Thursday, 5 November 2015

True and False Reform in the Church - 8 principles

Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J. wrote a very interesting article about ten years ago, published in First Things.

It was essentially a review of a book written more than a decade before Vatican II by the French Dominican, Yves Congar with the title True and False Reform in the Church.

Drawing to some degree on Congar’s work, Cardinal Dulles suggested a number of principles by which reform proposals in our day might be assessed.  Below is an extract from his article:

1) According to Congar, “the great law of a Catholic reformism will be to begin with a return to the principles of Catholicism.” Vatican II, echoing his words, taught that “every renewal of the Church essentially consists in an increase of fidelity to her own calling” (UR 6).
Catholicism derives its principles from God by way of revelation. The most authoritative guidance comes from Holy Scripture understood in the light of apostolic tradition, inasmuch as this is the normative channel whereby revelation is transmitted. In his reform of the liturgy, Pius X issued a call to return to the sources (Revertimini ad fontes). Pius XII declared that speculation becomes sterile if it neglects to return continually to the sacred sources of Scripture and tradition, which contain inexhaustible treasures of truth.
2) Any reform conducted in the Catholic spirit will respect the Church’s styles of worship and pastoral life. It will be content to operate within the Church’s spiritual and devotional heritage, with due regard for her Marian piety, her devotion to the saints, her high regard for the monastic life and the vows of religion, her penitential practices, and her eucharistic worship. A truly Catholic reform will not fanatically insist on the sheer logic of an intellectual system but will take account of concrete possibilities of the situation, seeking to work within the framework of the given.

3) A genuinely Catholic reform will adhere to the fullness of Catholic doctrine, including not only the dogmatic definitions of popes and councils, but doctrines constantly and universally held as matters pertaining to the faith. In this connection cognizance will be taken of the distinction made by Vatican II between the deposit of faith and the formulations of doctrine. Because human thought and language are inevitably affected by cultural and historical factors, it may be necessary from time to time to adjust the language in which the faith has been proclaimed. Repeated in a new situation, the old formulations can often be misleading, as instanced by the examples of Baius and Jansenius in the seventeenth century. These scholars quoted Augustine to the letter but did not take account of the changed meaning of his words.
4) True reform will respect the divinely given structures of the Church, including the differences of states of life and vocations. Not all are equipped by training and office to pronounce on the compatibility of new theories and opinions with the Church’s faith. This function is, in fact, reserved to the hierarchical magisterium, though the advice of theologians and others will normally be sought.
5) A reform that is Catholic in spirit will seek to maintain communion with the whole body of the Church, and will avoid anything savoring of schism or factionalism. St. Paul speaks of anger, dissension, and party spirit as contrary to the Spirit of God (Galatians 5:20). To be Catholic is precisely to see oneself as part of a larger whole, to be inserted in the Church universal.

6) Reformers will have to exercise the virtue of patience, often accepting delays. Congar finds Luther especially lacking in this virtue. But even Luther, stubborn and unyielding though he often was, cautioned his disciple Andreas Karlstadt on the importance of proceeding slowly, so as not to offend simple believers who were unprepared for changes that were objectively warranted. Prudent reformers will recognize that they themselves stand under correction, and that their proposals, even if valid, may be premature. As Newman reminded his readers, there is such a thing as a good idea whose time has not yet come. Depending on the circumstances, Church authorities may wisely delay its acceptance until people’s imaginations become accustomed to the innovation.
7) As a negative criterion, I would suggest that a valid reform must not yield to the tendencies of our fallen nature, but must rather resist them. Under color of reform, we are sometimes tempted to promote what flatters our pride and feeds our self-interest, even though the gospel counsels humility and renunciation. Persons who have prestige, influence, and power usually want to retain and increase these; those who lack them want to acquire them. Both groups must undergo conversion.

