Tag: Lumen Gentium

Humpty Dumpty Had A Great Fall…

I’m not sure why, but as I was thinking about a title for this commentary, one of my childhood nursery rhymes Humpty Dumpty popped into my head. It was almost as if I were having a mystical experience. But why Humpty Dumpty I thought? What does he have to do with despair or hopelessness for reform in the Church? Then I remembered as kindergartener I could never figure out why Humpty fell off the wall in the first place. Did someone push him or was it his own fault that he fell, and why couldn’t they ever put him together again?

Then in my adult mind it dawned on me, perhaps Humpty Dumpty is an analogy for the situation the Church is in. There are many who believe the church is at a breaking point or already has “had a great fall” and can’t be put together again. An increasing number of us no longer have the energy to “fight the good fight”, and are ready to admit defeat, and move on. The question is, can Humpty Dumpty be put together again? This commentary will consider whether the hopefulness for renewal in the Church that I covered in my last commentary, makes me a Cockeyed Optimist, like the song in the Broadway musical, by Rodgers and Hammerstein, South Pacific. Or is it time to join the increasing numbers of what Tom Roberts calls ‘had it’ s? [LINK].

SOURCES OF HOPELESSNESS

I believe that many of the reasons for our hopelessness for reform can be traced to actions or inactions of the hierarchy. Since there are so many examples of our leaders stonewalling adult dialogue, and examples of their own misbehaviors, I decided to limit the sources of hopelessness to a few fairly recent sources.

I’ve been reading Brian Lennon S.J.’s book published in 2012; Can I Stay in the Church?, with the hope that it would provide new information for how we decide our standing in the Church. Here’s a website, Building a Church without Walls, [LINK] with information about his book and links to other articles that he’s written, as well as links to articles by the website’s editor. Lennon clearly identifies the most logical reasons for leaving the church, and seems to be incensed by the behaviors of our church leaders. He asks the question, “So why do I choose to remain in the church?” I don’t mean to spoil the suspense but, his final decision is to remain in the church. I respect his decision, but I was surprised in the way he arrived at it. Lennon replays all the scandals over the centuries, from slavery which was “…imposed in the Third Lateran Council of 1179 on those helping the Saracens.” [LINK] to the crusades in the 11th and 12th centuries, to the Spanish Inquisition in the 15th century, up to the scandals of present time. When you come right down to it, I believe that he uses all the past scandals to confirm his thesis that eventually, the Holy Spirit will intervene and the church will bounces back magically from the current discontent, as it has in the past, but that change might take decades or more.

To me, it reminds me of playing baseball in grammar school, before we came up to bat we’d pray, “Hail Mary full of grace, let me get to second base” and expected divine intervention. I don’t mean to dismiss the Holy Spirit or prayer, but Lennon is basically making the argument, that because other incidents of malfeasance by our leaders have eventually been resolved, or faded from our memories, that’s the way the Holy Spirit works. It just doesn’t fit with my understanding of outside intervention by the Holy Spirit.

Episcopal John Shelby Spong wrote an essay recently that I believe is an example of why the majority of the catholic laity doesn’t buy the church’s position on same sex marriage. The title of the essay is, You Are Profoundly Wrong: A Response to the Archbishop of Newark and Others.[LINK] Spong answers a lengthy article by Archbishop John J. Meyers, When Two Become One: A Pastoral Teaching on the Definition, Purpose and Sanctity of Marriage. [LINK]

He starts his essay in a very civil fashion by acknowledging that he has no reason to believe that Meyers is not a good and sincere person but, he advises the Archbishop that “…one has a responsibility to be well-informed on the issues about which one speaks.” He suggests that it is not acceptable to just quote the authority of the of one’s church to support ideas or “…to quote traditional religious conclusions, as if they are viable or still acceptable in academic and intellectual circles.”

If you look at the references at the end of Meyers’ article you’ll see that most of them are quotes from the Catechism of the Church or what popes or early fathers of the church had to say. It’s like me quoting something from an article I wrote years ago, to prove a point on a current issue. This doesn’t make any sense, unless you’re in the type of denial [LINK] that can make an otherwise intelligent individual behave in an unintelligent manner, because they are too threatened by the Truth, and are unable to process what is perfectly apparent to most people. Spong goes on to “…try to unravel this maze of incoherent conclusions.” The article is well worth reading if for no other reason, to see how a contemporary scholar responds to a clergyman stuck in the past, whose mission is to impose the teaching of the church on the consciences of others, in this case sane sex marriages. Thus, denying us the primacy of our conscience.

