Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Archived Post

Update 6/8/13: Welcome Pray-Tell...ians! Since you were sent here by a post that talked about how terrible I am, feel free to dialogue with me in the comments. Engage my arguments; if I've been unfair, please show me how.

* Is there a single word for what I'm describing? Something that is sad, ironic, and yet curiously funny, all at the same time? Let me know in the comments...

Anyway, here's what I'm talking about, from the humorously sad/sadly humorous National (so-called) Catholic Reporter (fair warning: my analysis will break up the article and take sections out of order; so click the headline to see the original article):

Fledgling national priests' group to tackle broad agenda.

Reinstating general absolution in the United States, consultation in the selection process for bishops, studying the ordination of women and married men, and collegial exercise of church authority are among topics of 15 resolutions on the agenda of the second annual assembly of the fledgling Association of U.S. Catholic Priests June 24-27. 

Wow, this is ambitious!

Also--mostly pointless.

> "Reinstating general absolution..." By "general absolution," what they mean is the provision in the rules for the Sacrament of Penance for a priest to give absolution to an entire group of people. Currently, this can only be done (a) in an extreme emergency (i.e., the priest is on a sinking ship or falling airplane), or (b) with express, specific permission of the bishop.

But to what purpose? You might say, to save penitents the trouble of actually confessing any sins--they just get absolved and that's it. However, this is not true. The actual norms of the Church are that when someone receives absolution without confession, s/he is bound to go to confession when the opportunity arises. I suspect that what the group intends is to bring back the practice of giving general absolution, with no followup confession ever happening.

Skipping over the reasons this is a bad idea, it's going nowhere. There is next-to-zero chance either Pope Francis or the bishops would agree with this. The one argument--that priests don't have enough time to hear confessions--is simply not true.

> "Studying the ordination of women and married men..."

Another utterly pointless exercise. Pope Blessed John Paul II closed the door on ordaining women and at the time, then-Cardinal Ratzinger said the teaching is irreformable. Zero chance Pope Francis will "study" this, and zero chance the U.S. bishops will pick a fight with Rome over this.

As far as "studying" ordaining married men--to the priesthood, they mean, as we already ordain married men as deacons--well...OK, but to what end? This is about changing the Church's discipline on this. And while that's not an irreformable teaching, it's still largely pointless. The notion that allowing for married priests to be ordained as priests will mean any great increase in the number of priests is without foundation--which if anyone wants to know why, ask in the comments and I'll go into it.

> "Consultation...and collegial exercise of church authority..."

Well--that's nice.

Again, the U.S. bishops are not going to pick a fight with Rome over how bishops are chosen. Besides, it's far from clear what they imagine counts as "consultation." As it is, priests in this diocese are invited to nominate fellow priests who might make good bishops. I think I've gotten that letter two or three times. I don't know how the Holy Father gets names of priests to consider as bishops, but I assume he gets them from the bishops, and at least some of these names get passed along. Is that not "consultation"? What more do they want? I don't mean that as a rhetorical question. If they have a proposal, lay it out--then we can weigh the pros and cons.

And as far as "collegiality"--again, whatever do they have in mind?

Well, I think I know--they mean how the Holy Father decides things. Surely they can't mean among the bishops in the U.S.? They are collegial to a fault.

For example: there is an ongoing scandal--yes, scandal--of public officials who take deliberate stances and actions contrary to the Faith--and yet very little is done to enforce existing Church law and hold them accountable. Why is this? I don't know, but I am pretty sure one reason is because few bishops want to stand out on this issue; they would like all the bishops to be a united front. Meanwhile, the credibility of the Church's teaching is undermined.

To be held at Seattle University, the gathering's theme -- "Lumen Gentium: God's Pilgrim People" -- is based on the Second Vatican Council's 1964 document, also known as the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church. 

Hey, this is something new! Growing! Sure to make an impact--right? Read on...

The association was formed following an Aug. 25, 2011, meeting of 27 self-described "Vatican II priests" from 15 dioceses and 11 states at Mundelein Seminary in Illinois, notes the group's website.

