Can We Forgive Fr. Groeschel? And Can He Reach to Reconcile?

So Fr. Groeschel and the CFR’s issued two statements of apology yesterday. They essentially both say the same thing and Fr. Groeschel’s seems like a shorter version of the CFR’s. Essentially, everyone was on message: We apologize, the abused are not victims, Fr. Groeschel’s mind is failing, Fr. Groeschel has a great record of helping people.

Here’s Fr. Groeschel’s apology:

I apologize for my comments. I did not intend to blame the victim. A priest (or anyone else) who abuses a minor is always wrong and is always responsible. My mind and my way of expressing myself are not as clear as they used to be. I have spent my life trying to help others the best that I could. I deeply regret any harm I have caused to anyone.

While Fr. Benedict sadly may be suffering some effects from the accident it in no way exonerates him from the statement he made which was indeed hateful and horrible for any victim of abuse to hear. I fear, however, that this opinion may be widespread amongst many clergy and laity within our church. It shows a blatant ignorance for what sexual abuse has done and leads people into deeper darkness.

Those comments as Joe Zwilling of the New York Archdiocese said in his carefully written press release “do not represent us” as Catholics.

And for a self-professed “orthodox” Catholic to say these words is horrendous and for a Catholic paper to write them without further introspection on them or challenge is not just shoddy journalism, it’s shoddy Catholicism.

That said, what is Catholic is our capability to forgive and so while this doesn’t change what Fr. Benedict said I call for all of us to accept his apology and to offer him sincere forgiveness.

And that friends is hard for all of us.

While I am angered by Fr. Benedict’s statements and am sincerely wondering if those secretly are his true beliefs about sexual abuse, I also know that I cannot let that anger get in the way of forgiveness–where God calls each one of us to be.

Forgiveness however, does not turn a blind eye to justice. And I do think that despite the public embarrassment that Fr. Benedict is facing now, he should also be made to do some kind of restitution or penance for saying something so callous, old as he is, or not. He’s been speaking fairly lucidly and frequently publicly and offering tons of retreats and we haven’t heard any reports of missteps until now. And if that is the case then maybe he should spend some time listening (which as a psychologist he does very well) to those who have been abused by priests in some kind of formal retreat for them under supervision of another. The folks who run the Archdiocese’s Virtus training would be well-advised to take the lead in reaching out to him at this time and to set something up. I wonder if there’s a victim of abuse who is brave enough to take matters into their own hands and offer to speak with him?

Forgiveness on our part is always possible. We cannot let evil control and ultimately destroy us–something Fr. Benedict has also preached on and knows well. But reconciliation is sometimes harder to come by. And Fr. Benedict should take great pains to reconcile with the community here and we as laity should take great pains to welcome that and to forge understanding with those who have been abused with a man who seems to think that they bear some responsibility. Even if he’s saying that he misspoke now, I can’t help but believe that at least a small part of him feels this way.

I’ve said my share of stupid things in my life. Thankfully, most of them not in the public eye. But what I think I pride myself on most is my ability to try to heal the relationships that have been damaged by my own stupidity–even when my statements were unintentional.

He’s an old man. He’s been through a lot these years. But that’s no excuse. I’m glad he apologized and tried to set the record straight.

I forgive Fr. Benedict. And I hope he can forgive himself and can reach out to reconcile with those he has hurt by his words.