8) For similar reasons we must be on guard against purported reforms that are aligned with the prevailing tendencies in secular society. One thinks in this connection of the enormous harm done in early modern times by nationalism in religion, a major factor contributing to the divisions of the Reformation era and to the enfeeblement of the Catholic Church during the Enlightenment. The liturgical and organizational reforms of Joseph II in Austria, the Civil Constitution on the Clergy enacted in France in 1790, the extreme liberalism of Félicité de Lamennais early in the nineteenth century, and the evolutionary religion of the Modernists at the dawn of the twentieth century ” all these movements afford examples of initiatives perfectly attuned to the spirit of their times but antithetical to the true character of Catholic Christianity.
In our day the prevailing climate of agnosticism, relativism, and subjectivism is frequently taken as having the kind of normative value that belongs by right to the word of God. We must energetically oppose reformers who contend that the Church must abandon her claims to absolute truth, must allow dissent from her own doctrines, and must be governed according to the principles of liberal democracy.

False reforms, I conclude, are those that fail to respect the imperatives of the gospel and the divinely given traditions and structures of the Church, or which impair ecclesial communion and tend rather toward schism. Would-be reformers often proclaim themselves to be prophets, but show their true colors by their lack of humility, their impatience, and their disregard for the Sacred Scripture and tradition.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Is the Pope devious, deluded or a dunce?

I've asked myself this many times during the last few years and I ask it again.  The Pope has given yet another of his ill-timed and ill-judged interviews to a 91 year old Italian journalist who refuses to record the conversation.

This time the Pope apparently told him that the principle of the admission of the divorced [and remarried] to the Sacraments had been accepted by the Synod.  Specifically he said:

This is bottom line result, the de facto appraisals are entrusted to the confessors, but at the end of faster or slower paths, all the divorced who ask will be admitted.

Now I've no way of knowing if the Pope actually said this or if his favorite journalist, Italian editor Eugenio Scalfari of La Repubblica simply made it all up.  It seems very unlikely to me that he would make it up entirely.  But who knows?  Only the Pope really.

If this was the first time you might say, "well the Holy Father will have learned his lesson - he'll not do that again".  But is isn't the first time, nor even the second time.

So I ask again, is the Pope devious, deluded or a dunce?  I think we know the answer.

As for poor Father Lombardi, Holy See Press Office - can there be a worse job for anyone with integrity?  This time he says:

"As has already occurred in the past, Scalfari refers in quotes what the Pope supposedly told him, but many times it does not correspond to reality, since he does not record nor transcribe the exact words of the Pope, as he himself has said many times. So it is clear that what is being reported by him in the latest article about the divorced and remarried is in no way reliable and cannot be considered as the Pope's thinking."

Plentyof wriggle room there.

Friday, 30 October 2015

4 Ways to Spin a Synod

I don't really have the energy to write anything on the recent disastrous synod.  But, there seem to be 4 basic reactions:

Realist Untrusting and Frank Conservative:  The synod is a disaster from start to finish; it makes us look like Anglicans;  the final text clearly purposely leaves out orthodox teaching and has all the seeds necessary to provide for different so called pastoral approaches and indeed teaching in different countries which will provide for routine reception of Holy Communion by the divorced and remarried in plain contravention of the teaching of Christ and His Church; Thomas More and John Fisher and indeed John the Baptist died in vain.  [Cardinal Burke]

Hardball mainstream force of will Conservative:  The liberals have been routed;  there is nothing in the final text about reception of communion or homosexuality;  any attempt to claim that the Kasper side has prevailed is unjustified by the plain words of the texts;  exterminate.  [Cardinal Pell]

Light fluffy we love the Pope everything is great listening mainstream:  we had a wonderful experience of Church;  we need to listen;  there is no change in teaching;  everything must change;  it's all about love and mercy;  we must move forward.  [Archbishop Eamon Martin]

You're all a bunch of hating haters and Canon Law sucks liberals:  we must quickly seize the spirit of the synod;  the Church has been out of touch;  people can make up their own minds;  people aren't called to heroic sanctity;  the Pope must deliver, that's why we put him in office.  [Cardinal Kasper]

I think this piece in the Catholic Herald is rather good so I've quoted it in full below:

