Thursday, March 07, 2019

Saluting the Rank

In that memorable series Band of Brothers, we saw the following exchange:

If you didn't see the show or read the book on which it was based, you need to know that Major Winters and Captain Sobel have no reason to like each other. In Winters' case, there is legitimate grievance for shabby treatment at Sobel's hands when he was a lowly private in Sobel's unit. In Sobel's case, there is resentment and envy of Winters' steady and deserved promotion to a rank surpassing his own.

That's the background behind Sobel's initial dodging of his duty to salute Winters, seen here. He does so because he forgets the truth that Winters reminds him of: that the salute's message of respect is to the rank of the superior officer. It is not a commendation of the man holding the rank. (Nor is Winters demanding a demeaning gesture now that he's above Sobel on the Army's status ladder; he always carefully saluted Sobel when the latter was persecuting him earlier in the narrative).

And now to the application.

In the Catholic Church today, we're daily faced with the knowledge that some very very unworthy men now hold high rank in the hierarchy of the Church. They are doing and saying things that are contrary to the Deposit of Faith and are leading many souls astray. In short, they're not doing their duty; one could even say they are aiding and abetting the enemy. That would be The Enemy.

Those of us who excoriate such behavior are right to do so. Their brother bishops usually won't correct each other, so the laity must stand up to point out sin and error when the men who should be doing it shrink back. Otherwise sin and error win in a walkover, and I'm pretty sure God doesn't want that.

But let's make it clear that we are never unwilling to "salute the rank" at the same time. Infuriating as they are, and as much as their high rank makes their misdeeds all the worse, they have to be addressed as holders of great offices which deserve respectful address -- unless we want to go down the route of the Protestants of the 16th century, who let their outrage at clerical sin lead them to pull up the wheat with the tares.