Saturday, May 21, 2016

Respecting Bishops...Even When They Play The Ukulele

Earlier this week Church Militant reported on a Confirmation Mass at Assumption Grotto in Detroit. According to the report, Auxiliary Bishop Donald Hanchon played the ukulele and sang during his homily. The parish organist, apparently feeling that the ukulele was inappropriate for the liturgy, began to play the organ at full volume in order to drown out the Bishop and continued to play even after the Bishop had stopped. Well, I guess they showed that Bishop what's what now didn't they? And Church Militant was on the scene.

Am I the only one wondering how serendipitous it was that Church Militant was on the scene, at the ready, to record and report on the public comeuppance of this Bishop? I have got to be honest here. What I am seeing is an adolescent prank with adolescent justifications. Another opportunity to publicly demonstrate and reinforce the narrative that our bishops are failing us. For how can we maintain a campaign of resistance to bishops without exposing the evidence of their failings? Failings that would appear to abdicate authority and therefore justify the taking of that authority into our own hands?

The Bishop's actions were described as a stunt and antics, as banal and irreverent. In the com-boxes descriptions included shenanigans and sacrilege. The parish of Assumption Grotto is described as reverent and the organist as playing more appropriate themed music. Many commenters applauded the organist for having the temerity to show the Bishop the error of his ways. Although some commenters expressed that this may have been somewhat of a disrespectful way to treat a Bishop, the consensus seemed to be that it was justified because the Bishop had committed a far greater error.

You might feel that ukuleles are inappropriate at Mass. That's ok. You might feel that someone should correct the Bishop regarding what might be perceived as irreverence during the liturgy. That's ok, too. You might even think that the Bishop should have at least been able to recognize that the ukulele might not go over so well at some parishes as it would in others thus adjusting his homily accordingly. That's ok as well. The issue isn't that we sometimes don't agree with the way a bishop is doing things. It isn't that we might at times criticize the behavior of a bishop. The faithful have a canonical right and duty to the let the bishop know when they think something might not be right. The issue is not that at times there may be the necessity to publicly criticize or correct a bishop. The problem is all in the manner in which we do so. Criticism should not demean the authority of the bishop, his office or create harmful divisions in the Body of Christ. We are to show bishops reverence and be attentive to the dignity of their person. (Code of Canon Law 212). In matters of opinion we are to avoid setting forth our own opinions as doctrines of the Church. (Code of Canon Law 227) We are also not supposed to incite animosity or hatred against a bishop or provoke others to disobey them. (Code of Canon Law 1373)

I can't help thinking how we could even consider it possible and reasonable to uphold the reverence of a Mass with something that was irreverent as well. Wouldn't it be irreverent to interrupt a homily and disrupt a Mass as a protest? Wouldn't it be disrespectful to mock a bishop as he stood liturgically and sacramentally in the person of Christ? Doesn't it demean the authority of a bishop not to acknowledge that his judgment, authority and discretion regarding the liturgical use of a homily out ranks that of an organist? Shouldn't we consider that the manner in which a story is reported might incite animosity or provoke disobedience? Or possibly that might be what is going on in the comment discussions?

Church Militant reports that Bishop Hanchon is well known for playing his ukulele during his homilies. It would not be unreasonable to assume that the Archbishop is aware of it, as well, and allows it. It isn't reported, however, that any parishioners of Assumption Grotto made any attempts to address this with the Bishop through proper channels before the Mass. It was also not reported that such requests had been to no avail, therefore forcing a protest as a last resort. As a matter of fact, one commenter related the following

"Bishop Hanchon celebrated Confirmations in the Extraordinary Form for the Oakland County Latin Mass Association at the Academy of the Sacred Heart Chapel a few months ago. We knew of his inclination to play his ukulele and politely but clearly requested that he not do so at our Mass. He gladly agreed."

It would appear that no attempt was made regarding a similar request to the Bishop before this particular Mass. He was not given the fair chance to gladly agree to their request or ignore it. It seems that knowing full well that the ukulele is a possibility, all you have to do is merely wait for that to occur. With media on standby you can then just pull a stunt of your own. When asked by Church Militant if he had made a deliberate attempt to silence the bishop's performance, the organist remarked with a smile, "I'm not going to confirm or deny anything."

So how did Bishop Hanchon react to the interruption of his homily? Graciously and with aplomb, he said, "Only at Grotto do you get that sort of accompaniment. Thank you very much."

Sticking it to the man is an expression that essentially means resistance to authority either passively, openly or via sabotage. We talk about reverence, we talk about admonishing the sinner and instructing the ignorant, we talk about orthodoxy but sometimes we are just sticking it to the man. We abandon reasonable attempts to solve a problem. Like recalcitrant children, we resort to public displays to humiliate, to mock and ridicule, to call attention to ourselves, to force others to do things our way. We forget about the Golden Rule, justifying our behavior with the fact that the other guy was worse. Now, my momma done told me that two wrongs don't make a right but that doesn't seem to matter much when what we want is to stick it to the man. This was the public sabotage of a bishop and a mass as a first resort rather than allowing the bishop the benefit of favorably responding to a respectful appeal. Of course, a bishop responding to a reasonable request makes for a far less sensational news item. This was sticking it to the man just for the sake of sticking it to the man because it was unnecessary. Or even worse, judging from some com-box responses and the coy response of the organist, sticking it to the man for kicks and giggles. I have to wonder about the Catholic mind that would think of such a thing as being appropriate and reverent during a mass merely because it employed an organ.

"But inasmuch as love suffers me not to be silent in regard to you, I have therefore taken upon me first to exhort you that you would all run together in accordance with the will of God. For even Jesus Christ, our inseparable life, is the manifested will of the Father; as also bishops, settled everywhere to the utmost bounds of the earth, are so by the will of Jesus Christ… Let us be careful, then, not to set ourselves in opposition to the bishop, in order that we may be subject to God."

"It is therefore fitting that you should, after no hypocritical fashion, obey in honour of Him who has willed us, since he that does not so deceives not the bishop that is visible, but seeks to mock Him that is invisible. And all such conduct has reference not to man, but to God, who knows all secrets.”

“It is fitting, then, not only to be called Christians, but to be so in reality: as some indeed give one the title of bishop, but do all things without him. Now such persons seem to me to be not possessed of a good conscience, seeing they are not steadfastly gathered together according to the commandment.”

-St. Ignatius of Antioch

The Church has taught from it's earliest days that we should demonstrate the highest of respect for and harmony with our bishops whether they are deserving of it or not. The Church teaches reverence for the Mass. The Church also teaches the highest regard and respect for our bishops. We do not abandon one teaching in order to uphold another.

Bishop Hanchon, for the sake of his office, deserved better treatment than this. He deserved to be approached beforehand with a respectful request. Past behavior indicates that he would have been open and accommodating had such a request been made. He deserved better than to be hijacked during a Mass for the sake of attention seeking and a media presence. He deserved better than a bias that attempted to diminish his position. He deserved better than scathing com-box excoriation and mockery.  He deserved better than to be ridiculed in follow-up blogs. He deserved to be treated fairly because he is a bishop. We all deserved better because we are supposed to be better. Better than a giggling prank aimed at demeaning a bishop at the expense of the mass. Better than such a lowering of the bar of expectation regarding how Catholics live out exemplifying the Gospel and the teachings of the Church.

"...for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ, so that we may no longer be infants, tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching arising from human trickery, from their cunning in the interests of deceitful scheming. Rather, living the truth in love, we should grow in every way into him who is the head, Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, with the proper functioning of each part, brings about the body's growth and builds itself up in love" Ephesians 4:12-16

For what it's worth.