THE BISHOPS’ POLITICAL CAMPAIGN

This reference is hot off the press. It’s a response from Americans United for the Separation of Church and Stateto President Obama’s re-election on November 6, 2012. The title of the article, Election Outcome is Bitter Defeat for s and [LINK] is essentially a response to the s and their religious fundamentalist allies’ attempt

to control the outcome of the election. Many of us believed that the bishops’ casuistic strategies in their campaign to defeat the Obama administration, was an abuse of the power of the political pulpit. Attacks by some bishops and other clerics were blatant assaults on the President (like comparing him and his administration to the Nazis and worse). When the bishops were criticized publically, they tempered their rhetoric. They prefaced their statement by assuring their readers that they weren’t telling the faithful whom to vote for, but if you vote for a politian who supports legislation in favor of contraception or abortion etc., you are putting your immortal soul in jeopardy of eternal damnation. I questioned their approach in several commentaries on the website, one was entitled Obama vs. Dolan, [LINK] challenges the way the bishops abused the church’s tax exempt status to surreptitiously promote the election of political candidates who didn’t agree with their positions.

HANS KUNG HAS HAD IT!

Since the day that spent a pleasant four hours at Castel Gandolfo in 2005 with his former colleague, and newly minted Pope Benedict XVI, Kung has reassessed his optimism for Benedict’s papacy several times. I remember when Kung came to Phoenix for a lecture about two weeks after his meeting with the pope, and I had the pleasure of having an “intimate dinner” with him along with a group of 30 or 40 members of the Jesuit Alumni Association of Arizona. He told us “privately” that he had decided to talk about things that both he and the pope agreed on to avoid any awkwardness. His immediate response after their meeting was that they had a cordial reunion talking about old times and issues they agreed on, and he was “cautiously optimistic”.

Fast forward to 2009 when Kung called for a Third Council, and listed a number of issues that had not even been discussed at II. [LINK] At the same time he recognized that “…another global council would not happen because the was afraid…and was trying to restore the pre- II church…”

Kung’s next major announcement was a five page, single spaced letter addressed to all the Venerable s. [LINK] He first apologized for the open letter format, and adds that “…unfortunately I have no other way of reaching you.” After expressing how his hopes for the pope’s papacy along with “… so many engaged catholic men and women have been unfulfilled…”, he spends over a page pointing out the missed opportunities for rapprochement with every religious group that Benedict has estranged. He particularly highlights the Jews, when he “… reintroduced into the liturgy a pre-conciliar prayer for the enlightenment of the Jews…and the Muslins in his 2006 Regensburg lecture…(when he) caricatured Islam as a religion of violence and inhumanity…”

Kung gives his assessment of what he thinks were serious faux pas on the pope’s part, like promoting the medieval Tridentine Mass, and reinforcing the anti-conciliar forces in the church by his curial appointments. He goes on to discuss some major crises that were poorly handled by the pope. At the top of his list “…comes a scandal crying out to heaven-the revelation of the clerical abuse of thousands of children and adolescents …and to make matters worse, the handling of these cases given rise to an unprecedented collapse of trust in church leadership.” He concluded the letter with six proposals for the bishops to consider.

I’m not sure if any of the Venerable s personally responded to Kung’s letter but the responded on the front page of its official newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, under the headline, Dear Hans, followed by a bit of tactless sarcasm from the author, Pier Giordano Cabra. [LINK] He told Kung that “…perhaps if your letter had breathed a bit more of the hymn to charity, it would have turned out to be a more elegantly evangelical gesture of congratulations” for Benedict’s 83rd birthday and fifth anniversary as pope, as well as “a more fruitful contribution to the church that is suffering for the weakness of her sons.” The weakness of her sons, indeed!

“Comes the revolution!” On October 5, 2012 an article appeared in The Guardian entitled, Theologian Preaches Revolution to end Church’s ‘Authoritarian Rule’. [LINK] Guess who the theologian was? You got that right! Apparently Fr. Kung’s letter to the bishops and all his previous strategies of reform, revival, or renewal didn’t have the effect on the that he hoped for, and he proposes a new strategy, revolution. He’s following an old dictum “If the strategy you’re using is working do more of it, if it’s not working, do something different.” This was not the first time Kung mentioned a more aggressive approach for change in the church, for example, the comprehensive transcript of an interview by Anthony Padovano presented at the meeting in Detroit of the American Council [LINK], and an article in Der Spiegel [LINK] entitled the Putinization of the Church, both in 2011. It’s apparent in reading these articles that Kung was getting more and more impatient with the hierarchy, not only for their digging their heals in, but if push comes to shove, they would take a laissez faire position and settle for a much smaller church.

THE SYNOD AND THE ‘NEW EVANGELIZIATION’, MORE DISAPPOINTMENTS!

