Cardinal Watch

Go octagonHonduras’s octocardinal, Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga has been getting headlines for what I was reading as a “brotherly” pushback against CDF head and cardinal-to-be Gerhard Müller. I counted no less than nine headers at conservative outlet Pewsitter. John Allen picks up the original interview and translates Cardinal Rodriguez speaking of Archbishop Müller:

He’s a German, one has to say, and above all he’s a German theology professor, so in his mentality there’s only truth and falsehood. But I say, my brother, the world isn’t like this, and you should be a little flexible when you hear other voices. That means not just listening and then saying no.

Commentariats like those at Catholic World Report are predictably bristly about the whole thing.

A few things …

broken bandsThere are situations in which marriages fail by malice. Some fail through ignorance. Some people simply lack good tools, or support from the Church. Second marriages have enough serious obstacles. Are older-sibling Catholics prepared to insist that sisters and brothers in second marriages be denied what we all concede is a sacramental life that provides Christ present in plenty? In other words, are some sins unforgiveable? And if so, has the Church’s canonical perspective lost perspective on what is essential for sanctification and holiness? Is the Eucharist a reward for good behavior and less a means of spiritual sustenance provided by the grace of Christ?

The Church sometimes does a lamentably poor job in preparing couples for marriage. It would be interesting to track divorce rates by the preparation ministry provided by individual clergy. That recent study found 29% of Catholic-Catholic marriages end in divorce. Suppose a priest discovered “his” marriages were failing at a forty- or fifty-percent rate. Or fifteen. Does that suggest a conversation should be started across the divide? Or that clergy and laity who assist couples in preparing for marriage should shoulder some responsibility? Would a finger-wager like Father Z refrain from receiving the Eucharist for, say, six days, if he determined he was partly culpable for the failure of marriage preparation?

This public poking among cardinals is interesting. Imagine someone telling the CDF head, say, fifteen years ago, “You don’t just listen and then say no.” That kind of talk got bishops placed into early retirement. It might be interesting, even entertaining. But what will happen among rank-and-file Catholics, especially the ones accustomed to taking marching orders, if this public discussion continues?

It seems the discussion is out in the open on this issue. More will likely follow. Looks like we will need to move beyond the rehearsed apologetic arguments in the months and years ahead. Conservative Catholic bloggerdom, watch out.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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3 Responses to Cardinal Watch

  1. Devin says:

    Since I can’t read the original, I hope that the quotes Allen’s article provides are true to the Cardinal’s opinion:
    ‘The church is obliged [to uphold] the commandments of God,’ he said, including what Jesus said about marriage: “What God has united, let no man separate.’
    Rodriguez Maradiaga was quoted as adding, ‘There are different approaches to making this clear. After the failure of a marriage, for example, we can ask if the spouses were truly united in God. There’s much room for further reflection there.’

    It would seem that the Cardinal may agree with Archbishop Muller’s essay, especially at the end when he saids that the Church can further reflect on what it means to enter into a valid marriage.

    Either way, you would think that the German’s Bishops, Archbishop Muller and Cardinal Rodrgiuez Maradiaga could wait for the two synods to meet to discuss this issue instead of using the media. It seems that from Pope Benedict to Francis instead of leaks airing the infighting, they just removed the middle man.

    • Todd says:

      Not to discount anything you have written, Devin, but two possibilities come to mind:

      1. The synod will be a beginning of a reflection, and not a final product.

      2. Possibly in connection to that, but also recognizing that this very day many thousands of Catholics are estranged from the Church in varying degrees. If the Eucharist is so important, why do we dither over details? Is it better to admit people to the sacraments, trust the grace of Christ, and work out the administrative aspects of it later?

      The pastoral reality is that people are hurting, starving, and stumbling now. Will the sacraments help them?

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