The organization's inaugural assembly in June 2012 drew 240 delegates from 55 dioceses to St. Leo University northeast of Tampa, Fla. 

Among its actions was approval of a letter of support to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. LCWR remains under controversial Vatican control and directives for reform. The association's board chair, Fr. Dave Cooper, said about the same number of attendees are expected at the Seattle conference. 

"Letter of support to the LCWR..."


Membership has climbed to 950, representing more than 120 U.S. dioceses, said Cooper, pastor of St. Matthias Parish in Milwaukee and chair of the independent Milwaukee Archdiocese Priests Alliance. 

Hmm. Out of how many priests nationwide? According to once-Catholic Georgetown University, there are about 39,000 priests as of AD 2012.

From which this group claims...950?

Five keynote addresses will be scattered over the three-day Seattle conference. Fr. Patrick Brennan, director of development at Mayslake Ministries in Lombard, Ill., as well as director of the National Center for Evangelization and Parish Renewal in Chicago, will provide "a pastor's perspective" on Lumen Gentium, according to the event's program. 

Just a biographical note: Father Brennan, ordained in 1973, would be approximately 65-66, depending on his age at ordination. (Congratulations on 40 years, Father!)

Catherine Clifford will offer a theological reflection. She is founding director of the Research Centre on Vatican II and 21st Century Catholicism at St. Paul University in Ottawa, Ontario, where she is also a professor of systematic and historical theology and vice dean of the theological faculty. 

I don't know anything about Professor Clifford, other than she has earned a lot of degrees and enjoys full tenure as a dean at Saint Paul University. It's fair to say she hasn't just started her work--she's been at it for some time.

 A professor of church law and dean emeritus at the Washington Theological Union, Fr. James Coriden will speak to the theme from a canon law framework. 

Father Coriden was ordained in? 1957!

And here comes the first sadly-funny comment:

(Washington Theological Union has announced it will cease operation this year.) 

Two journalists -- Robert Blair Kaiser...

born in 1930...

who covered the Second Vatican Council for TIME magazine, and Robert Mickens, Vatican correspondent for The Tablet based in London -- will offer differing time vantages on Lumen Gentium and Vatican II. 

I don't know much about Mr. Mickens, except he's frequently described as a "longtime" Vatican correspondent.

Are you getting the picture here? This is not a youth movement. I'm sure they have some younger priests--but I'd love to know the average age of this group.

Wait--I didn't read far enough along:

He said the organization is "growing slowly" and that "many priests do not know we even exist." Confirming that the average age of members is about 70"--

There's sadly-funny comment number two.

Asked how he might respond to those who would say the 15 resolutions sound like a party platform for the progressive wing of the Catholic church, [Father Dave] Cooper said, "Well, that's what Vatican Council II embraced." 

And there it is. No, Father, that is not "what Vatican Council II embraced." But that is what so-called "Vatican II priests" and folks of like mindset were told, and have claimed, all these years.

This is as good a time to address this point. This is not--NOT--about who loves, respects and adheres to the teachings of Vatican II more. This is where sad-funny-and ironic actually meet.

We have folks who go out of their way to claim the mantle of Vatican II. They are the true adherents. They express sadness, if not anger, that a newer generation does not revere the Council, does not embrace its teachings.

But here's the true irony: this is absolutely not true; and in many cases (not all), almost precisely the opposite of the truth.

The examples are too many to cite--yet facts are facts. During the past 40-plus years of "implementing Vatican II," we have all endured a revolution in the understanding of the Church, much of which has had to be corrected, and is still being corrected, precisely because what folks were told--"this is what Vatican II said"--was flatly false.

Vatican II never said:

> We're birthing a new Church. Vatican II was about re-presenting the wholeness of the Faith in a new way. Got that?  Not new doctrine; no new doctrine; just a new way of presenting what we always held.

> Overhaul our parish churches, destroying altar rails, smashing altars, removing artwork, and building churches that no longer look Catholic.

> Throw out catechisms and no longer teach doctrine. Yet this happened for quite awhile. When Pope  John Paul II proposed a new catechism, remember who resisted it? Yep--the same crowd.