The title of an article in the News Service on October 26, was Faith in Jesus Means Being Optimistic about the Future, Synod Message Says. [LINK] I’m sorry, I have faith in Jesus, but I don’t have the same faith in the 260 cardinals, bishops, and priests who attended the synod. Unlike the optimism that the documents of II inspired in many of us fifty years ago, I found the end results of the synod disappointing. Although the New Evangelization at times seems like talking points prepared by a Madison Ave. PR agency, there are some encouraging words. For example, an article entitled, Message of the Synod: Look with ‘Serene Courage’ to the Future of Evangelization, [LINK] is mostly positive. They point out issues of families, poverty, the importance of parishes, need for dialogue and how they “…want our communities to harness and not suppress, the power of their enthusiasm.” They talk about dialogue, dialogue, dialogue! [LINK] But given their recent history dialogues is not their best suit. We need actions not just words. The bishops know how to “talk the talk, but not how to walk the walk” as they say in the twelve step programs. I’d be more hopeful if they had added a sentence with a touch of humility, something like, “Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa, we realize we haven’t always been open to dialogue, nor have we been consistent in being transparent, but we promise to be more transparent and committed to dialogue in the future.”

They reflect on II as, “the great Council of the Church”, which proclaimed the need for the faith to be communicated anew to the modern world.” This doesn’t match their recent rhetoric and actions. They acknowledge , for setting “…the groundwork…by laying out the Church’s mission; Gaudium et Spes, in which the Church dedicated herself to “dialogue,…changes in the social order and shifts in attitudes to morality and religion….”; Ad Gentes tell us the how of evangelization…” etc.

Much of text in The New Evangelization’s document reminds me of a song that Frank Sinatra sang in the early 1940ies, I’ve Heard that Song Before. Some of you might remember, the first line: “It seems to me I’ve heard that song before, It’s from an old familiar score, I know it well, that melody.”Now don’t get me wrong, I love nostalgia and I believethat some of the content of the New Evangelization can be helpful, but not as it’s presented in the synod documents, where they don’t mention the faithful having any role in the governance of the church. They are clear that our role is to evangelize, to spread the faith, “not that there’s anything wrong with that”, but they apparently plan to continue to dictate to the faithful what they must believe, without listening to what the sensus fidelium has to contribute to their decisions.

DECISIONS, DECISIONS, DECISIONS

In the space available for this commentary and my last one in , Hope Springs Eternal …, [LINK] I’ve provided examples to help balance the pros and cons for whether to remain, leave, or take a sabbatical from the Roman Church. But, I don’t think it’s enough for us to just add up the pluses and minuses to make a decision. I wish it were as simple as it is for someone like Bill Donahue, “…the chronically peeved president of the League…” as Bill Keller referred to him in an article in the New York Times, The Rottweiler’s Rottweiler. [LINK] In Donohue’s new book Why ism Matters, his characteristic response to someone who disagrees with the church’s teaching, on say gay marriages, would be, Shut up or go! Would that it were so unequivocal!

I think the major reason why it so difficult for many of us to buy into Donohue’s shut up or go philosophy, is that the decision to leave the church is not just a black and white cognitive decision. It involves emotions that we might have struggled with for years. Looking back on my , there have been a number of occasions when I had to make a decision to stay or leave. I remember how I agonized about leaving the active ministry. It took me at least five years before I wrote Pope Paul VI a letter requesting a dispensation (It took him two years to answer me). Then there was the dilemma of my divorce. In some ways leaving the church is similar to getting a divorce. My personal experience of getting divorced, and my professional experience as a therapist, where I counseled couples and families through their divorces, and gave workshops on divorce recovery, supplied me with ample anecdotal and empirical information of just how heartrending it can be. Leaving the church, despite its many moral weaknesses, is not an event as much as it is a process. No matter how much reflection, how much support, how much praying we do, when push comes to shove, only the individual can make that decision, we are the deciders; not the pope, not our bishop, not our confessor, not our parents, only we can make that decision. But that’s a whole other commentary.

As I’ve said a number of times, I believe change in the institution of the church has to come from the bottom up. I don’t belong to the same Roman Church of my youth. I don’t kowtow to Rome or its minions. I follow the mantra of “Keep the Faith, but question the beliefs”, and have eliminated those beliefs that no longer make any sense to me. I intend to continue to be part of those lay movements that are working from inside the church for change, as I have for years. Will all the changes I’d like to see, happen in my time? I doubt it! In the meantime unless they kick me out of the community, I don’t plan to change religions. Living in a retirement community, where the good Holy Cross fathers preside at the liturgy every Sunday, meets my need for a sense of being part of a spiritual community. But I am open to the sharing responsibilities for the disenfranchised with other spiritual and religious communities.

So, as a former professor of mine used to say, “We shall see what we shall see!” 

