Last week was a big news week for Chicago. Former Governor Rod Blagojevich was found guilty on 17 out of 20 charges of corruption, including attempting to sell the Senate seat formerly held by Barack Obama. It’s certainly not the first time a politician has gone down over corruption charges, and not even the first time in Illinois. The previous governor, George Ryan is currently serving time for federal corruption charges and it looks as though he’s likely to live the reminder of his life behind bars. Ironically, Blagojevich was elected as the reform candidate after Ryan’s disgrace.
The other politician who recently made headlines, Rep. Anthony Weiner, was forced to resign by fellow congressional reps and the general public, not for misusing his political office, but for doing something an elected official should never do—exposing himself on Twitter. You’d think he’d have learned a lesson from fellow New York representative Chris Lee, who also resigned in February after posting a shirtless photo of himself in a Craigslist dating ad. Lee is married, as is Weiner.
Both Blago and Weiner and countless other politicians were entrusted as leaders by the general public. And when they failed us, they were held accountable. Both showed resistance to resigning, but thanks to public pressure, they ultimately did step down. And these are secular leaders, not held to the moral standards the church holds its leadership.
So why aren’t the bishops who have failed the church and who have certainly been the recipients of much pressure from their flock also resigned? While these bishops aren’t the direct perpetrators of the sex abuse, they are culpable in perpetuating the crimes. These bishops have—and continue to—shuffle priests around, ignoring the guidelines stated in the Dallas charter, and sidestep their lay review boards.
Perhaps if bishops were elected, they’d feel a bit more accountable. Cue that too familiar mantra: “The church is not a democracy.” It’s certainly not, but it should be taking a little more inspiration from it.