More on Fr. Groeschel’s Comments

The National Catholic Register backed off Fr. Groschel’s comments today:

Child sexual abuse is never excusable. The editors of the National Catholic Register apologize for publishing without clarification or challenge Father Benedict Groeschel’s comments that seem to suggest that the child is somehow responsible for abuse. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our publication of that comment was an editorial mistake, for which we sincerely apologize. Given Father Benedict’s stellar history over many years, we released his interview without our usual screening and oversight. We have removed the story. We have sought clarification from Father Benedict.
Jeanette R. De Melo
Editor in Chief

And the Archdiocese of New York REALLY slammed them and basically left Fr. Groschel to defend those comments on this own. And rightly so:

“The comments made by Father Benedict Groeschel that appeared on the website of the National Catholic Register are simply wrong. Although he is not a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, what Father Groeschel said cannot be allowed to stand unchallenged. The sexual abuse of a minor is a crime, and whoever commits that crime deserves to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
The harm that was done by these remarks was compounded by the assertion that the victim of abuse is responsible for the abuse, or somehow caused the abuse to occur. This is not only terribly wrong, it is also extremely painful for victims. To all those who are hurting because of sexual abuse or because of these comments, please know that you have our profound sympathy and our prayers.
The Archdiocese of New York completely disassociates itself from these comments. They do not reflect our beliefs or our practice.”

A hat tip to Deacon Greg who’s keeping me up to date on a busy day at the office.

Young People in the Church Today: No Time for Infighting

John Allen is always insightful and we’ve been talking over here about the need for peace within the Church, moving away from the divisiveness that often comes with differences of opinions.

Some of Allen’s thoughts seem like good ideas to me. Sometimes we need to surprise those with whom we disagree by taking up a position that we normally wouldn’t get behind with vigor. Allen explains:

In addition to an ecclesiology of communion, “thinking with the church,” or whatever spiritual motive one might advance, offering surprising support is also smart tactics. It means opening channels of conversation before a crisis erupts, and it would give the center-left more leverage to push back against trajectories they don’t like. As a rule of thumb, it’s generally easier to manage disagreements among friends than strangers.
To flesh out the concept, opposition to the death penalty or support for immigration reform wouldn’t count as “surprising support,” even though those positions are in sync with the bishops, because they’re what everyone expects from the center-left. However, the Catholic Health Association’s opposition to the Obama administration’s restrictive definition of a religious employer in its contraception mandate is a good case of surprising support because the CHA and the bishops famously had their disagreements over health care reform.
At least three such opportunities seem to be hanging out there like low-lying fruit.

He suggest three opportunities:
Getting behind the HHS Mandate, speaking out against anti-Christian persecution (in the developing world especially) and lastly helping the Bishops transition to a world church.

The latter two I jump on board with immediately…albeit I’m not sure how “surprising” these are. The first one, I’d tread a bit more carefully into. I think there’s a real opportunity to look at this issue in a larger context and to ask the question of whether health care should be tied to employment in the first place. I would wager that Catholics could take the lead here in getting out of that and offering their employees a higher salary and allowing them to form their own consciences and purchasing a health care plan of their own.

But there’s an even larger place where the center-left and even the center-right can meet.

It’s called Catholics for Civil Discourse. This could be a place much like the Catholic Common Ground Initiative –which had merit, but I believe that ended up as a bunch of center-left people trying to keep it afloat. Are we willing to talk things through and maybe use some principles of conflict resolution to show the world that Catholics can indeed rise above the hatred and move towards forgiveness and reconciliation of one another. I liken much of this to relationships between conservative and liberal Supreme Court Justices. Justice Scalia and Justice Ginsburg might agree on little but you never hear either on badmouth the other. In fact, they are close friends and they can see the other’s perspective clearly, even if they don’t share the other’s view. I suspect Ginsburg just says some days “Well, that’s Antonin all right!” and then smiles and laughs a bit. And Scalia probably says, “Well, you know how Ruth thinks. But she means well and has people’s interest at the heart and she does know the law well. Smart lady. Don’t agree with a lot of her views but she’s tough.”

Can’t we have a similar discourse in our church? More importantly, SHOULDN’T we have a similar discourse in our church?

Right now many have simply determined that neither side of the extremes needs the other. Jesus laughs at that and shakes his head and I think might even laugh and say “Dumb folks. They just don’t get it.”

