Popping up as the lead article written by David Kocienewski from the Sunday New York Times is a report on what makes a conservative archbishop tick. This conservative archbishop is John J. Myers of Newark. The most telling paragraph for me was this:
"Yet Archbishop Myers, 62, said he would not be deterred. In a recent interview, he chose his words carefully, delicately avoiding inflaming the controversies surrounding him. He was quick with a smile and a joke; but he was unapologetic in his determination to carry out what he sees as his primary duty: advocating Pope John Paul II's interpretation of Catholicism."
To which I have but one comment: Pope John Paul II's interpretation of Catholicism is not "the official teaching of the Catholic Church." It is one man's interpretation, backed (of course) by his selecting all the cardinals of the Curia, most of the cardinals in the college, and almost every single bishop and archbishop in the church, as mirror images of his way of interpreting theology.
The pope is wrong. So are his hand-picked "me-too" buddies. They are right, of course, in claiming it is their interpretation of Catholicism; they are wrong in claiming their interpretation is Catholicism.
That is part of what is wrong with the church today. The other part is we ourselves, for letting them get away with it. As long as we call ourselves "laity," we concede their perception of us as "lackeys, sheep, the flock." We are the people of God, neither lay nor clergy nor hierarchy, but simply the people of God - all of us together. The Catholic church is the people of God, not just the pope and his buddies with their peculiar interpretations.
When you come right down to it, most of our theology and almost all our "official teachings" are just interpretations of whoever was claiming power at the time. We don't need power at all in a truly Catholic church. We need only the people of God, blessed with faith, hope and love - and as powerless as he was and still is, Jesus Christ.
The article in the New York Times is well worth the read, giving a glimmer into the workings of a conservative hierarchical way of thinking, which is merely an interpretation, not a dogma. While I might get the grace to die for a dogma, I doubt if I'd take the chance on an interpretation, or an opinion - not even for martyrdom and a one-way ticket all the way to heaven.