I admit to my slide being a matter largely of opinion, belief and social conviction. In political matters too much is involved to call any one position simply true. The best one can do is call it “informed opinion.” I should be immune, then, to the foolhardiness of suggesting any definitive answer to the question of reform in the Catholic Church. Think of the other possible answers, says my conscience, and then I blush. For example, there is a lot to be said for the episcopal form of church governance.
Think of the complications of understanding a church with a two thousand year history in which many answers to the issue of governance have been tried and in which each form has been subject to abuse and even failure, often extraordinary. None had proved perfect or even reasonably and consistently successful. So my antipathy to the monarchical system of government atop the Catholic Church is a matter of opinion. Like my years’ long slide into democratic socialism, my gradual slide into governmental reform in the church started small with Cardinal Patrick O’Boyle’s crushing of any dissent in the archdiocese of Washington from Pope Paul’s tragic mistake in the matter of contraception (1968). Is there really only one Catholic voice? Can Pope Paul be wrong and pope at the same time? Ultimately, some forty years later, I decided that monarchy, even in the church, is absurd and the dying remnant of the Empire.