Home/Rod Dreher/‘Ecclesiadicy’


A Kansas court today convicted Bishop Robert Finn of one misdemeanor count of negligence in failing to report the suspected child abuse of a child-porn priest to the authorities. In response, the Catholic bishop said:

“I truly regret and am sorry for the hurt that these events have caused.”

Note well that “these events” were not found guilty; the bishop was.

Meanwhile, over in my church, the OCA bishop of Chicago has taken a leave of absence after having been formally accused by a laywoman of sending her unwelcome and sexually suggestive e-mails and texts. According to two sources close to the case, the bishop allegedly told the woman in writing that he found her “cute,” and asked to come spend the night at her place. The bishop does not deny sending the communications; he only says that she took them the wrong way. It took the church headquarters almost two weeks merely to acknowledge this.

This Synod is the same one that forced Metropolitan Jonah to resign this summer. I learned the other day that it has forbidden him to set foot inside an OCA church other than a lone parish near where he lives. Can you imagine that? When he was in Dallas recently, he couldn’t visit the OCA cathedral, or any other parish of the OCA. Whether or not you think Jonah should be the primate, that’s incredibly petty, incredibly cruel. But there you go.

Today on the First Things site, the Catholic theologian Leroy Huizenga writes about what he calls “ecclesiadicy.” Excerpt:

The ultimate issue for those who take seriously the question of which Christian communion they should belong to, I think, is not which ecclesial structure evinces the most holiness yesterday and today. Rather, the proper question is this: What structure has God willed? For me, I came to believe that God through Christ willed the episcopal structure with the bishop of Rome at its head, though others will of course come to different conclusions. I would thus affirm apologist Frank Sheed’s sober words:

We are not baptized into the hierarchy; do not receive the Cardinals sacramentally; will not spend an eternity in the beatific vision of the pope. Christ is the point. I, myself, admire the present pope (John Paul II), but even if I criticized him as harshly as some do, even if his successor proved to be as bad as some of those who have gone before, even if I find the church, as I have to live with it, a pain in the neck, I should still say that nothing a pope (or a priest) could do or say would make me wish to leave the church, although I might well wish that they would leave.

The issue of sin in the historic hierarchy is a matter of what I’d call ecclesiadicy (a most cumbersome term indeed). By it I mean an attempt to justify the concept of apostolic succession in light of episcopal sin in the same way theodicy concerns attempt to justify an all-good, all-loving God in the face of profound human suffering.

Put another way, if one can believe in God after Auschwitz, one could also believe in the Church after whatever scandal.

This is true.


about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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