Friday, July 6, 2012


UPDATED:This is a great hymn, listening especially to the stirring last stanza!
"Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division." Luke 12:51 This pope understands Jesus' words in a way that progressives in the Church never will as well as secularists. And that's the way it is! This is hot off the press from Sandro Magister's blog, CHIESA! The Mutineers of the Barque of Peter With the leaking of confidential documents, the pact of loyalty that binds together the members of the Vatican curia has been broken. The consultations for a change of government have begun. A letter from the pope to Cardinal Bertone by Sandro Magister ROME, July 6, 2012 – The critical point of this pontificate is not the opposition, sometimes bitter, that rains down uninterruptedly on it in various areas. But it is the rupture that has taken place with that pact of loyalty within the Church which is manifested in the leaking of confidential documents, from its highest offices.

Pope Joseph Ratzinger does not allow himself to be intimidated by opposition. It is not something that he endures, but rather in crucial cases he intentionally provokes it. And he does not retreat by even one step when the reaction becomes exaggerated and fierce, beyond what is to be expected.

The memorable lecture in Regensburg was the first demonstration of this. Benedict XVI laid bare the burden of violence present in Islam with a clarity that astonished the world and scandalized in the Church the lovers of the embrace among the religions. He invoked for Muslims the revolution of the Enlightenment that Christianity has already experienced. Years later, the springtime of freedom that sprouted and immediately withered in the city squares of the Arab world confirmed that he had seen correctly, that the future of Islam really is played out here.

The sexual abuse committed by priests against children and teenagers is another terrain on which Benedict XVI has gone against the current, even before being elected pope. He introduced exceptional procedures into the regulations of the Church. At his behest, for about ten years three out of four cases have been addressed and resolved not by means of canon law, but by the more direct means of extrajudicial decree issued by a higher-level authority. Marcial Maciel, the diabolical founder of the Legionaries of Christ, was sanctioned in this way, when he was still universally revered and acclaimed, never caught at a disadvantage, with all of the numbers to emerge unscathed from a regular process, not only canonical but also civil. An entire national Church, that of Ireland, was put into a state of penance by the pope. Various inept bishops have been removed. The fact is that in the world today, there is no government or institution or religion more advanced than the Church of Pope Benedict in fighting this scandal and protecting minors from abuse.

And then the lifting of excommunication from the Lefebvrist bishops, with the efforts to bring them back into the fold; the liberalization of the Mass in the ancient rite; the admission of pro-Catholic Anglican communities into the Church, with their bishops, priests, and faithful; on this terrain as well as Benedict XVI has knowingly created conflicts that are still very lively, drawing avalanches of criticism down on himself. Not only from the left, but also from the right, as when in his book-length interview "Light of the World" he opened a loophole for the licit use of condoms.

It is a mistake to confuse the meekness of this pope with submissiveness. Or with his estrangement from management decisions. Even the tempest that is rocking the Institute for Works of Religion, the Vatican "bank," has its origin precisely in him, from his order to ensure the greatest financial transparency.

There is no government in the world whose decisions are not debated and opposed, before and after they become law, in public or in private. For the Church as well, Pope Benedict wants it to be this way. The internal conflicts documented by the papers that have come out of the Vatican are part of the physiology of every institution called to make decisions.

It is not the content of the documents, therefore, but the leaking of them that is the real thorn in the side of this pontificate. It is a betrayal of that pact of loyalty which holds together those who are part of an institution, and with greater reason the Church, where the inviolability of the "internal forum," and even more so of the secrecy of the confessional, inspires a general confidentiality in procedures.

The mutineers maintain, anonymously, that they are doing this for the good of the Church itself. It is a recurring justification in history. They say that from the scandal they want to produce a regeneration of Christianity. But many of their "secular" supporters are interested in a collapse of the Church. Not that it be regenerated, but humiliated.

Conflicts within institutions can be managed. But betrayal much less so. This is the signal, instead, of an absence of management, which has allowed the growth within the Roman curia of the hidden rebellion of some of its "civil servants," and has not been able to do anything to neutralize it.

The Vatican secretariat of state, which from the time of Paul VI forward has also been the main engine of the central government of the Church, is inevitably also the main culprit of this disorientation.

