Morale and Morality

The conservative blogosphere has another target-of-the-week, Maryknoll Father Roy Bourgeois, who, it was assumed, since he did not recant for attending the ordination of a woman, was summarily executed … I mean excommunicated last December. But was he? Is the threat enough? Fr Bourgeois doesn’t think he is; he never received notice from Rome. I don’t believe there was ever a CDF announcement beyond the original threat.

Lots of discussion here and here, sparked by an interview here.

Ecclesiastical discipline used to be a method of steering people to virtue, or at the very least, sttering them to political conformity. Now it’s all about a worldwide pep rally conducted via the internet. SSPX excommunications lifted: one sections cheers, one section boos. ND still Catholic: one section cheers, one boos. Bourgeois not booted: cheers here, boos there. At what point does the morale factor trump the morality and render the church discipline aspect second fiddle? Is giving scandal really scandalous when the scandalized actively seek ecclesiastical tittillation?


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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10 Responses to Morale and Morality

  1. Gavin says:

    I will say I don’t get this one. Is it REALLY excommunicable for a priest to attend a non-Catholic ordination? Phone call from the bishop? Sure. Orders not to take part in an ordination of that sect again? Maybe, if the bishop thinks it appropriate. Excommunication? Only if the priest is the one doing the ordaining, I’d say.

    I think there’s a huge problem with the idea that excommunication is about power. Everyone seems to have that view, but as stated above it’s about pastoral care. Several jerks (Williamson) in the SSPX saw the lifted excommunications about Rome forfeiting power, and sought to embarrass her. In the ND (and in 2004, John Kerry) case, conservatives were looking for a nice big public excommunication to show that woe awaits those who don’t tow the GOP line. This is quite an abusive misunderstanding of the practice.

  2. Todd:

    It’s true that there may not have been an official declaration from the Vatican saying Father Bourgeois is officially excommunicated. However, in the absence of one, his own Maryknoll superiors believe him to be excommunicated de facto. It seems to me that at worst the Vatican is here guilty of a bureaucratic delay or snafu.

    I hope you are not suggesting that the Church’s motivation in its disciplinary action against Father Bourgeois is to play to the crowd. I think it would be a mistake to conflate or confuse the legitimate solicitude of Christ and His Church for a man’s ministry and soul with a perceived desire to elicit knee-jerk partisan reactions (my own included, I confess).

    I hope what you mean is that we partisans are losing site of what excommunication is really about. We’d all do well to re-read the passages about excommunication from The Rule of St. Benedict (chapters 23-29).

  3. Jim McCrea says:

    Do not confuse Christ’s solicitude with anything the church does.

  4. crystal says:

    I saw that Fr. Martin had a post about this at America magazine’s blog, but later ir was gone for some reason.

    the legitimate solicitude of Christ and His Church for a man’s ministry and soul

    I don’t recall excommunication ever being mentioned by Jesus.

    • Kevin in Texas says:

      respectfully, Crystal, the universal Catholic Church was founded by Christ and He gave the keys to the kingdom to Peter in Scripture, as well as instituting Holy Orders as a sacrament among the Apostles. That power and responsibility given directly by Christ is quite real, and excommunication is one very visible example of the power of the keys, as well as a form of binding and loosing, also granted by Christ.

      Protestants reject the authority of the Church and its Divine establishment, but it’s history starts with words from the lips of Our Savior Himself.

  5. Gavin says:

    I don’t recall excommunication ever being mentioned by Jesus.

    Ever read Matthew? 18:17, it’s right there. Not to mention Paul’s admonitions to the same effect, no doubt based on the Dominical command.

  6. Liam says:

    If anything, the early church was FAR harsher in dealing with discipline than the church is today. People yearning for the supposed purity of the early church might be shocked at what would happen if they got what they asked for.

    The Roman church has, if anything, had a pronounced progression towards laxity in discipline over the centuries. The fights today are over apparent inconsistencies in that laxity (why delicts in teaching (by those in clerical authority and theologians) and sacramental practice are still treated more severely and quickly than delicts against persons), not over discipline as such.

  7. Gavin, this is not a ‘non-Catholic ordination,’ it is a bogus, invalid, illicit, ordination of a woman, about which the Church has made specific prohibitions, including one against even discussing the issue further. Besides that, priests do not ordain; bishops do.

    Furthermore, Bishop Williamson never made any comment declaring any kind of victory over the Vatican, nor having even any tone of anything but gratitude. Please provide the statement you are referring to in saying that he saw the lifting of the excommunication as “forfeiting power.” He has made no such statement; I believe I have read all of his statements about the subject, as well as Fellay’s statements, and I have been present as well at many parish-level sermons and discussions of the topic. I would stand corrected if you can provide the comment, but it is much out of the typical attitude I have encountered among SSPX clergy and parishioners.

    I hope we have more discipline in both doctrinal and liturgical even if I myself might find it, as Liam suggests, personally ‘shocking.’

  8. crystal says:

    “11 “If your brother 12 sins (against you), go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.
    13 If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’
    If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. 14 If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.”

    This doesn’t sound to me like a person who doesn’t follow church doctrine being excommunicated from the church, it sounds like a problem between two individuals, and the result of a failure to resolve the problem = the offended person treating the offender as if her were a tax collector.

    • Kevin in Texas says:

      Once again here, though, your interpretation seems closer to a typically Protestant view of “church”. As Catholics we believe that the Church includes, inextricably and universally, the hierarchy and leaders as well as the believers. As laity we have not received the power to bind and loose, and indeed only the Vicar of Christ ultimately holds the keys to which Christ referred when re-naming Peter “Kepha”, so we would read this passage from Matthew in light of that–if a brother doesn’t listen to the Church, he is not to be permitted participation until he reconciles with the Church (and with any others he offended or hurt in the process).

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