Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Who's For Better Bishops?

OK, so I've gotten e.mails asking for my whereabouts.... Well, as the college loan people have come hunting after me, I have to actually do some pay work to get them off my back. Forgive my absence, hope everyone had a great Halloween. And Happy All Saints' -- it's a public holiday in Rome.

This wasn't posted online, but I've received permission from my paper, The Tablet, to publish its lead editorial from this week's edition on the Synod of Bishops just concluded. It makes for thought-provoking reading.

LESS THAN GOD'S PEOPLE DESERVE

The International Synod of Bishops of 2005 was a piece of business left over from the papacy of Pope John Paul II, and perhaps happened too soon to be regarded as characteristic of the emerging papacy of Benedict XVI. For many Catholics looking to their leaders for vision, courage and imagination in response to the problems the Church faces, its risk-averse message of “no change” will be a big disappointment. The problems remain, but seem further than ever from solution.

A clear message to come from the upheaval the Church inevitably went through earlier this year, with the death of the last Pope and the election of his successor, was that the mechanisms for international consultation and collaboration in the government of the world-wide Church were inadequate. Six months on, this synod seems to have been dominated by conservative curial officials, mostly cardinals and virtually all of them appointed by the previous Pope, who were determined to defend the status quo. They will be pleased with their work. But as a result the inadequacy of the synod’s rules and procedures is even more apparent. The synod ought not to be an extension of curial government, but a real check and balance to it, and a means for the voice of bishops from around the world, to be heard, honestly and clearly.

The central paradox of this synod’s deliberations is that, while it affirmed the centrality of the Eucharist in the spiritual life of Catholics, it failed to see the contradiction between that and, say, the growing shortage of priests resulting from mandatory celibacy, or the rules intended to stop divorced or remarried Catholics from receiving Holy Communion. A parish cannot make the Eucharist central to its life without a priest to say Mass. Divorced and remarried Catholics cannot make the Eucharist central to their lives if they are barred from it. In both cases the synod members seemed preoccupied with rule-keeping, as if that way lay salvation - notwithstanding Jesus’s warnings to the contrary. Yet Christ came to call sinners, not the pure, as he repeatedly reminded his disciples.

The resounding endorsement of the status quo by this synod is bound to provoke fundamental questions about the quality of leadership in the Catholic Church, not just in the Vatican but worldwide. There are clearly outstanding pastors among the bishops of the Church, but for too long and too often, safe but second-rate men have also been promoted: men whose mediocrity caused them to be perceived as safe by control-minded curial officials.

The instinct of the mediocre is to sweep problems under the carpet, and pretend all is well. The English and Welsh Church has done better in this respect than many, as a glance at the Irish situation makes startlingly clear. Scandal after scandal has been mismanaged by its safe but sorry bishops, to the extent that the entire authority and credibility of the Catholic Church itself is now in jeopardy.

Is that moral credibility likely to be regained, in Ireland or anywhere else, when church leaders at the synod tell those with Aids that their condition is their own fault and thus they ought not to be regarded as “sufferers”, as one contributor is reported to have said; or that divorced and remarried people should not be regarded as “suffering” from their exclusion from Communion as they have brought it on themselves, as another contributor suggested?

The Irish Government’s report into clerical child abuse in the diocese of Ferns, said to be the worst in the world but by no means unique in Ireland, is a searing indictment of a rule-bound culture of episcopal mismanagement, incompetence and fear of exposure. As at the recent synod, priority was given time and again to evading and avoiding problems rather than dealing with them. The damage that resulted is incalculable. The People of God are surely entitled to something better.
-30-

23 Comments:

Blogger Boniface said...

This certainly would be an interesting reflection, if only it were, say, 1975 rather than 2005. The smug tone, the total divorce from objective reality, the sense that all that needs to happen is to sever the remaining ties to two millenia of Christianity for the renewal to be complete; one would need only a burlap banner to complete the trip down memory lane.

There may indeed be grounds to criticize the Synod, but surely those grounds are an unwillingness to reexamine the post-conciliar culture of self-congratulation, not a failure to recycle every one of the mistaken ideas that brought us to this sorry pass in the first place.

1/11/05 13:17  
Blogger GregY said...

Divorced and remarried Catholics cannot make the Eucharist central to their lives if they are barred from it.

I like reading The Tablet, but comments like this one make me wonder whether some insidious publishing company has intentionally left 1 Corinthians 11:27-29 out of everyone's Bibles. One more time, folks... what part of "serious sin" don't we understand?

1/11/05 13:40  
Blogger edgleason said...