Commonweal writer J. Peter Nixon gets to the heart of this argument very well in my view:

In the 1980s, center-left bishops had to listen to the center-right because they had the ear of Rome. The center-left has the ear of no one. They have nothing that the bishops really need and probably nothing that the bishops want. They have no leverage.

Allen suggests that “center left” probably describes the majority of American Catholics and perhaps a super-majority of those working in Catholic institutions, such as chancery offices, Catholic Charities, etc. This is true, but it is changing. We have had a fair amount of episcopal turnover in California in the last few years, and the trend is unmistakable. Older, largely “center-left” staff are retiring or leaving and being replaced by younger, more self-consciously “orthodox” Catholics.

It’s true that the majority of rank-and-file Catholics are probably “center left” in orientation. But what of it? Younger Catholics, for the most part, are simply not attached enough to the Church as an institution to think “institutionally” about their theological commitments. Communal dialogue is something you engage in because you have a community. The majority of younger Catholics—like a majority of younger Christians—are spiritual consumers. If they are dissatisfied, they will choose “exit” rather than “voice.”

In short, this has become an “older” person’s fight within the church. The younger folks don’t have time for such riff-raff, nor do they have the scars from past battles that left others with deep woundedness and brings them into a vitriolic reflex each time something new saddens them from ideologues on either side. The young simply want to pray, connect with Jesus, form friendships with people of honor and serve the needs of the poor. In short, they want a church they can believe in, not one that focuses on infighting.

Infighting will do us no good, even if one side wins. If the far or even center-right wins they get a smaller and more faithful to the hierarchy breed that might not be able to be evangelize or be effective. If the center-left or far left wins they’ll be confusion as to what Catholics stand for, if they even stand for anything.

The truth is that consensus is what is called for in our church. And young people may not be willing to do the work required to battle things out for a long time with people that they really might not think are worth spending all this time on. It’s just easier to leave and have a more individualistic view of religion or spirituality.

We are in tough times. One of my jobs is to try to build consensus amongst younger people of faith, even people of different faiths. But to do that, we have to first engage them in the experience of where they find God working in their lives. Personal discernment, listening to where people are finding God in their lives is a necessary first step.

From there, we just may find an opportunity to understand one another and most importantly….

To seek peace.

This is Awful

This is horrendous.

A few comments. Can’t we all surround ourselves with people who are different from us without the hateful venom?

When we stop allowing one another to speak or simply shout uncontrollably so that the other can’t be heard or that they feel so uncomfortable that they want to leave or are removed for their own safety–it’s just wrong.

When are we going to realize that sitting down and talking, especially when we disagree is the only way to come to understand one another and more importantly coexist with each other?

Facebook Forgivers

So I’ll be honest, some days the factions in the Catholic Church drive me up the wall. For instance my colleague Jim Martin, SJ posted a picture of Sr. Pat Farrell, the head of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious on Facebook and immediately people talked about her being a “bad Catholic.”

Fr. Jim then posted the following note:

Earlier I posted a profile about Sister Pat Farrell, OSF, the current president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. David Gibson’s article for Religion News Service focused on her work for the Church, and with the poor, in Central America over the last 30 years, often in situations of great danger. How is it possible that, within a few minutes, I had to delete so many ad hominem comments about Sister Pat, which critiqued her for not being a “good Catholic”? Have people no sense of perspective any longer? If not, I have an idea: If you’d like to criticize Sister Pat for not being a good Catholic, as some did, then I would suggest that you do the following: First, spend some time working with the poor in San Antonio. Then, spend six years working with the poor in Chile during an oppressive and violent political regime. You’ll be working in a Catholic parish in a small town in the desert, by the way. Next, move to El Salvador, where you will be in danger of being killed for working for the Catholic Church. That is, put your life on the line every single day for Jesus Christ and for the Catholic Church. At one point during your almost twenty years there, work in a refugee camp, run by the church, that is the target of military raids. Do all of this, by the way, while living under vows of poverty, chastity and obedience; living far from your home country; and having nothing to call your own. Then feel free to come back and post a comment on this Facebook page about what a bad Catholic she is.

