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Reform? Not even close

[Betty is no stranger to commenting on the state of Catholicism. She has authored a book of personal interest to me, The Neo-Catholics: Implementing Christian Nationalism in America. http://www.amazon.com/Neo-Catholics-Implementing-Christian-Nationalism-America/dp/0932863639/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_1” But beyond being the newest member to the Open Tabernacle stable, her arrival is a turning point: It demonstrates that not only is the web site growing but that the progressive Catholic movement is now truly coalescing.  Frank L. Cocozzelli]

For those Catholics who believe that the now-world-wide sex abuse scandal will lead to any type of meaningful reform in the Church hierarchy, there is nothing but bad news. If anything, the “crisis” has caused the pope and his prelates to hunker-down against any suggestions for increased power-sharing, transparency and accountability.

When Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn was called on the carpet for criticizing Cardinal Angelo Sodano’s use of the word “gossip” to describe media reports regarding the scandal, the Holy See Press Office released a communique on June 28 which read in part: ” It must be reiterated that, in the Church, when accusations are made against a cardinal, competency falls exclusively to the Pope.”

Benedict’s response on June 27 to the raid by Belgian police on archdiocesan offices was to “underscore” ecclesial “autonomy” which he felt was breached by the civil authorities.

In his homily at the Pallium Mass on June 29, Benedict told the new metropolitan archbishops, “Historically, union with the Apostolic See, ensures the particular Churches and Episcopal Conferences freedom with respect to local, national or supranational powers, that can sometimes hinder the mission of the ecclesial Church.”

Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski, in an interview with NCR’s John L. Allen Jr. following his participation in the ceremony, had these words for his flock: “I don’t represent you, but I’m not supposed to. I’m not supposed to speak for you, I’m supposed to speak to you as a teacher of the church….We’re not given our voice by the votes of the people. It’s a whole different type of relationship.” 1

Also on June 30, Allen had another column noting that under Benedict two important dicasteries – Secretariat of State and the Congregation for Bishops – were no longer led by men from the Vatican’s diplomatic service which, one would assume, indicated training and experience in the real world along with a sensitivity to differing points of view. Rather, the new leaders were all theologians close to the pope – meaning apologists for their boss’s positions. 2

All in all, not very encouraging for anyone looking for a pontiff and hierarchy open to reform.

1 John L. Allen Jr. “Interview with Archbishop Thomas Wenski” National Catholic Reporter June 30, 2010 http://ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/interview-archbishop-thomas-wenski

2 John L. Allen Jr. “Triumph of theologians over diplomats in Vatican” National Catholic Reporter June 30, 2010 http://ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/triumph-theologians-over-diplomats-vatican

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2 Responses

  1. Betty, this is wonderful commentary. We are delighted to have you blogging with us as a member of the Open Tabernacle team. I look forward to reading more of your pieces as you post them here.

  2. Welcome to OT Betty.

    As you point out above, the underlying concern of Benedict’s entire career has been to underscore papal authority and by extension clerical authority. We can have and need reform, but only on terms which does not threaten the chain of command and is initiated and approved by that chain.

    Wenski is the quintessential Ratzinger bishop in this sense. A nice man who knows his place in the scheme of things–the seemingly benevolent paternal figure for his ‘children’ and the obedient and submissive child to his parental figures. I suppose the idea is the laity must be to their bishops as the bishops are to their superiors.

    The real problem to this is that the laity no longer see themselves as children and the more the bishops act like children to their superiors the less crediblity have the bishops with the laity.

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