Douthat responds to Dreher's point that the vast number of dioceses around the world forces the Vatican "to be able to trust local bishops to do the right thing."

Except that the events of recent decades indicate that the pope can’t trust them not least because if and when local bishops foul up, the Vatican will inevitably be held responsible (by the media, and perhaps eventually even by the courts) for their crimes and blunders. Thus the great irony of the sex abuse scandal: It’s damaged Rome’s moral credibility immeasurably, but at the same time it’s leading to a Catholic future in which the Vatican actually expands its control over church administration.

Ross extends the conundrum to the body politic in the US:

[I]s real decentralization sustainable, given the centripetal forces of mass culture, mass media and mass politics?

Once you’ve established that administration can be centralized, won’t any cascade of local blunders eventually get pinned, whether by the press or the public or the legal system, on some more central authority … which in turn will try to consolidate or re-consolidate its power, on the theory that if you’re going to get the blame, you might as well have the authority as well? And doesn’t this mean that any bold attempt at decentralization will only last until the next crisis the next Hurricane Katrina, the next financial collapse, the next sex abuse scandal?

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