And suddenly I’m inspired both by Sr. Pat and also by Fr. Jim’s bravery in standing up for Sr. Pat.

Indeed it is stories like that which inspire me to stay Catholic. It’s people like that, who keep me grounded and help me realize that the church is the people of God inspiring one another and not tearing them down.

I’ve often said that if I weren’t Catholic, I would probably be a Quaker. On Beliefnet’s Belief-o-Matic Quiz I often score high in agreement with the Quakers. So I began to investigate once and said “What do Quakers believe and am I in line with their beliefs?”

What I found was a website that said, Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about being a Quaker. BY Phillip Gulley. Here are the first few lines of what he writes:

I’ve been talking with a wide variety of Quakers these past few months, discussing with them what it means to be a Quaker. It’s been an interesting experience. When I tell evangelical Quakers what progressive Quakers believe, they often say, “That’s not Quakerly!” When I tell progressive Quakers what evangelical Quakers believe, they say the same thing. It seems the only things Quakers agree upon is that other Quakers aren’t real Quakers.

Now substitute Catholic for the word Quaker in this paragraph and see if you feel the same way I did.

No religion, a flawed man-made system is perfect. Only God is perfect and our imperfection doesn’t make God angry…

It makes God more forgiving than we could imagine. It goes beyond denomination into a newness of life for all of us. All we have to be is just as forgiving of our own brothers and sisters.

And that friends, is very, very difficult for all of us. Because hatred runs deep and wounds are even deeper.

And while I can forgive others when they offend me, reconciliation is much harder to achieve because reconciliation is the repairing of the relationship. We’re all required to forgive but reconciliation comes at a much greater price.

Because some people don’t accept the forgiveness of others or are too hurt to move towards reconciliation.

And the internet just might be the worst place ever in that regard. Today can we Catholics who really value forgiveness to the point of making it a sacrament, to the point where we can be examples of reconciliation and civility on the internet.

I’ll start. If anything I’ve ever written has offended you or if I took a tone with you on Facebook, or in any way made you feel less than I should have…know that I apologize and hope we can reconcile if we are estranged.

We need to stay in conversation with one another even when we disagree. One of my students is an atheist and one of the highest honors I could ever have is the fact that she stays in conversation with me and calls me a “reasonable theist.” I hope that people on all sides can be as charitable as she is.

And I hope I can be as well.

Dolan and Martin and Colbert…OH MY!

From Religion News Service: I just may have to fly down to my alma mater for this one. Fordham University is sponsoring an event on Sept. 14 titled: “The Cardinal and Colbert: Humor, Joy, and the Spiritual Life.”

Now THAT could be an amazing event. Here’s a snip on each “theologian-comedian” as moderator Fr. James Martin, SJ calls them.

Today, Colbert is a married father of three, a churchgoing Catholic who sometimes teaches Sunday school at his New Jersey parish – a far cry from the right-wing blunderbuss he portrays on his popular cable show.

But even his bloviating on-screen persona manages to work Catholic riffs into the program on a regular basis. In one episode after Easter Sunday, Colbert came on looking hungover and confessed to having just ended a “Catholic bender.”

Dolan is certainly no slouch when it comes to faith, and he’s also pretty good in the humor department – especially when he is joking at his own expense, usually about his ample girth.

“As we pass Radio City and pass the Ed Sullivan Theater and pass Times Square, the greatest challenge is to pass the hot dog carts and not stop,” Dolan said after his appointment to New York.

In a similar vein, he once said: “My first pastoral letter’s gonna be a condemnation of light beer and instant mashed potatoes – I hate those two things.”

And to “60 Minutes” there was this one: “They asked me when I got here, ‘Are you Cardinals, Mets, Brewers, or Yankees?’ And I said, ‘When it comes to baseball, I think I can be pro-choice.’ ”

While Cardinal Dolan and Stephen Colbert are the stars here, don’t count out our buddy Fr. Jim who is known to throw a few yuks out himself.

