Pope Benedict drew a lot of attention for his Chrism Mass (not Mass of the Lord’s Supper) homily rebuking (or “ripping” or “denouncing,” depending on your news outlet of choice) those Austrian clergy for being uppity about celibacy, women, intercommunion, and the divorced-and-remarried. Natürlich, the supposed letter to those priests seems to have disappeared. No diktat, says Cardinal Schönborn’s spokesman. What do you believe?
As opposed to the homily slapdown, another disobedient group, one actually in schism for a generation now, seems to have arrived at its moment of truth. It’s hard not to read the various media on these and come to some disturbing conclusions. For me, it goes beyond considerations of whose pom-poms are waving the most energetically. And that we even have these conversations comparing the approaches to different groups and individuals shows there’s significant need for reform. Days like this, I’m inclined to agree with the Holy Father: the Church possesses no competence for making choices on women’s ordination. Rome hasn’t even figured out governance. Who can believe it will get it right with women? Or celibacy? Or any other deep issue of impact?
I’d sure like to see the contents of that secret final offer the SSPX has supposedly been mulling over since last Fall. Do you suppose the SSPX heads were invited to a six-week retreat? (At this point in the liturgical year, I would love love love it if the CDF invited me to a six-day retreat in a monastery.) What do you think their final answer would be on that?
I’d say that Rome is facing the same crisis of leadership we find in the secular West. There’s a serious erosion of respect for authority, and they have little outside themselves to seriously blame for it. Schismatics appear to be treated with deference. Yet for a bishop who suggests a discussion on vital questions, canon law itself is abrogated. You can’t call it “law and order.” Law and disarray is closer to the truth.
Irish priests, numbering more than SSPX clergy, don’t seem to be backing down.
At this critical juncture in our history, the ACP believes that this form of intervention – what Archbishop Diarmuid Martin recently called “heresy-hunting” – is of no service to the Irish Catholic Church and may have the unintended effect of exacerbating a growing perception of a significant “disconnect” between the Irish Church and Rome.
Is the institution afraid?
In reading about a new archbishop in Australia’s third-largest city, I noted a comment when asked about a breakaway parish and people still embittered about a dismissed bishop:
There will be no abandonment of the doctrine and discipline of the Catholic Church but this will be addressed as a pastor and not in some brutal way.
The Temple Police have no inclination, skill, or sliver of pastoral sense. Their approach to the parable of the lost sheep would be to shoot the wayward animal, skin it, and wave the hide like a banner of victory. I wonder if those long years at the top of the CDF heap didn’t harden the Holy Father to pastoral responsibilities. Those responsibilities weren’t given up at the switch from Archbishop of Munich to a Roman desk job. Here and there, we’ve seen some good sense from this pope over the past several years. It’s not bad at all to have a teacher as a pope. But other people are on the Church payroll to teach.
And that we need to talk about a pastor being non-brutal shows how far things have fallen in the past generation.
As a lay person, I’m seriously worried. I see an appalling lack of competence in too many quarters in the institution. It’s no wonder Catholic numbers are lagging. It’s a darned discouragement, if not a dis-grace.