Justice and Its HarvestersrnThe National Conference of Catholic Bishopsrnby Thomas MolnarrnNobody, except the New York Times and its woridwide allies,rnquestions the right and duty of Catholic bishops to raiserntheir public voice on moral issues, and on social issues intertwinedrnwith problems of a moral nature. Admittedly, pastoralrnletters, monita, even encyclicals sound rather hollow today,rnlike trumpets in the desert, laments in a cultural vacuum. Afterrnall, democracy means that everybody speaks in a continuousrnstream; one voice is hardly heard above another; the din ofrna new Broadway musical battles the word of Christ half a milernaway at St. Patrick’s.rnLet us note, too, that the marginal position and hence diminishedrnresponsibility of the Church and its hierarchy has hadrna blunting effect on the intellectual acuity of the Church’srnspokesmen. In The Challenge of Peace ten years ago, Americanrnbishops instructed citizens in “passive resistance” to the invadingrnSoviet hordes. Their fellow bishops in Eastern Europerncould have told them that, upon meeting the first “passive resister,”rnthe Soviet soldier would have shot him dead (with 20rnothers) and then nailed his photograph on every street cornerrnas a warning to the population.rnSimilar naivete would have been unimaginable at timesrnwhen the Church possessed political power—of her own and asrnpart of state power, both resting on the wide and solid faith ofrncollectivities. Those times are gone, first with Jefferson’s andrnRobespierre’s “wall of separation,” then with the deep secularizationrnof all aspects of life. The Second Vatican Councilrnmerely put the seal on the invisible but de facto social contractrnThomas Molnar’s latest book is The Emerging AtlanticrnCulture (Transaction).rnsigned in 1776 and 1789 between a victorious civil society andrnthe Church it had reduced to lobby status.rnIt is a normal, but in this case very questionably motivated,rnhuman impulse on the part of the Catholic hierarchy to seekrnsecular shelters in the raging storms of a hostile, post-Christianrnworld. Yet this is the actual state of things. Instead of referring,rnas in the past, to the Church’s association with the thronern(from the Pharaoh to the Bourbons and the Hapsburgs), thernbishops today invoke new potentates in flattering terms: thernUnited Nations, the Common Market, NATO, and “globalrndemocracy” (which is a usable term for political football in thernUnited States but is out of place under the pen of spiritual leaders)rn. Besides, while popes and bishops used to castigate emperorsrnand kings (St. Ambrose, Gregory VII, Thomas Becket),rnpastoral letters and the “Reflections” of the National Conferencernof Catholic Bishops give unquestioned allegiance to thernall-too-human international agencies and bureaucratic gatherings.rnMorally, the latter deserve little of the trust that thernAmerican bishops seem to place in them. I have often walkedrnin the footsteps of United Nations troops “intervening forrnpeace” and seen pillage, rape, and injustice. In the ex-BelgianrnCongo, Indian U.N. soldiers were feared like the plague; 30rnyears later, Russian U.N. troopers return to Bosnia after demobilizationrnto continue ravaging land and population. Meanwhile,rnactive Blue Berets, stationed in the Balkans, deal inrndrugs.rnThe same is true for the bishops of Europe. True, theyrnwould not believe that “Bolshevik troops respect noncooperation”rn—Soviet soldiers shot to death Bishop Vilmos Apor ofrnCyor in 1945 when he tried to protect 50 women from rape—rnDECEMBER 1994/21rnrnrn