I think this could be a huge event. And if you’re Catholic you should know that if your deadly serious all the time, then you’re probably seriously dead!

Higgs Boson Does Not Disprove God

There’s a few items on my mind with regards to the discovery of the Higgs Boson particle, an amazing event in the world of physics, which has been referred to as the “God particle.”

First of all, scientists hate the term “God particle” and it’s called that not for any anti-theological reason, but rather because the higher ups at CERN (the center that has made today’s historic discovery) wouldn’t let the scientists working on the experiment call it “the Goddamned particle” because it was so difficult to find.

Ok, that’s kind of funny. Who knew scientists could have such a sense of humor. I need to watch more of the Big Bang Theory.

What is the Higgs-Boson particle anyway?

From National Geographic:

The Higgs boson is one of the final puzzle pieces required for a complete understanding of the standard model of physics—the so-far successful theory that explains how fundamental particles interact with the elementary forces of nature.

The so-called God particle was proposed in the 1960s by Peter Higgs to explain why some particles, such as quarks—building blocks of protons, among other things—and electrons have mass, while others, such as the light-carrying photon particle, do not.

Higgs’s idea was that the universe is bathed in an invisible field similar to a magnetic field. Every particle feels this field—now known as the Higgs field—but to varying degrees.

If a particle can move through this field with little or no interaction, there will be no drag, and that particle will have little or no mass. Alternatively, if a particle interacts significantly with the Higgs field, it will have a higher mass.

The idea of the Higgs field requires the acceptance of a related particle: the Higgs boson.

According to the standard model, if the Higgs field didn’t exist, the universe would be a very different place, said SLAC’s Peskin, who isn’t involved in the LHC experiments.

“It would be very difficult to form atoms,” Peskin said. “So our orderly world, where matter is made of atoms, and electrons form chemical bonds—we wouldn’t have that if we did not have the Higgs field.”

In other words: no galaxies, no stars, no planets, no life on Earth.

So some are saying that the Higgs-Boson disproves that a God has any role in the making or maintaining of the universe. That we are simply a random bunch of particles bouncing off each other with little or no meaning. This assumes something about religion that simple isn’t true.

Religion does not try to say anything about the origins of the world. Religion and science have two completely different purposes, but can work complimentarily to give meaning to human existence and have done so for years. It should be noted that a priest proposed the big bang theory, using science as opposed to the Book of Genesis to explain the order of the universe.

Check out this video that I did some time ago on science and religion with the head of the Vatican Observatory, Fr George Coyne, S.J.. It’s focused on evolution, but Fr. Coyne takes us into defining the difference between religion and science in general.

Science and scripture are not compatible, or I should say that the purpose of the Bible is NOT, precisely not, aimed at scientific discovery. These are revelation stories designed to teach us about “meaning” not “scientific origins.”

Now some are going to say that there are nutburgers who’ll say different. And they would be right to say so. These are fundamentalists, people who believe in a LITERAL interpretation of the bible. Catholics are not fundamentalists. We believe that the bible is divinely inspired, meaning that the biblical writers are not God, but rather people who wrote something down to try to tell us a bit about what God is like; mainly that God is loving and allows us to participate in God’s own creation through our humanity.

There are also fundamentalist scientists in my opinion. People who believe that their empirical discoveries are all that there is. That there cannot be anything beyond these discoveries. I find that haughty and arrogant.

Catholics believe in transcendence, that there are things that go beyond our very selves and our experience of the world. This is where we experience God.

And God is ALWAYS mystery, the inexhaustible one that we never truly can grasp with our limited human intellects. God is beyond us, so far beyond that full knowledge of God is impossible. In fact, that would make us God if we had that.