The Hope Which Springs Eternal Within the Human Breast

The title for this posting was stolen (like in baseball) from a classic I memorized in grammar school, at the Bat [LINK] by Ernest Lawrence Thayer. He in turn stole (like in plagiarism) the line from an essay On Man by Alexander Pope. Just in case you can’t remember the , or sadly never heard of Mighty , here is a brief summary. The baseball fans of Mudville, who were watching their team lose that day, were divided into two groups, the “struggling few (who) got up to go leaving there the rest” and the loyal fans who stayed because of their belief in the “hope that springs eternal within the human breast”; and they were counting on Mighty to whack out a homerun and win the day for the Mudville Nine. If you want to know the outcome of the game, click on the link above.

It seems to me that in some ways, many of us are waiting for “a Mighty like” person or movement to fulfill the hope that II inspired for s in the . If we’re one of those, I think we need to listen to the wise sage Pogo, who said in a 1971 cartoon, “We have met the enemy and it is US![LINK]  Pogo’s statement has become a universal truth that applies to most organizations, including the . Like many others, I believe that the laity is the key to change.  Having aired our grievances, and recognized that we are part of the problem, we need to keep hope alive. We all need to become change agents and not just “leave it up to George”. This commentary will focus on those who believe that “hope springs eternal…”, and are willing and able to follow Pogo’s challenge to be part of the solution. In my next blog I will focus on sources of hopelessness.

SOURCES of HOPE

“Every area of trouble gives out a ray of hope; and the one unchangeable certainty is that nothing is certain or unchangeable.” John Fitzgerald Kennedy

I don’t intend to use “hope” in the biblical or theological sense, as in Faith, and , but in a more everyday way, as in “ is the belief in what is possible and the expectation of things to come.”  Or as St. Augustine of Hippo described it, “ has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.”  Or if we think of hope as a movement, the Chinese author and Guru Lin Yutang described it as, is like a road in the country; there was never a road, but when many people walk on it, the road comes into existence.

I realize that these “bumper sticker” type quotations might seem Pollyannaish, especially when we apply them to the . So, I’d first like to suggest a prototype of person who as a cardinal, had all the characteristic and values for providing a hopeful vision for leading the  forward, while at the same time would not throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water.

In my last commentary in a, [LINK]I included several references to Cardinal Carlo Martini’s death in which the articles mentioned examples of his progressive observations and  convictions that the cardinal had about what the needed to do to  become relevant in the 21st century.  The September 8, issue of The Tablet: The International Weekly had several post mortem articles under the overall title Cardinal Carlo Martini Remembered. The lead article on page 2, Prophet for Our Times [LINK]  acknowledges some of the many contributions Cardinal Martini made to the , and suggests how different the might be now if he had succeeded Pope John Paul II.

The article also serves as an introduction to his last interview two weeks before he died, entitled, The Pope and Bishops Should Find 12 Unconventional People to Take on Leadership Roles (notice the title specifies people not clerics).That interview describes “…a papacy that never was, but might have been.”  The interview is on pages 8 and 9 on the link immediately above. Additionally, in an article entitled Never Afraid on pages 6 and 7 under the same link, Cardinal Martini is remembered as “…the torch-bearer of liberal ism”. I particularly appreciated the author’s describing Martini’s primary role as bishop being “a pastor of souls” rather than being limited “to that of ecclesiastical authority”We are getting closer to a conclave to elect a new pope. fully the next pope to sit in the chair of Peter will be someone like Cardinal Martini. If that were to happen, I think the hopes we had for II, and even beyond, could become a reality not just a dream.

Another source of hope for me was the celebration of the 50ieth Anniversary of the Second Council’s opening session. I’ve been encouraged by the many positive reactions to the celebration of that historical event.  There have been a number of article that I’ve read in the past several months that I found hopeful,without ignoringwhat remains to be done, nor hesitating to point out how much of what we hoped for and thought would be accomplished had been sabotaged by the Curia, Pope John Paul II, and his handpicked successor. For me the articles brought back some of the same excitement and hope that I had as a newly ordained priest when I first heard about Pope John XXIII’s plans for the Council. In the words of the renowned philosopher, Yogi Berra, “It’s like déjà-vu all over again”.

One concept that was reinforced by several of the anniversary articles was collegiality, the fact that we are stakeholders in the .You know that, and I know that, but the people in charge still don’t seem to “get it”.  We’re all familiar with the sensus fidelium (the mind of the people). The term stakeholder is perhaps more in touch with current corporate lingo.  It wasn’t around when sensus fidelium was first used by the early fathers of the , but it’sexactly what collegiality is in current corporate lingo. As members of the People of God, we are stakeholders, and this is one of the issues that remain to be resolved in accord with the Dogmatic Constitution of the Church, Lumen Gentium, promulgated by Pope Paul VI, November21, 1964.