At the synod’s mid-point, Pope Francis delivered an address in which he called for a “synodal Church”, indicating that he desired more synods, with more authority, in the life of the Church.
By the end of the synod, the Holy Father might have changed his mind. He closed the synod with the most scathing speech of his pontificate to date, denouncing some of his brother bishops for “a facile repetition of what is obvious or has already been said”; of “burying their heads in the sand”; of “indoctrinating” the Gospel “in dead stones to be hurled at others”; of hiding “behind the Church’s teachings or good intentions, in order to sit in the chair of Moses and judge, sometimes with superiority and superficiality, difficult cases and wounded families”; of giving into “conspiracy theories and blinkered viewpoints”; of using “language which is archaic or simply incomprehensible”; of being like the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son, or the jealous labourers in the parable of the workers in the vineyard; perhaps suffering from a “fear of love and showing that love concretely”.

Papa Bergoglio is a better man than me, because the idea of spending several weeks in the company of men so characterised would put me off the synodal path entirely.
Yet if the Church is going to have more frequent synods, there are some things that will have to be corrected.

Synods are purely advisory to the pope. Yet they are widely viewed as deciding matters, meaning that bishops advise, but do not have real responsibility for their decisions. The synod final report scrounged together enough votes to pass the sections on Holy Communion for the civilly divorced and remarried by a rhetorical fudge. It reaffirmed the need to proceed in accord with the “comprehensive criteria” of St John Paul II. But it did not quote that criteria specifically. So is the teaching of John Paul upheld, as Cardinal Pell insisted? Or are pastors and their penitents free to reject his definitive articulation of the Catholic tradition in certain cases, as Cardinal Schönborn said?

Did the Wall Street Journal get it right, with its headline, “Bishops Hand the Pope a Defeat on His Outreach to Divorced Catholics”? Or was Il Messaggero right, which led with “Yes to Communion for the divorced: The host for those who are remarried, but it must be evaluated on a case by case basis”?

If the bishops could actually decide – as they do in the case of ecumenical councils – they would have to be clear, not seek to achieve consensus in confusing ambiguities. But then synods could not proceed as they do now, with Archbishop Blase Cupich floating ideas about conscience well outside the Catholic tradition on Friday, bishops discussing the matter on Monday and Tuesday, with everyone waiting with baited breath for a first draft of a final report to emerge on Thursday afternoon to see if the synod is going to declare John Henry Newman wrong about conscience.

Not to worry, in this case the Thursday conscience language was not fully Cupichine, but still not fully Catholic, so the synod fathers, having stayed up late on Thursday night like students cramming for an exam, offered various amendments on Friday morning, wondering if the central drafting committee would, according to entirely unknown criteria, accept the amendments or not. That news was delivered on Saturday morning with the presentation of the revised text which, after a solid five hours of deliberation, the synod fathers voted upon.

Meanwhile, the media is waiting to tell Catholics the world over who won the synod, the conservatives or the liberals. The process certainly is successful in terms of generating interest, but it is ill-suited to arriving at contested truths, let alone truths pertaining to, in this case, the Eucharist, the source and summit of the Christian life.

One of the most prominent cardinals at the synod announced to his brothers in the language group discussions that the synod had been a catechetical catastrophe. Not for what it taught about anything in particular, but because it suggested to the Church and the world that Catholic teaching was determined by parliamentary methods, the basic procedures of which were made up on the fly.
The Holy Father anticipated this danger in his opening address, specifically saying that a synod is “neither a convention … nor a parliament or senate, where people make deals and reach compromises.”

That is, though, how it often appears in the mainstream media, from which most Catholics get their news about the Church. There are Christian communities which have wrapped themselves up for years in synods, in which the outcome of Church teaching and discipline is the result of parliamentary manoeuvring.

The Holy Father denounced many of the synod fathers as being Pharisees rather than good pastors. If the dynamics of this synod return in more frequent future synods, it may be less that the fathers are Pharisees than that the process is to akin to party politics.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Kim Davis meeting. The mystery explained.