But God is also with us and within us. And we do have some experience of what God is like for us. Scripture tries to give us a glimpse of this, and the experience of Jesus and the Holy Spirit links the ineffable with us. We are connected to God, who always is trying to unite with his creation. We need to pay attention to that in order to discover meaning in our lives that is beyond science, but also that doesn’t disprove and still honors scientific discovery.

Much like our political landscape these days, the interaction of scientific communities and religious ones are fraught with division. And it’s unnecessary. Let’s call out the extremes on both sides today and show that Catholics are not part of some radical anti-scientific mentality and also honor science, that continues to discover the wonders of God’s world for all of us.

Retrenchment or Renewal? How About Neither?

NCR has an excellent article by John C. Sivalon, M.M. on the upcoming “assault” that is expected on theologians as the Vatican starts the “year of faith.” Fr. Sivalon does a nice job in outlining how different factions in the church view Vatican II. Something we pointed out in a similar way here last week.

The hermeneutic of mission sees in the documents of Vatican II an attempt by the Church to rediscover in its past the kernels of fresh understandings and ecclesial structures that respond more authentically and relevantly to what the Council called the modern world. This hermeneutic sees the Council Fathers confirming tradition as a foundation upon which faith can continually build and grow as its context changes. It also sees God as continually present in history and culture, graciously offering new perceptions for understanding and interpreting the fullness of revelation.

The hermeneutic of retrenchment, on the other hand, sees in the documents of Vatican II the restatement of ossified doctrines in language that can be understood by the modern world. The hermeneutic of retrenchment regards tradition as a wall which functions to deter erroneous understandings. It also tends to see the modern context of the world negatively, often assigning to it labels such as secularism, relativism or pluralism. As Benedict says, “whereas in the past it was possible to recognize a unitary cultural matrix, broadly accepted in its appeal to the content of the faith and the values inspired by it, today this no longer seems to be the case in large swathes of society, …” The hermeneutic of retrenchment, hence, longs for the past; for an idealized age of Christendom.

Ricky Manalo, CSP, a Paulist priest recently pointed out at a gathering in New York. something valuable about Vatican II that we so easily forget. Vatican II was the church’s response to MODERNISM. But within that council, POST-MODERNISM was beginning to climb into their present day. In some ways, Vatican II was outdated before it even began to be implemented, and yet, much of it was such a breath of fresh air for the church and was well received not merely by Catholics but by the general population.

I have no pre-conciliar experience being born in 1970. My students also do not have that experience either. What we long for is not a retrenchment theology, which reaches back to a time before we could fathom. Nor do we long for renewal theology. Renewing modernism isn’t what’s called for here.

Fr. Sivalon continues his thought by bringing up what he believes is the Vatican’s next move towards insuring retrenchment:

Thus, the action against LCWR and the other actions against loyal voices of faithful Christians open to discerning God’s wisdom in modern culture, should be seen as initial forays of shock and awe to soften the strongest areas of resistance, before the actual onslaught begins. That major assault is scheduled for October of 2012, with the opening of the Synod of Bishops on the “New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.” The first working paper (Lineamenta) for this synod clearly sets forth the target of “New Evangelization.”

But will this Synod be a reaction to post-modernism or just more thoughts on modernism? It seems to me that we’re still addressing matters from 100 years ago.

Guess what? Few care.

Speaking for myself, I would simply say that what I hope for is something that looks forward rather than back to the 1960s or long before that. What we need is an Ecumenical Council that meets not for renewal but for progression forward into a new age. The Post-modern age has moved well beyond modernism. A quick look at art world even show us how much. What I long for these days is a church that can stop arguing with itself and instead draft an argument for simply believing in Christ today. Why should anyone, young or old, consider Christ in a post-modern world? My students more easily chuck religion altogether in favor of rational science because religion these days, especially the Christian religion, looks quite irrational, from the loony evangelical Christians, to the inner fighting in Catholic circles, to the liberal Protestants who cam’t seem to define themselves well either. It’s why so many eschew religion and simply pick Jesus or some amorphous kind of deism to follow privately. While this lacks community, a needed element of religion in my opinion, participating in community often comes at too high a cost and the search for a good community takes too long and often falls well short of expectation.