Benedict XVI is so aware of this that, in order to bring order back to the Sacred Palaces, he has not called upon his prime minister, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, but for the consultation of a college of adepts among those farthest from him: to begin with, cardinals Ruini, Ouellet, Tomko, Pell, Tauran.

For a change of management in the Vatican curia, the moves are already underway.


Anonymous 5 said...

The analysis _seems_ good at first glance, except for that "loophole for the licit use of condoms" comment. Does any responsible person think that that's what BXVI was doing?

Henry Edwards said...

"Benedict XVI is so aware of this that, in order to bring order back to the Sacred Palaces, he has not called upon his prime minister, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, but for the consultation of a college of adepts among those farthest from him:"

Permit me to say I Told You So. Yesterday (or did I?), in my analogy with the coach enjoying the 110% support of his univ. president, that is, until he's fired.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Yes, Henry that last statement by Magister says it all and one wonders if the Holy Father is looking for a graceful way to exit Bertone, but this sad affair has indeed opened a can a worms in terms of the debauchery at the Vatican, it is kind of like finding out how sausage is made and most of us don't want to know.

As far as A5 goes in terms of the condom statement, I think it was a rare glimpse into the Holy Father's pastoral theology. Keep in mind that pastoral theology is precisely that, pastoral, and goes beyond fixed moral statements to what actually is happening in a person's life.
If I remember properly, the pope seem to indicate that if a man had AIDS that it would be a loving thing for him to use the condom, not for the intended purpose of contraception, but to protect his partner even in an illicit sex act, with one's spouse or one's john or whatever. It would be an act of "charity" to use the condom to prevent the spread of disease. Obviously, this does not negate the proper understanding of sex and natural law or the consequences of sinful decisions and lifestyles, but within the context of sin, the condom for one who has AIDS shows that the sinner has a conscience about spreading his disease through his sinful acts.

Marc said...

Father, is there a teaching of "economia" in Latin Rite Catholicism?

Is that not precisely what you are advocating as the Holy Father's "pastoral theology"?

I am a recovering hardliner on things like this and I am coming around to the idea that economia might be much needed to outweigh an increasingly long history of juridical moral theology in the Latin Rite. The problem seems to be that, generally speaking, in Latin Rite Catholicism the average parishioner has less contact with the priest as spiritual father/director in order for the priest to be able to apply economia in a way that is beneficial for the particular soul. It has a tendency to come across as a mere turning a blind eye to the "rules".

I'm sure you can enlighten all of us as Pastor (my experience is limited to trying to effectively communicate the Faith at RCIA and trying to be more pastoral in doing so) -- Do you think an increase in the number of priests would make for a better situation for the application of economia in the local Church? How does the Pastor balance that with the objective "rules" when people choose not to avail themselves of the proper venue for the priest to discuss the parishioner's particular problems?

All of that is wrapped up in the question I don't know the answer to: is there economia at all in the Western Catholic Tradition as there is in Orthodoxy and Eastern Catholicism? I've never heard it discussed in the West, but I haven't read everything, have I?

Anonymous 5 said...

Fr. McD,

My understanding of that statement was that it was a hypothetical. If an HIV-positive man who had lived a selfish and hedonistic lifestyle suddenly realized he was endangering his sex partners, his realization that he ought to start using condoms would show, if you will, a "proto-conversion"--not that it's in line with Catholic teaching but that in becoming less selfish he is moving towards a true conversion. I didn't read anything in the actual statement that even hypothetically encouraged or admitted the licitness of condom use. (Dissenters and the mainstream press, of course, characterized it as "permission to use condoms.")

A parallel might be if BXVI had talked instead about an ax murderer suddenly realizing that using an ax caused his victims extreme pain and suffering, so in a move in the right direction, he started dispatching them with a single merciful shot to the head instead. I don't think that anyone would argue that by stating such a hypothetical the pope was saying that murder is licit in some circumstances. Yet when the pelvic issues come up the enemy will do anything he can to undermine Church teaching--in this case by misrepresenting the pope as saying condom use is OK in some circumstances.

John Nolan said...

