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