Chapter 3 of Lumen Gentium is where collegiality is spelled out. [LINK] In an article by John Wilkins in Commonweal, p.16 in its October 2012 edition, the author describes the “fierce and protracted” debate between the minority of the conservative bishops, and their progressive opponents had over collegiality. Basically, the conservatives were concerned that if they budged an inch on collegiality, the ’s teaching on infallibility, defined by I in 1870 would be in jeopardy. The argument was between those who saw collegiality as community and those who saw it as a pyramid, with the “…pope at the apex.” In Roman Law a college (like in the College of Cardinals)  is an association of equals, a concept that the traditionalists could not reconcile with a monarchial papacy.” [1] Although the progressives won in the end, in reality the “community” structure, as envisioned by Lumen Gentium was never operationalized, thanks to the long reigns of John Paul II and the present pope’s obsession with tradition.(See Jeff Mirus’ article Benedict’s Hermeneutic of Continuity).[LINK]I believe that the concept of collegiality is a priority for change and needs to be implemented according to the original promulgation of II.

As stakeholders there are a number of change organizations that are available for us to join if we want to participate in taking our back and beyond II. I suspect that most of you are familiar with the major lay organization in your own countries and around the world, so I’ll put their websites along with additional articles, at the end of this posting, so you can refresh your memories if you think it’s necessary. What all the lay organizations need is more of us stakeholders to join them in their missions.

A NEW GOVERNANCE MODEL

Besides the older lay organizations’ contributions, I see a source of hope in a lay group that was established in 2005, the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Governance (NLRCG). If you check their website [LINK] you’ll see a completely different type of organization with strong ties to the US Conference of Bishops (USCCB), with a membership that includes key lay leaders from organizations across the country. The “Target membership is approximately 225 individuals who are top leaders and key experts from the worlds of business, civic life, professional associations, foundations, universities, healthcare systems, vibrant parishes, and other organizations.” The board of directors is made up of seven lay women, seven laymen, and three clergymen. The Executive Director is a lay woman. I was very impressed with the credentials the members have and what they’ve accomplished in a short time. If you check their website, their annual reports for the last few years, along with their mission, strategic plans etc. are available.

One of their guiding principles of NLRCG is to provide:

“…an avenue for greater incorporation of the expertise of all the faithful, especially in the areas of management, finance, and human resource development. By virtue of baptism, lay people have not only the right but also the duty to offer their gifts and talents in service of the . See: Christifideles Laici – Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation on The Vocation and The Mission of the Lay Faithful in the Church and in the World, 1988, 29 and Code of Canon Law, Canon 222.1, 1983.

NLRCG’s goal is to build “… a Church that is stronger in areas of management, finance and human resources and more fully utilizes the talents and skills of the laity.” Their recommendations are presented to the USCCB and, as stated in an article in America, they become a, Blue Print for Change [LINK], “…a roadmap for strengthening the organizational, financial, and managerial structures of the at three levels: national, diocesan, and parish.”

Given the fact that, “…the Church in the United States, with its more than one million employees and operating budget of nearly $100 billion, is comparable in size and scope to some of the nation’s largest corporations…” having management experts guide the bishops seems like an excellent idea. Especially, since most bishops do not have any professional credentials or experience in managing what is essentially a position for a CEO of a large “corporation”.  At the very least it should promote a new transparency in the , and strengthens the role of the laity in at least the governance of the , and give them a foot in the door for being included in decisions on the ’s teachings.  I believe that the clergy sexual abuse of children, would never have reached the proportions it did if the “managers”, i.e. bishops, were not able to cover up for the perpetrators. In the words of James Muller, “With lay people involved in the decision making, certainly no priest who had abused a child would have been transferred to another parish…parents would never have permitted it.”

To me, the fact that there is such an organization as NLRCGis encouraging. I often wondered how we could expect men with degrees in theology, canon law orscripture to have the knowledge that’s required to be a “CEO” in a “corporation” as large as a diocese.

SELECTING OUR BISHOPS

Here’s a major issue that NLRCG has already recommended to the bishops, “… improvements in the process by which bishops are selected. While recognizing the primacy of the Holy See, it suggested the process for choosing bishops be supplemented with help of human resource professionals…” The election of bishops is one of the goals that most of the lay groups have been advocating for years. Here’s an interesting paradox: despite the fact that the hierarchy usually invokes tradition and teachings of the fathers of the as their rationale for their doctrinal positions, yet when it comes to the selection of bishops, the fact that bishops were chosen in the early centuries of the by the laity, doesn’t register with them.

In his book, Electing Our Bishops: How the Church Should Choose It’s Leaders, Joseph F. O’Callaghan, points out that “The terrible moral failure of the American Bishops in handling the crisis of priestly sexual abuse has focused intense attention on the office of the bishop.” [2] He believes that bishops are often perceived as branch managers or subordinates to the pope in their own dioceses, with administrative responsibilities over subdivisions of multinational corporations with their headquarters in Rome. This goes back to our conversation on collegiality.