Sandro Magister is not particularly reliable. The 'Vatileaks' is a storm in a teacup. Like all institutions, the Vatican has its power-plays and rivalries - how could it ever be otherwise? Pope Paul VI was an able man, but at a crucial time (the 1960s) he was persuaded to adopt an agenda which he certainly had sympathies with, but which turned out to be disastrous, and he spent the last ten years of his life regretting it but feeling it was beyond his power to reverse it.

Catholics of a traditional bent must trust the Holy Father to know what he is doing; they have already got far more than they could have hoped for even ten years ago.

Full in the panting heart of Rome,
Beneath the apostle's crowning dome,
From pilgrim's lips that kiss the ground,
Breathes in all tongues one only sound:
"God bless our Pope, the great, the good".

I hope, Father, that Wiseman's great hymn is sung in your parish.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Yes, A-5 you make an astute observation and I believe have succinctly stated the Holy Father's case. We're dealing with sin and evil here. Would it be better for a murderer to bludgeon his victims to death or dispatch them in a more merciful way, such as the single gun shot straight through the head? Would it be better for the serial pedophile to chloroform is victims while assaulting them rather than doing it while they are awake? In both cases, the movement to a more merciful stance within grave evil is advisable from the victims point of view. The sinner is still committing grave evil and will be held accountable by God and the Church if he knows it is gravely evil and with full consent of the will continue to do it.
As for Marc's question, I don't have time to go into all the details, but obviously if there were enough priests who could give moral and spiritual counseling on a one to one basis and do so within the context of what the Church actually teaches, orthodoxy, leading to ortho-praxis, that would be great. Sometimes, pastoral theology leads sinful Catholics to choose the lesser of evils in their lives if they don't intend to change their lifestyle all together. Ultimately, what ever decision they make, if they are going against God's law and the moral teachings of the Church, they will be held accountable. So for the homosexual Catholic who decides that he wants a stable sex relationship with one man in a partnership that seems like marriage, that is probably better than a promiscuous lifestyle and is healthier for him, but if he is having illicit sex with that partner, then he has to be prepared for his judgment day before God and the ramification of mortal sin. But if that partnership turns chaste or non-sexual and provides both partners love and stability and care in old age, this is redemption, no?

Marc said...

Good analysis, Father. I think both your response to A5 and to myself illustrate the same point (and that is the Holy Father's point as well): There is an objective morality to which we must all strive to conform. We need to recognize, though, that there are movements in the direction of conforming with that conduct that lead us along the path. So, for example, a serial adulterer might go from multiple partners to a few less -- that is a movement along the path.

The examples always sound really bad until we view it through our own experiential lens - we are all, each day, trying to conform our conduct by rooting out sin. Even the beginnings of that process are praiseworthy and without a special grace, we are unlikely to simply stop sinning all together on the day we determine to become serious about our faith. It is always a process - so the pastoral, or economia, element is a recognition that working with the penitent is more helpful in most cases than chastising them for not yet being perfect - holding their hand along the path to moral uprightness instead of condemning them, assuming they are making efforts (which is what was lost on the media in the Holy Father's "condom" example).

Very interesting topic!

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Our brand new hymnal which will be used for the first time this Sunday, The revised, "St. Michael Hymnal" has only one hymn for the pope, "Long Live the Pope," as well as "Oremus Pro Pontifice" and "Tu Es Petrus!" The words to Long Live the Pope will drive the Protestants crazy though:
Long live the Pope!
His praises sound
Again and yet again:
His rule is over space and time:
His throne the heart of men:
All hail! The Shepherd King of Rome,
The theme of loving song:
||: Let all the earth his glory sing
And heav'n the strain prolong. :||

Beleaguered by
By the foes of earth,
Beset by hosts of hell,
He guards the loyal flock of Christ,
A watchful sentinel:
And yet, amid the din and strife,
The clash of mace and sword,
||: He bears alone the Shepherd Staff,
The champion of the Lord. :||

His signet is the fisherman's
No scepter does he bear
In meek and lowly majesty
He rules from Peter's chair
And yet from every tribe and tongue
From every clime and zone
||: 600* million voices sound
The glory of his throne :||

Then raise the chant,
With heart and voice,
In Church & school & home:
"Long live the Shepherd of the Flock!
Long live the Pope of Rome!"
Almighty Father bless his work,
Protect him in his ways,
||: Receive his prayer, fulfill his hopes,
And grant him length of days!