Welcome back ..with an editorial too!!
The Tablet rightly identifies fear and fear of exposure as the cause of the horrible mismangement of sex abuse crimes. Courage, which is both physical and moral is a virtue completely 'washed out' of clerical training. one way was to eliminate contact sports in seminary life...no football. baseball. basketball just tennis and golf please..how many 'stand up' bishops in the whole damn country???..
Frisco eddie

1/11/05 13:42  
Blogger patrick said...

This editorial unintentionally highlights one of the weaknesses of the liberal Catholic plea for episcopal collegiality and consultation. Many complained bitterly that JPII scripted and stagemanaged the episcopal synods so that they were - at worst - more like meetings of the Supreme Soviet. But, now that Benedict has loosened the reigns and permitted bishops to speak their minds more or less freely, lo and behold, some of them say incredibly mind-bogglingly stupid things.

1/11/05 14:20  
Blogger Todd said...

A couple marries. It's a mistake. They divorce. They remarry. Is it serious sin? If so, which was the serious sin? And if the latter is the most serious, is there forgiveness?

The Orthodox have perfectly valid sacraments in a perfectly apostolic tradition, yet they would permit a second marriage to be blessed.

Maybe the wisdom of the East should be considered. It's obviously ideal that the one man, one woman, one marriage, one family picture is ideal. But if that is too high an ideal for some, at what point do we strive for the best that can be borne at the present?

1/11/05 16:10  
Blogger Ben said...

Todd, study the Catechism some time... it's all in there. No need for easy questions like this... study your faith. Do you really want one of us to answer or do you just want to dissent?

Ben

1/11/05 17:47  
Blogger John Hearn said...

Todd,

Catholic Christianity is for big boys and girls.

1/11/05 18:57  
Blogger Barry Manilow said...

Yeah, Todd . . .

big boys and girls, like John Hearn.

And, if I'm not mistaken, Todd, I think I can hear Big John praying right now.

Yup, that's him!

Listen!

"I thank Thee, God, that I am not like the rest of men . . . like that little Todd over there, for instance . . . . but rather one of Thy big boys and girls . . . or boy . . . only . . . O God!"

1/11/05 20:31  
Blogger Venerable Aussie said...

"The central paradox of this synod’s deliberations is that, while it affirmed the centrality of the Eucharist in the spiritual life of Catholics, it failed to see the contradiction between that and, say, the growing shortage of priests resulting from mandatory celibacy..."

So, RESULTING from mandatory celibacy eh?

I just don't think it's worth spending my lunch hour here at work responding to that old discredited canard.

Back to my Vegemite sandwich...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vegemite

1/11/05 20:54  
Blogger Todd said...

It's not big boys and big girls so much as good little boys and good little girls.

But I know it's tough to compute:

Orthodox: absolutely valid sacraments, but they don't do administration the way we do it.

Barry, I thought I heard it too. That's part of what I see as my ministry at St Blog's: I send the self-styuled orthodox to bed with nice thoughts.

Or is it steaming coals?

1/11/05 21:08  
Blogger Ben said...

Todd wrote:
"The Orthodox have perfectly valid sacraments in a perfectly apostolic tradition, yet they would permit a second marriage to be blessed."

Todd, this is a false and uncatholic statement. If the Orthodox have a perfect apostolic tradition then they would be Catholics but they are not. Scripture and Tradition are clear that One and only One Sacramental marriage is possible(excluding after death of course). Catholics have a way of determining whether a supposed marriage is valid or not. Anyone is able to SEEK an annulment. The orthodox are the ones that get themselves in trouble with tradition because they don't have the 'administation' that you talk about. I think John was just trying to second me by saying that this information is readily availible and all one has to do is read Church documents, like the catechism, to know the true Apostolic tradition. Mercy most be in balance with truth. I think it is unfair to attack John when he is just saying..."learn the faith" before you comment about it. I also wanted to make it clear that the Church excludes NO ONE from recieving our Lord in Communion. The people choose to exclude themselves. There are steps to follow to be in communion with the Church and Christ.
Ben

1/11/05 22:57  
Blogger Todd said...

Nice try, Ben, but your understanding of East-West ecclesiology is totally wrong.

The Orthodox are catholic, if not Catholic; and we Catholics are orthodox, but not Orthodox, if you catch my drift.

Roman Catholics are bound, of course, to our traditions and Tradition, but the Orthodox remain with a perfectly valid set of sacraments, including marriage, and they are in Communion with Christ through these sacraments.

Ask someone if Eastern practices with the Sacrament of Marriage are the big ticket items on the table for West-East ecumenical discussions.

2/11/05 11:45  
Blogger Ben said...