I also recommend Robert Mc Clory’s book, As it Was in the Beginning: The Coming Democratization of the Church. As the title suggests, the author goes back to the beginning of the early , which obviously not like the present , and shows what needs to reclaimed and rejuvenated. He makes a good case for laypeople: having a sanctioned place at the table, along with the clergy; provides many historical examples of laity playing significant roles in assisting the institutional in adapting to the 20ieth and 21st centuries. His answer to the question “is anyone listening?“, often asked about the hierarchies’ negative responses to the “…energy expended by all these groups…”,  is very positive. He lists a number of achievements that he sees as hopeful signs, and in his final chapter “The Vision Presses on to Fulfillment”, he provides a number of scenarios for the Coming Democratization of the Church.

WHERE SELDOM IS HEARD A DISCOURAING WORD…

As an octogenarian and card carrying member of several catholic organizations whose foci are on in the , I obviously don’t have the same energy that I had fifty years ago, and my involvements with these groups ain’t what it used to be: no more driving at night to meetings, no more taking leadership positions, no more demonstrations, no more lectures, but thanks to the modern technology I can still actively participate on-line. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t get a half a dozen petitions to sign, or “change causes” to support. Thankfully, I am still able to take advantage of connecting with the virtual world out there in cyberspace with my computer. To paraphrase Descartes, “Scripto ergo sum” (I write therefore I am).  What I’m suggesting is we don’t have to sit on the sidelines if we still have a glimmer of hope.

In my next blog, I will consider the other side of hope, the hopelessness that the hierarchy “will never get it” despite all our efforts to the .

END NOTES

1) Wilkins, J. (2012) “Bishops or Branch Managers?” Commonweal, October 12, p.18.

2) O’Callaghan, J.F., (2007). Electing our Bishops: How the Church Should Choose Its Leaders. New York: Sheedp. 3.

ADDITIONAL REFERENCES

The Second Vatican Council has Already Made Us FreeArticle by Robert Blair Kaiser, National Reporter,  August 7, 2012.

Opening the Church to the World Op-ed, New York Times, by John W. O’Malley, S.,J., October 10, 2012,

The Promise of Vatican II to the People of God National Reporter, Editorial, October 11, 2012

The Bigest Meeting in History Feature Article on II, The Tablet, October 6, 2012, by Hilmar Pabel.

Map for the Journey of Faith From the Editor’s Desk, The Tablet, October 6, 2012.

Catholicism at the Cross RoadsReview of Paul Lakeland’s book, by Frank Dechant, Future Church.

LINKS AND RESOURCES

The Hierarchy and the Lowerarchy

In Obedience to Authority and Loyal Dissent I indicated that in my next posting, I would share my viewpoint on how the governing structure of the Church has been dysfunctional and how that affects the People of God.  Briefly, my fundamental belief is that the majority of the problems the Church has experienced both pre and post, II, are rooted in its ancient and absolute monarchial governance.  As a first step, the very least the hierarchy needs to consider is a bona fide agreement  to acknowledge and operationalize the sensus fidelium’s (the sense or mind of the faithful) lawful right to participate in decisions on faith and morals. This needs to be a sine qua non, otherwise there will be little chance for or renewal, accept as the sensus fidelium is defined by the .

In this commentary I will provide background information on the legitimacy of the sensus fidelium;  and of how the hierarchy has consistently ignored the mind of the people; and how an egalitarian dialogue is an essential component for change. I will also provide information on a promising document approved by the ’s International Theological Commission, which supports the role of the faithful; plus statements by high ranking members of the hierarchy who don’t go along with the party line.

EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN

Long before the Arab Spring and movements were launched, faithful layfolks had established a number of organizations whose purposes were to assist in changing controversial and divisive positions of the church. Their efforts have been met with varying degrees of success, which I will expand on later. But for the most part, although these groups have clear goals and appropriate plans of action, they have been stonewalled by the hierarchy when it comes to the Church even considering a change in its structure of governance; or even seriously accepting the input of the lowerarchy.

Over the years there have been various interpretations of sensus fidelium.. They range from the degrading declaration that Pius X made in his encyclical Vehementer Nos in 1906, in which he stated “The duty of the laity is to allow themselves to be led, and like a docile flock to follow their pastors.” (Every time I read that quotation, I think, and he was infallible?) Contrast Pius X’s prose with the more magnanimous message of Saint John Henry Newman in his article On Consulting the ful in Matters of Doctrine:

“Consulting the people is not to be regarded as just a friendly gesture on the part of the pope or bishops. Consultation is something the laity has a right to expect. Their view may serve at times as a needed witness of the truth of a revealed doctrine.”

