Friday, June 20, 2003

One of the things that really bugs me about these bishops' gatherings is their location: hotels. Yeah, comfort, yeah, television and internet access, yeah. Okay, but the symbolism is powerful, and not in a good way. As they gather at the Hyatt, except for the Roman collars, they look like any other group of well-fed CEO's.

As I said this time last year, there are plenty of vast Catholic institutions, now empty, in which you could easily fit all the US bishops and their entourages for a few days of meeting. For example, take a look at the St. Charles Center in Carthagena, Ohio, the central house for the Cincinnati Province of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, but really a retirement center for the order. Its halls echo, the rooms are largely empty. It's out in the middle of nowhere. The isolated location would discourage all but the most serious press, supporting the bishops in their quest to eliminate a "circus" atmosphere. It would be far more apt to open sessions with prayer in the chapel there, rather than standing behind tables in a big meeting room in a hotel. And the symbolism would be powerful in a different way too - as they walk the halls of this institution, once filled with seminarians, the the bishops would be forced to confront the institutional vibrant past and relevance of the American Church and to contrast it with the ineffectualness of the present, and perhaps would be encouraged to dispense with their pointless position papers on issues no one cares about, and get to the real work that needs to be done.