Excuse me Todd, but I am an expert on Eastern things. There are other bigger topics that must be discussed first but eventually the matter of annulments and the indissolubility of marriage must be delt with. Are you Catholic Todd? Just curious. Do you believe in the indissoubilty of marriage? Tell me how the eastern understanding of second or third marriages fit into the indissolubility of marriage doctrine.

The Orthodox are not catholic and Catholics are the only fully orthodox. If I didn't believe this I would not be Catholic and there would be no division since we would all be orthodox and right.

Your communion argument can extend to any 'christian'. Protestants share the sacrament of marriage with us also, does that make there belief about it right? There are still issues that divide us and we should not downplay this but defend the true orthodox faith till we both come to it together. Of anyone, I appreciate the Orthodox and all other ancient eastern christians. I've been to nearly every rite of liturgy possible and studied much of the East. Many times in practice they are more Catholic than we are but that does not negate the fact that Peter is Prime and the Roman church has held and will hold true orthodoxy. This iis the faith of the early church. The Church of the west needs the east and the east needs the church of the west. May we pray that the true understanding of our faith is reached together as ONE body, the Body of Christ.

Ben

2/11/05 12:33  
Blogger Todd said...

Ben, another game try. For the record, I am Catholic.

"Do you believe in the indissoubilty of marriage?"

Certainly. But this discussion began with the notion of divorced and remarried taking Communion. I wouldn't necessarily connect the dots to suggest that taking Communion validates a current marriage. I'm aware of the current Roman administrative practice not permitting divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion. I'm not advocating disobedience. I'm bringing up the notion of Churches separate from Rome, possessing valid sacraments, having a different approach. An approach, by the way, that might be schismatic, but is not heretical.

"Tell me how the eastern understanding of second or third marriages fit into the indissolubility of marriage doctrine."

It's my understanding that second marriages are not sacramental.

"The Orthodox are not catholic and Catholics are the only fully orthodox."

They say the same about us.

"Protestants share the sacrament of marriage with us also, does that make there belief about it right?"

A few things. Most Protestants don't see marriage as a sacrament. What the Catholic Church recognizes is the personal and civil intent in a Protestant (or even a non-Christian) marriage. Again, we're not talking about the marriage, so much as the Communion issue. Rome keeps them tightly yoked. I wonder if there's not an orthodox or Orthodox approach that would help resolve the current dilemma.

As for the rest of your post, spoken like a true Roman. Not sure it was absolutely Orthodox (or even orthodox) but there it is.

2/11/05 13:31  
Blogger John Hearn said...

Well BM, when one can't argue he can always mock. It's what little boys do.

2/11/05 17:06  
Blogger Ben said...

Todd, so let me get this straight. You are not questioning the indissolubilty of marriage you just think that perpetual adulterers should be able to recieve communion? If someone is say married to a second person and confesses their sin and then has no sexual relations with their supposed second wife, then they can recieve. If that person who is already married has a continual sexual affair with their supposed "new" wife then the church says that they are in capable of recieving our Lord worthily. What part of this doesn't make sense or do you think the Church has the power to change. This is divine law not man's. The only way this can be resolved is for the first 'marriage' to be declared NULL FROM THE BEGINNING. Your 'Orthodox' answer of the second not being sacramental answers nothing about the adulterss affair with the second wife. Please explain where you misunderstand and give a MORAL solution that either the Church or the Orthodox can agree. Thanks.
Ben

2/11/05 21:29  
Blogger Todd said...

Ben, I think you're catching on a bit.

First, I don't think that divorced and remarried Catholics are perpetual adulterers. The social and moral institution of marriage predates its elevation to sacramentality by Christ. A husband and a wife can end a marriage: that's a civil reality the Church cannot change. You or I might not recognize the sacramentality of a remarriage in such a case, but both the couple and the state do. There is no adultery. Ther is a violation of the laws of the Church. So I'd say the people in question are disobedient. But they might not be adulterers.

"If someone is say married to a second person and confesses their sin and then has no sexual relations with their supposed second wife, then they can recieve."

That might be a theoretical point some self-styled orthodox Catholics might disagree with you on. To some, even contracting a second marriage gives the appearance of scandal.

"What part of this doesn't make sense or do you think the Church has the power to change."

It makes sense: I never said it didn't. The Church has the power to review its practice on communion for the divorced and remarried. What the Church cannot do is claim a particular sin is unforgiveable. That's where the basic conflict is.

"The only way this can be resolved is for the first 'marriage' to be declared NULL FROM THE BEGINNING."