More recently,  Lumen Gentium, Chapter II, On the People of God one of II’s most important affirmative documents, declared that the charisma, of the Holy Spirit are available to all the faithful “of every rank”.  To put this in economic language, “the hierarchy doesn’t have the corner on the market on doctrine.” Referring to Jesus, Lumen Gentium, sections 40, 41 states:

“He does this not only through the hierarchy who teach in His name and with His authority, but also through the laity whom He made His witnesses and to whom He gave understanding of the faith [sensus fidei] and an attractiveness in speech so that the power of the Gospel might shine forth in their daily social and family life.”

An even more contemporary study is one approved  by the ’s International Theological Commission and was reviewed in America Magazine’s April 2, 2012 issue entitled Commission Text Holds Surprises on the Role of the Faithful. The title of the Commission’s study is Theology Today: Perspective, Principles, and Criteria. America describes the study as, representing “…a forward looking consensus view, in this case it’s about the role of theology in the life of the Church.”

The study declares, “Attention to the sensus fidelium is a criterion for theology. Theology should strive to discover and articulate accurately what the faithful actually believe.” The is a conviction “…deeply rooted in the people of God, who receive, understand, and live the Word of God in the Church.” The study goes on to describe how the body of the faithful, especially the laity and lay theologians are part of “…the interface between the Gospel and everyday life and have a role to play in the church’s interpretation of the signs of the times.”  For those who are interested in learning more about the report, here is a complete copy of Theology Today: Perspectives, Principles and Criteria  approved by the whole Commission on November 2011 and released with the approval of Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the .

I believe the Commission has chartered a vision of the Church of the 3rd Millennium.  Whether it will be embraced is questionable. As the America article points out, despite the fact, that Pope Benedict XVI strongly emphasizes the eternalness of the Apostolic Tradition, “…the affirmation (in Theology Today) of historicity is a daring move.” It goes on to assert that the Commission boldly asserts, “The council’s uses of the expression ‘signs of the times’ shows that it fully recognizes not only the historicity of the world but also of the Church.”

At the risk of over-dramatizing the Commission’s position, I believe it echoes President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, which I would like to paraphrase:

…and that this Church, under God, shall have a new birth of freedomand that governance of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Perhaps I seem a little too optimistic about the power of the Commission’s report! But I do have my doubts. Even as I was writing this section, I began to wonder if the rest of the and the bishops had even read Theology Today, and if they had read it, did they just file it in their “circular file”? What made me wonder are some of the recent responses to the faithful,  by the bishops. They still seemed dismissive of the sensus fidelium.

The bishops’ responses to suggestions for an adult dialogue, is not a new position. It seems their mind-set remains, “Let us sit down and discuss this issue together, but in the end, we’ll do it our way.” Even though the old “my way or the highway” approach, doesn’t work, they refuse to change their tune. It’s analogous to the definition of insanity that’s attributed to Albert Einstein, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.”    It’s their position of tradition!  They remind me of Tevye and Golde, in the musical Fiddler on the Roof,singing the opening song “Tradition”, when they bemoan the reality that their daughters aren’t going to submit to the age old tradition of husbands being chosen by a Matchmaker. Like Tevye and Golde, the bishops are living in a world that no longer exists; a world where almost everyone thought that the earth was the center of the universe and, was created in six days. They don’t seem to have the same vision of the sensus fidelium that the Commission expressed. Underlying the mind-set of the bishops is their belief that they, and they alone as successors to the apostles make the rules and everyone else should sheepishly follow their shepherds.  Or, as I’ve heard repeatedly in reference to the hierarchy, especially in the case of the sexual abuse of children by priests, “They just don’t get it!”

The most blatant example of the difference between the Theology Today’s document and the hierarchy, was Pope Paul VI’s so called contraception encyclical Humanae Vitae, when the pope trumped the decision of his Commission, and banned “artificial”  contraception. For details see my commentary in ,Humanae Vitae: The Turning Point for the Catholic Church, which traces the history of birth control and raises the question of whether the encyclical was about, sex and contraception, or Papal authority and the inability of the hierarchy to admit the teaching in Pius XI’s encyclical Casti Connubiion Christian Marriage, needed to be revised. The decision that was made definitely doesn’t fit with the Commission in Today’s Theology’s”signs of the times”. Nor does it agree with the sensus fidelium.  As we know, thousands of people left the church or if they remained, they continued to practice some type of artificial contraception. But Paul VI was the decider!  Ipse dixit!  Literal translation “he himself has said it” or, the definition from Webster-Merriam, “something alleged: something asserted dogmatically and without proof”.

Here’s a voice with much more authority than I have, who disagrees with Paul VI’s decision.  It’s an article entitled Cardinal Martini’s Jesus Would Never Have Written  “Humanae Vitae” by Sandro Magister that speaks for itself. I also think that Cardinal Martini’s assessment is in harmony with Theology Today.

There are many other examples since then that illustrate the difference between the spirit of Today’s Theology and how the hierarchy responds to the faithful when they try to exercise their legitimate role as part of the sensus fidelium, but I’ll mention just one recent example.