Ostro Picta said...

After reading your last post Father, I looked on YouTube for “Long Live the Pope.” The title and character of the tune made me curious, lol. All I found were instrumentals. I did find a similar English variation on “Long Live the Pope.”

I love how the video closes with Pius V. He is one Holy Father who didn’t take pastoral care with sexual sins (to say the least, lol). Given how the conversation drifted to the recent condemn query, I really had to snicker.

Anonymous 2 said...

I am not seeking to be controversial or provocative here, just to draw attention to the need for nuance in evaluating and responding to circumstances of complexity. I believe the passage in the article regarding Pope Benedict’s Regensburg lecture takes matters much too easily. Here is a fuller account including, among many other things, discussion of the Pope’s apologies:

John Nolan said...

Bravo Father! This is Hymn 185 in the Oratory hymn book and is attributed to Hugh Henry (no dates given).

ytc said...

Long Live the Pope is quite possibly the single most Protestant-angering piece of music in existence.

Henry Edwards said...

Unless, ytc, it's

Full in the panting heart of Rome,
God bless our Pope!


My personal favorite in this genre.

Henry Edwards said...

John: "Pope Paul VI was an able man, but at a crucial time (the 1960s) he was persuaded to adopt an agenda which he certainly had sympathies with, but which turned out to be disastrous, and he spent the last ten years of his life regretting it but feeling it was beyond his power to reverse it."

Aside from its initial clause, the best one-sentence of the Pauline papacy I've seen.

And I just noticed that you'd previously mentioned "Full in the panting heart of Rome".

Marc said...

It just seems like the conciliar and post-conciliar Popes brought this trouble upon themselves with the conciliar idea of hyper-collegiality.

The very idea that the Supreme Pontiff feels like it is out of his power to reverse disastrous events in the Church is sad. They voluntarily gave up the power that would have allowed them to unilaterally fix the problems.

I say "they" because we are still in an era where the Church leaders, including the Popes, have a vested interest in the Vatican II ideas due to their involvement in coming up with many of them.

On the other had, perhaps Humane Vitae caused more problems than the Council since it shows what can happen when a Pope attempts to define doctrine in the "modern" age -- widespread rebellion.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Humanae Vitae may have been a test balloon for Paul VI to see if his putting on the breaks of wholesale iconoclasm of the 1960's would work, but Pandora's Box was wide open and no amount of backtracking was going to work without a major schism which the Holy Father as Pontiff (bridgebuilder) must be in his holy office. I think too the Pope became depressed by what was happening and that so much was beyond his fiat and control and on top of that one of his best friends, Aldo Mauro was kidnapped and then murdered even after the Holy Father made a direct appeal to the kidnappers to spare his life. The Holy Father was not the same after that.

Templar said...

It was V2 itself which created this "government" mess in Vatican City. Prior to that the Church was a pure Monarchy as Christ intended the power of the keys to convey. In particular V2 created the post Bertone occupies and its readily abused powers. I have been censhured before here for labeling Bertone the enemy but I believe it will be proven in the end.

Anonymous said...

At his behest, for about ten years three out of four cases have been addressed and resolved not by means of canon law, but by the more direct means of extrajudicial decree issued by a higher-level authority.

Just what does extrajudicial decree issued by a higher authority mean?

ytc said...

Anon, it likely means an excommunication or other censure from the Pope Himself, who does not have to consult or abide by Canon Law.

Then again I cannot recall the last time a pope excommunicated. It was likely over a century ago. Now the Roman Curia takes care of that.

Pater Ignotus said...

The Church is not a monarchy (pure or otherwise) nor is the pope a monarch. Read the introduction to Pastor Aeternus.

Templar said...

Call it what you want Ignotus, prior to V2 Popes ruled and directed; now they have to beg and cajole to get recalcitrant liberals to stand up and act like real Catholics. Collegialty is an unmitigated V2 disaster.