Jim Malone a different bishop

In 1977, in Youngstown, Ohio five thousand people lost their jobs in one day. That city was the second largest producer of steel in America and Youngstown Sheet and Tube’s closure on a Black Monday  was the dramatic harbinger of rust bowls in Middle America. Steel mills began closing in record  tossing thousands of people out of work. 40,000 jobs all together disappeared crippling the local economy.

Unlike today’s bishops the Vatican ll cadre of that period  was  deeply immersed in the lives of their people. They  actually did something about it. Bishop Jim Malone cobbled an ecumenical coalition together to fight back. It was a model of inter-faith collaboration and its mantra was “the purpose of economic life is to serve the common good and the needs of people.” 

The Carter administration seeing the total agreement of all Ohio politicians agreed to pony up $100 million to buy the plants They were to be run as worker owned co-ops. For whatever reason the Carter admin pulled back the  money and the decline set in all through middle   America. The economy has never come back.

Malone was not unlike other Vatican ll bishops of the time. At 17 he had seen his dad come home in Youngstown with a broken head from a union challenge to ownership. The lessons were not lost on young Jim. As a young bishop he also breathed in the liberating fumes of Vatican ll where the Church was encouraged to  make  “the joys and the hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the men (sic) of this age… those of the followers of Christ.”

Many great bishops threw themselves into the labour struggles of their day.

Today it is another matter .There is such an absence of episcopal voices in this area as to be almost scandalous.The purview of these men appears to be limited to the confines of the church. None of these men to my knowledge has ever seen a picket line. That absence speaks volumes.

As Fr Richard McBrien stated in 2010:

If anyone wants to know why there has been so much hemorrhaging from the Catholic church in recent years (the Pew Study of U.S. religions has put the number at 3 in 10) and why there is so much demoralization among those who have thus far remained, we need look no further than the general pattern of appointments to, and promotions within, the U.S. hierarchy over the past three decades.


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