...The hierarchy of the Catholic church necessarily attracts scorn and resistance, quite apart from its specific policy choices, because it cannot help but seem "abusive" to the basic presuppositions of the post-modern world.
The result, Mucci asserts, is that the media is fascinated by dissent, and exalts the dissenters as the "true, mature Catholics," as opposed to the church's power structure.
First of all, Mucci claims, the secular mind finds it hard to accept "the central position that the Catholic church and its head continue to occupy in contemporary history, despite all the broadsides launched against them."
Secularism felt it had consigned religion to the sphere of a purely private affair, Mucci argues, and therefore resents the fact that "religion has returned to a protagonist's role all across the West."
That rubs secularists especially wrong, Mucci writes, when it comes to politics: "The secular world has only one non-negotiable value," he says, "which is the secular nature of the state."
Futher, Mucci writes, the secular understanding of religion is rooted in two basic philosophical convictions:
•The supreme religious authority is the conscience of the individual, not any institution;
•An empiricist and rationalist understanding of divinity, according to which the transcendent can only be investigated by reason.
In such a mental world, Mucci claims, the hierarchy "can only appear to be a foreign body."
Finally, Mucci says, secular thought can only conceive of the relationship between the hierarchy and the laity of the church in "juridical" terms, along the lines of the relationship between labor and management in the economic sphere.
Secularism, Mucci says, cannot understand a "sacramental" and "communitarian" view of the church, in which the hierarchy and the laity "are equally active, despite the diversity of their roles, in pursuit of common ends."
To be sure, Mucci avoids the question of whether actions by the hierarchy, either historically or of more recent vintage, have contributed to this impasse. His case instead seems to be that even when the hierarchy is on the side of the angels, it's got an uphill fight to be seen that way.