Prof. Bainbridge is right, and his comment brings to mind a testy phone conversation I had with Richard John Neuhaus in early 2002.

As I’ve written here before, Neuhaus had the habit of phoning me from time to time at National Review that spring to chastise me about the sharp criticism of the Catholic Church. He told me that laying into the Church as I was doing on NRO was disloyal (I was a Catholic then) and harmful to the Church.

Once he tried to explain to me that by writing so critically about the sex abuse crisis, I was creating a situation in which the Catholic Church would lose the right to govern its own affairs. He gave me a history lesson in how hard it was for the Church to wrest itself free from kings and other secular officials, and how precious was that right of self-governance.

I told him that I agreed it was precious, which is why the Pope and the bishops ought to get their collective act together and govern the Church like actual Christians. The problem, I said, is not angry laity writing on websites, but corruption in the chanceries.

Stunning to think that that was 16 years ago. Sixteen years ago! And those men have learned almost nothing.

If you read me regularly, and if you’ve read The Benedict Option, you know that I foresee the day coming, and coming soon, when the churches are persecuted by the state. These guys, these bishops, most especially the Bishop of Rome, are behaving like they can get away with this forever. By covering their own backsides, they are leaving the Church vulnerable to state interference. The day is going to come when the fed-up Catholic laity cheer for the state taking away rights of self-government from the Catholic Church. Do not for one moment believe that the state will limit its power grab only to the Romans. In post-Christian America, more and more people will see religion as a threat.

When that awful day comes, let us remember Cardinal McCarrick, Cardinal Wuerl, and all these bishops over all these decades who, by their own self-serving, corrupt behavior, laid the groundwork for that winter.