> Turn the altars around. Not a word.

> Downplaying devotions, particularly adoration of the Holy Eucharist.

> Removing tabernacles from the central point in a parish church.

> No more Latin and chant. Instead, it said, add the vernacular to the menu of choices, keeping Latin on the menu, and using it.

> It's no longer important to celebrate the liturgy faithfully according to the norms set by the Church, but now priests and the faithful can improvise and reinvent the liturgy "for pastoral reasons."

Now, as I said, these things are being corrected. But when the faithful join with priests in correcting these things, guess what they're accused of? "You're against Vatican II."

Cooper said there has been resistance from younger, more recently ordained priests, some of whom "see us as disloyal if not downright dissenting." 

Golly, where could they have gotten that idea?

Alluding to recent studies that have pointed to differing views of church and authority between older and younger generations of Catholic clergy, Cooper described "Vatican II priests" as viewing the priesthood in terms of "service, of washing the feet of others" in contrast to clerics who hold a "priest as ruler" model. 

Right--because priests who don't share their "progressive" views never serve others. Father, would you like to come spend a week with one of these "ruler" priests you describe? I can suggest a dozen names. Why not see whether your claim, that they don't see priesthood as "service," they don't collaborate, is actually true?

Meanwhile, I could tell stories about priests of Father Cooper's preferred generation who "ruled" with an iron fist. I bet others can. For example: if a member of the faithful exercises his or her right to ask the parish priest for a legitimate option: say, the newer Mass celebrated in Latin, what do you think is the response of the priests of Father Cooper's generation who "wash the feet of others"? Some. Not many.

Cooper said the association is working hard to "build bridges" and to "hold hands with the laity and at the same time with the bishops." 

Father Cooper, here's a suggestion that would actually make a difference. Instead of claiming to be the true embracers of Vatican II, not to mention being more humble than your fellow priests, how about this? How about:

> Seek out laity and clergy who disagree with you, and seek to learn from them?

> Acknowledge openly that a lot of what happened after the Council was misguided.

> Show respect for the fact that those Catholics (lay and clergy) who disagree with you, love Vatican II as well.

"Sometimes it makes you feel like you are on the rack, being torn part," he said, adding that the association is "of, by and for priests." 

Its core work is "keeping alive the vision of the Second Vatican Council" and "offering support to our brother priests," he said. Cooper said the association's first order of business was "writing a snail mail letter to every ordinary in the U.S. explaining who we are and what we are doing and our mission statement. We offered our respect and pledged cooperation." "We received cordial responses from some bishops, form-letter responses from others, and no response at all from the majority," he said.

The handwriting is on the wall.

Update: (Welcome Fr. Zeee....ians!)

After posting this, I made some comments on the story at the NCR website. Hilarity ensued, as most of the responses to my comments were that I am mean, nasty and I should shut up.

But I wrote something there that I think might be of interest here--I wish I'd thought of it when I wrote this in the first place. After someone asked me to clarify a point I was making, I said:

I'm saying that this movement is fading. As it is, a growing number of ordinary Catholics simply don't see Vatican II the way its seen by the generation of priests here described, and the laity who share their perspective (and usually age). 

For a growing number of Catholics, Vatican II is simply another part of Catholic history, they're not passionate for or against, it's just "there." So when some try to rally the troops with, "we must save Vatican II," more and more of the faithful aren't buying it. And rightly so. 

What's coming, not too far in the future now, is a re-appraisal. That will be deeply painful for the "Spirit of Vatican II" crowd, as what will happen is a more sober assessment of Vatican II's strengths and weaknesses, and a rediscovery of what Vatican II really says. This is already happening, but it hasn't taken center stage yet. 

When that happens, I think the old, V2 pro or con dialectic will be as gone as the dinosaurs. Then it will be more about a true appreciation and application of Vatican II, as well as a recognition that Vatican II isn't the first or last word on what it means to be Catholic. Vatican II will take its place as part of the Church's treasures, not as the sole treasure, nor as the sole lens through which everything we believe is viewed.

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