Fr Lombardi, Head of the Vatican Pres Office, has confirmed that the Pope meeting Kim Davis was all a big misunderstanding.

Apparently the Holy Father told the organisers he wanted to meet the well known Australian actress, KIM DAVIES.  By the time the message reached the Nuncio the name was confused with Kim Davis.

It seems there was something of a scene at the Nunciature afterwards:

Pope: "Why would I want to meet yer wan? Would you look at the state of her.

Nuncio: "But your holiness..."

Pope: "Why did you think I was singing 'That's why good neighbours become good friends'?"

Nuncio: "I thought you were talking about America and Cuba".

Friday, 2 October 2015

As I was saying before I was interupted...

There's lots and lots and lots of stuff to read about the Synod starting shortly in Rome.  I am trying to maintain a balanced opinion.  For those looking to read something relatively straightforward and mainstream you could do worse than start with Fr Vincent Twomey

Friday, 13 June 2014

European Court of Human Rights supports right of Church to deal with dissent

The Journal is reporting that the European Court of Human Rights has found that it was lawful for the Spanish State to sack a religion teacher who had publicly rejected aspects of Catholic teaching.

This is a hugely significant judgment from the European Court of Human Rights.  The judgment gives some general guidance on the autonomy of Churches, including their rights to deal with dissent, and the extremely limited rights that the State has to interfere in these matters.

If you're reading, Brian D'Arcy and Tony Flannery - the ECHR says your right to dissent means you can leave the Church you no longer agree with.

Also interesting to note the respectful way the Court refers to the Church's Canon Law - clearly it doesn't think it's as meaningless as Irish politicians seem to think.

Below the extract from the Court's Press Release:

Decision of the Court

Article 8

The Court reiterated that there was no general right to employment or to the renewal of a fixed-term contract. However, there was no reason of principle why the notion of “private life” should be taken to exclude professional activities. In the present case, private life and professional life were particularly intertwined, as factors relating to private life were regarded as qualifying criteria for the professional activity in question. The Court thus found Article 8 applicable, as the non-renewal of the applicant’s contract, on account of events mainly relating to personal choices he had made in the context of his private life, had seriously affected his chances of carrying on his specific professional activity.

The Court noted that the Ministry of Education had acted in accordance with the 1979 Agreement between Spain and the Holy See, supplemented by the Ministerial Order of 11 October 1982, which was an international treaty and incorporated as such into Spanish law in conformity with the Spanish Constitution.  The non-renewal of the applicant’s contract of employment had thus been based on the applicable Spanish law. 

The Court noted that the Bishop had relied in particular on the notion of “scandal” to justify his
decision. Even though the notion of scandal was not expressly provided for in the part of the Code of Canon Law concerning religious education teachers, it could be considered to refer to notions that were themselves in the canons such as “true doctrine”, “witness of Christian life” or “religious or moral considerations”. Those provisions expressed specific requirements with foreseeable effects.

Since Mr Fernández Martínez had been the director of a seminary, he could have foreseen that the public display of his militancy against certain precepts of the Church would be at odds with the applicable provisions of canon law and would not be without consequence. On the basis of the clear
wording of the Agreement between Spain and the Holy See, he could also have reasonably foreseen
that in the absence of a certificate of suitability from the Church his contract would not be renewed. 

The Court found that the non-renewal of his contract was thus in accordance with the law. Like the parties, the Court took the view that the decision not to renew the applicant’s contract pursued the legitimate aim of protecting the rights and freedoms of the Catholic Church, and in particular its autonomy as to the choice of persons qualified to teach religious doctrine.

As regards the autonomy of faith groups, the Court noted that religious communities traditionally and universally existed in the form of organised structures. The right of believers to freedom of religion meant that they should be allowed to associate freely, without arbitrary State intervention 

The autonomous existence of religious communities went to the very heart of the protection which Article 9 of the Convention afforded. It had a direct interest, not only for the actual organisation of
those communities but also for the effective enjoyment by their members of the right to freedom of
religion. Were the organisational life of the community not protected by Article 9 of the Convention, all other aspects of the individual’s freedom of religion would become vulnerable. 

