Revelations of Cardinal Cody's secretive ways with the dollar come when two of his brother bishops are taking brave and lonely stands of conscience that deserve double the attention the Chicago prelate has drawn to himself. They are Archbishop Raymond G. Hunthausen of Seattle and Bishop Leroy T. Matthiesen of Amarillo, Tex.
Both bishops are opposed to nuclear armament. It is a stance that puts them in obedience with Pope John Paul II who called out at the Hiroshima memorial in Japan, "Do not kill! Do not prepare destruction and extermination for men."
It places them in disobedience to the state. The budget for nuclear weapons rises as ominously as horror about the effects of a nuclear war fades. In a dialogue reported in The Los Angeles Times, Sen. Claiborne Pell (D-R.I.) asked Eugene Rostow of the Reagan administration: "In the event of nuclear exchange between the Soviet Union and the United States, do you envision either country surviving?" Rostow answered: "The human race is very resilient, Sen. Pell." The newspaper reported an earlier Rostow contribution to the armament debate: "We are living in a pre-war and not a post- war world."
Neither Hunthausen nor Matthiesen doubts it. The Seattle bishop asked his people to think about refusing to pay half their federal income taxes as a way of protesting the arms buildup: "We have to refuse to give our incense--in our day, tax dollars--to the nuclear idol. I think the teachings of Jesus tell us to render to a nuclear-arms Caesar what that Caesar deserves--tax resistance."
In Texas, Bishop Matthiesen, the son of a poor cotton farmer and a priest for 35 years, called on the workers at a neutron bomb assembly plant near Amarillo "to consider the implications of what they are doing." The bishop told an interviewer: "My counsel would be that they need to seek new jobs or something that they could do which would contribute to life rather than destroy it."
Both bishops are owed large amounts of praise. They have made specific what others in the peace movement are content to keep general.
In Seattle, the bishop is saying that it is time to go beyond mere sermonizing against the Reagan campaign to seek "nuclear superiority." Deeper, what is accomplished by praying for peace while paying for weapons?
In Amarillo, the bishop is arguing that individuals can't build peace by building bombs.
The source of these messages is as startling as the bluntness. These are centrists, not cutting-edge leaders like Daniel Berrigan or William Sloane Coffin. Hunthausen was once a college president in Montana. Matthiesen performed routine parish duties for much of his 35 years in west Texas.
Even now, they are not as radical as they might be. They are calling their flocks to reflection, not mass action. Hunthausen suggests a withholding of half of the taxes due, even though, as experienced tax resisters state, the military can still get its share from the remaining 50 percent. Matthiesen issued no orders to quit, only suggestions to think.
But these are examples of worthy peacemaking nevertheless. The bishops seek to de-radicalize what is radical. They are putting the church closer to where it should be: at risk. Hunthausen challenges the power of the state, Matthiesen of the corporate arms-maker.
They are saying, too, that the nuclear war debate should not be limited to discussions among strategists and politicians, as though a weapon is morally sound if it is cost-effective, sufficiently lethal and provides jobs in the state of a powerful senator or two.
Will other church leaders follow, and thereby give still greater legitimacy to these valuable protests? We'll know more as time passes, but for now the Reagan administration is doing all it can to turn the bishops into activists. It seeks to replace faith in the God of peace with Eugene Rostow's faith in the resilience of the human race--a faith that believes a hundred million or so people killed in a nuclear war won't set us back all that much.
Asked to believe that, the word from Seattle and Amarillo is that our salvation lies in a wave of infidelity.