Your use of CAPS is cute, but not terribly more persuasive. Ther eis some history to this issue:
- Some patristic era bishops permitted remarriage, though keep in mind the Church hadn't yet settled on Marriage as a sacrament until centuries later.
- Basil of Caesaria commented in a few of his letters (ca 380) on the custom of permitting an abandoned husband to remarry, but not an abandoned wife. He suggested it was hard to see why such a difference in practice would be sensible, but he acknowledged it as customary for his time.
- In the East, divorce and remarriage for adultery was permitted in many places, but often with a period of penance.
- Some bishops were opposed to second marriages for the widowed, so it's clear that for the first several centuries, local, not universal customs were in play, and the fathers of the Church were literally, all over the map.

It would be interesting to review the substantial body of patristic and other historical literature on divorce and remarriage. The Church has by no means ever celebrated it unconditionally. And I think that modernist rigidity isn't the only valid way to go.

3/11/05 15:38  
Blogger Ben said...

Todd wrote:

"First, I don't think that divorced and remarried Catholics are perpetual adulterers."

Like I said before, 'read your Catechism'. You don't know the Catholic faith very well. Try reading par. 2384 and 1650. It and Jesus both disagree with you. Also read Mark 10:11-12.

The Church cannot change and doesn't have the power to say that remarried Catholics, without an annulment, can recieve the Blessed Sacrament worthily. The Church teaches infallibly that they are in a state of perpetual adutery. If you don''t believe this then well you just ain't Catholic in this area.

Doctrine developes! If you find confusion on the issue somewhere in the past you must realize that the church is now clear on the issue. Why do you want to live in the early confusion. That is typical of liberals..if it makes them feel better and feel justified in their wrong beliefs.

Ben

3/11/05 18:29  
Blogger Jeff said...

I LOVE the Ben and Todd show:

Ben: "Are you Catholic Todd? Just curious."

Todd: "For the record, I am Catholic."

Ben: "Todd, so let me get this straight. You are not questioning the indissolubilty of marriage you just think that perpetual adulterers should be able to recieve communion?"

Todd: "Ben, I think you're catching on a bit."

Yes, Ben, you're catching on. Todd doesn't like to come out and DENY things outright, he just claims that if SOMEONE dissents, what's wrong with that? Like if some poor schmoe just CAN'T accept the Church's teaching on males-only ordination, why, what can ANYONE do?

I think in Todd's case, you have to look for a parallel with the concept of Baptism of Desire. Imagine someone going for the font, missing it, slipping on the floor, banging their head on the font, spilling water on their clothes, getting back up, taking a running start, trying for a swan dive, overshooting, etc., etc. This is a picture of Todd, trying--doubtless in all good faith--to do the Catholic thing.

Well, he doesn't care much about getting doctrine right, but guess what he really DOES care about? Making sure you spell it "Mahony" and not "Mahoney."

[He's rigged it so you CAN'T link to the post directly, but go to his blog here--

http://catholicsensibility.blogspot.com/

and scroll down to "Small Stuff, Like Spelling."]

Forget the Holy Trinity, that 'E', that's the REAL deal breaker. As for me, there's not an iota's worth of difference.... ;-)

3/11/05 20:53  
Blogger Todd said...

Honestly, Jeff, my concern is more that conservatives don't come off looking like typical American school-educated hicks who can't spell. You can wear suspenders and a belt for all I care.

But I'm glad a lesson in Church history has brought out the modern grammar commentators and storytellers. At least you know how to consult books to prop up your end of the conversation. Problem is when people still can't spell in spite of that. It's tough at cocktail hour, balancing your drink while trying to page through the CCC with the other hand. Bet the women love it.

4/11/05 12:25  
Blogger Jeff said...

Oh, Todd, you're so generous and noble, hoping faithful Catholics don't come off looking like hicks. We ARE hicks--and RUBES. The guy who collared us and gets to keep us in line is a smelly old FISHERMAN, for heaven's sake. God knows if knows if that first clown from Galilee could even WRITE, let alone spell.

No, I'll stick with the hicks. We may be self-righteous and angry, but we have the IDEA anyway, that we're supposed to put our Faith in something beyond the reach of our ever-questing intellects; that things can be true even if baffling and unattractive to us. And that loyalty of mind follows loyalty of heart.

4/11/05 22:27  
Blogger Todd said...

Jeff, your practical piety and loyalty would play better if you withheld things like your slippery story. What was that all about, anyway? You weren't even in the discussion, and you come barging in with insults you can't even claim were a response to something directed at you.

I suggest we form a truce of some sort. At the very least, this situation deserves some time away to ponder the basic virtue of charity interposed with a basic avoidance of angry reaction when someone doesn't toe the party line.

5/11/05 13:34  
Blogger Todd said...

Four days, no response. I think we can take that as a "no," and that the Jeff-Crew is still on the loose. Hold on to your hats, people.

9/11/05 11:42  

Post a Comment

<< Home