However, Article 9 of the Convention did not enshrine a right of dissent within a religious community. In the event of any disagreement between a religious community and one of its
members, the individual’s freedom of religion was exercised by the option of freely leaving the community. 

Respect for the autonomy of religious communities recognised by the State implied, in particular,
that the State should accept the right of such communities to react, in accordance with their own
rules and interests, to any dissident movements emerging within them that might pose a threat to
their cohesion, image or unity. It was therefore not the task of the national authorities to act as the
arbiter between religious communities and the various dissident factions that existed or might
emerge within them.  

The Court reiterated that, but for very exceptional cases, the right to freedom of religion as guaranteed under the Convention excluded any discretion on the part of the State to determine
whether religious beliefs or the means used to express such beliefs were legitimate. Moreover, the principle of religious autonomy prevented the State from obliging a religious community to admit or exclude an individual or to entrust someone with a particular religious duty.

As a consequence of their autonomy, religious communities were entitled to demand a certain degree of loyalty from those working for them or representing them 

The Court, whilst observing that Mr Fernández Martínez had not received the dispensation from the
obligation of celibacy until after the publication of the newspaper article, took the view that, by
signing his successive employment contracts, he had knowingly and voluntarily accepted a special
duty of loyalty towards the Catholic Church, which limited the scope of his right to respect for his
private and family life to a certain degree. Such contractual limitations were permissible under the
Convention where they were freely accepted. The Court was not convinced that at the time of the
publication of the article in La Verdad, this contractual duty of loyalty had ceased to exist.   In choosing to accept a publication about his family circumstances and his association with a protest oriented meeting, Mr Fernández Martínez had severed the bond of trust that was necessary for the
fulfilment of his professional duties.  

The Court observed that Mr Fernández Martínez had voluntarily been part of the circle of individuals who were bound by a duty of loyalty towards the Catholic Church. The fact of being seen as campaigning in movements opposed to Catholic doctrine clearly ran counter to that duty. In addition, there was little doubt that the applicant, as former priest and director of a seminary, had
been or must have been aware of the substance and significance of that duty.  

Mr Fernández Martínez had been able to complain about the non-renewal of his contract before the
Employment Tribunal and then before the Murcia High Court of Justice, which had examined the
lawfulness of the measure in question under ordinary labour law, taking ecclesiastical law into
account, and had weighed up the competing interests of the applicant and the Catholic Church. At
last instance the applicant had been able to lodge an amparo appeal with the Constitutional Court.

Since the reasoning for the non-renewal decision had been strictly religious, the domestic courts  had considered that they had to confine themselves to verifying respect for the fundamental rights at stake. Thus, the Constitutional Court had taken the view that the State’s duty of neutrality precluded it from ruling on the notion of “scandal” used by the Bishop to refuse to renew the contract, or on the merits of the optional celibacy of priests as advocated by the applicant. It had examined the extent of the interference with the applicant’s rights and had found that it was neither disproportionate nor unconstitutional, but that it could be justified in terms of respect for the lawful exercise by the Catholic Church of its religious freedom in its collective or community dimension.  

The Court was of the view that the domestic courts had taken into account all the relevant factors
and had weighed up the interests at stake in detail and in depth, within the limits imposed on them
by the necessary respect for the autonomy of the Catholic Church. In the light of the review
exercised by the national courts, it did not appear that the autonomy of the Church had been
improperly invoked: the Bishop’s decision could not be said to have contained insufficient reasoning, to have been arbitrary, or to have been taken for a purpose that was unrelated to the exercise of the Catholic Church’s autonomy.  

Having regard to the margin of appreciation afforded to the State, the Court found that the interference with the applicant’s right to respect for his private life had not been disproportionate.
The Court concluded by nine votes to eight that there had been no violation of Article 8.

Having regard to its conclusion under Article 8, the Court found that there was no need to examine
the other complaints separately.