THE NUNS AND the HIERARHY, DIALOGUE WITH THE DEAD?

One of the most publicized examples is the current conflict between the Nuns and the hierarchy over the rights of the “lowerarchy” to a bona fide dialogue as faithful members of the People of God. Many of the Nuns’ backers believe that the focus is the manner in which the and the bishops are mismanaging the current conflict with the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).  Here are several situations that I believe are typical of the way that the bishops’ idea of dialogue does not conform with the sense of “signs of the times” as expressed in the ’s own document, Theology Today.

To give the hierarchy the benefit of the doubt, perhaps the problem is that both sides have different understanding or misunderstanding of the word dialogue.  To me dialogue and compromise suggest that both parties are on an equal level. One definition of an egalitarian dialogue is one “… in which contributions are considered according to the validity of their reasoning, instead of according to the status or position of power of those who make them.”  As I read John L. Allen Jr’s interview with Cardinal Levada on his view of the LCWR, it became crystal clear to me that his Eminence’s view of dialogue was not the same as the Nuns’ or mine.  I guess if you’re His Eminence, it’s not possible to imagine the Sisters to be at your same echelon. It certainly didn’t sound that way in the interview. The Cardinal’s responses made me think of Martin Buber’s classic book, I and Thou.  Buber basically contrasted I and Thou with I and It. His Eminence does not believe that the Nuns are worth of an I and Thou relationship because that “…is a relationship of mutuality and reciprocity.” The Nuns only merit an I and It relationship because it is “… a relationship of separateness and detachment.” Here is a YouTube Presentation of Martin Buber’s “I and Thou. So much for the benefit of the doubt! Nevertheless, it might be helpful for all of us to keep Buber’s words in mind if we expect to have productive dialogues with one another.

Jamie Manson’s article LCWR’s Annual Meeting: Some Reflections and a Little Back Stop in the National Reporter,points out that many of the groups that have tried to transform the church’s  structures, can’t dialogue or negotiate with the hierarchy because “… the climate has become so uncompromising…”.  She quotes Sister Pat Farrell, when she was president of LCWR as saying, what the Nuns want at some point in the process is to “…be recognized and understood as equals in the church, that our form of religious life can be respected and affirmed…it might sound like just asking for dialogue is vague, but I think ultimately, one of our deepest goals is to create that kind of climate in the churchnot just for ourselves, but for the church throughout the world.”

In an article by Joshua J. Mc Elwee, Overseeing Bishop: LCWR ‘Not in Accordance with Church he makes it clear what Sister Pat Farrell was reacting to in Leonard Blair interview on the radio program, Fresh Air.  Blair is the of the diocese of Toledo, Ohio, one of three bishops appointed by the to oversee the LCWR.  Farrell asked the question on the same program a week earlier, “Can you be and have a questioning mind?” When the bishop was asked whether he or the other two bishops who are involved with the LCWR’s revision were open to dialogue, Blair replied, “…that would depend on the sisters’ definition of dialogue.”  He went on with his definition of dialogue that was not close to being an I and Thou dialogue as described by Martin Buber. It was a very legalistic response that would suggest that if your idea of dialogue is not the same as his, there’s no point in having a dialogue. You can read his response in the title of the article at the beginning of this paragraph and decide for yourself.

ADDENDUM, REQUIESCAT IN PACE

This is an article from ROME (Reuters), September 2, 2012 In Final Interview, Liberal Cardinal Says Church is 200 Years Out of Date. It reports the death of Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, the former Archbishop of Milan. He was 85. As you’ll recall I quoted him above from an earlier article where Cardinal Martini questioned Paul VI’s decision on Humanae Vitae. This current article quotes him from and interview two weeks before his death, as saying, “The Church must admit its mistakes and begin a radical change.”  Wow! I’ll drink to that! What adds weight to his opinion is the fact that he was papal candidate, once favored by progressives to succeed Blessed Pope John Paul II of happy memory.  Here are two other quotes by the Cardinal that give his vision of the future of the church.

“Our culture is aged, our churches are big and empty and the church bureaucracy rises up, our rituals and cassocks are pompous. “

The Cardinal’s final message to Pope Benedict before he died was “…to begin a shake-up of the church without delay.”

For me, Cardinal Martini offers hope for change in the church. Like Pope John XXIII, they were both harbingers of the future. Even though they were part of the hierarchy, they understood and took into consideration the hopes of the people of God, and were willing to take a stand outside of the rigid box of tradition. They were willing to acknowledge the need for urgent change. My hope is that there are many more members of the hierarchy who are willing to take courageous positions as they did. Their spirit gives new meaning to the prayer I haven’t thought of in years:

“Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.”

I will continue, in my next commentary to provide more specifics for how we, the People of God, can become part of the efforts to “renew the face of the earth and the church.”