Often a priest friend of mine likens his job as a pastor to being the first mate on a ship. The ship is sailing well and everyone’s having a good time on board doing their jobs or simply enjoying the ride. But then he looks back and finds the captain in the back of the ship with a shotgun blowing holes in the back of the boat. Now we’re taking on water and the ship in sinking and we’re going nowhere fast.

Not to point fingers, but it seems to me that there’s not much creative and exciting leadership on either side here. Instead we have one voice saying that the progressive nature of this council hasn’t yet been completely implemented.

To which I would reply “Great! That means we’re only about 150 years behind!”

The other side says, “Ugh! Why did we even have that council? They screwed everything up! We need to look back before the council for the true church and just wasn’t that a grand time for Catholics?”

To which I would reply, thanks for pushing us back another 100 years or so.

It seems to me that we need the young to rise above all the arguments from the past two generations and actually define what it will mean to be Catholic. The problem is that the co-opting has already begun with folks from both camps trying to snatch up folks from either side and keeping them firmly entrenched.

Perhaps what the church really needs is to not open a window as they did with Vatican II, but to open the doors and welcome the voices of the young who are outside of our experience for the most part and to listen to their longings and what they wish to express. The young will need a plan to bring the church into the PRESENT–not the future and certainly not the past—because we are the church right now and we need the church to address the problems of the present age, not the past.

So we need to let go of our agendas and simply listen. Time to drop the retrenchment and drop the renewals and move into progressive ministry that addresses Christ in PostModern culture.

Or we can allow the church, to become an old dinosaur that’s stuck in the mud, unable to move beyond itself or speak to a new age.

That indeed will be tragic. I hope I can continue to contribute to a more progressive conversation, but most of the time I’m labelled as “too conservative” by those in renewal camps or “way too liberal” by those who seek retrenchment.”

That leads me to believe that I’m on to something–and the students who are active and who keep out of the firestorm and simply worship, serve and profess their faith in so many ways in the postmodern world today, just might be able to save this church.

And I pray that they do.

Pope to SSPX: No Worries on Vatican II

The Society of Saint Piux X which has been not in full communion with the Roman Catholic Church precisely because they don’t agree with some changes that have taken place as a result of the Second Vatican Council said today that “Rome no longer makes total acceptance” of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council a condition for full reconciliation with the church.

Here’s a clip from CNS:

In the interview on the SSPX website, Bishop Fellay said, “We are still not in agreement doctrinally, and yet the pope wants to recognize us. Why? The answer is right in front of us: there are terribly important problems in the church today.”

The reconciliation talks, he said, are a sign that the Catholic Church has begun to recognize it needs to recover traditions and traditional teaching eclipsed by the Second Vatican Council. If the SSPX were to reconcile fully with the church, Bishop Fellay said, its members would continue to denounce “doctrinal difficulties” in the church, but would do so while also providing “tangible signs of the vitality of tradition” in its growing membership and vocation rate.

Speaking to members of the SSPX who are wary of reconciliation, Bishop Fellay said “one of the great dangers is to end up inventing an idea of the church that appears ideal, but is in fact not found in the real history of the church.”

“Some claim that in order to work ‘safely’ in the church, she must first be cleansed of all error. This is what they say when they declare that Rome must convert before any agreement, or that its errors must first be suppressed so that we can work,” he said.

OK, so here’s my take: It seems that some in the Vatican are backtracking on whether the Second Vatican Council is an ecumenical council (which is binding on everyone) or just a local one (which isn’t necessarily binding). That distinction will make a big difference. They’ll probably point to confusion of some sort because one Pope started it and another Pope finished it (John XXIII and Paul VI). It’s ridiculous if that’s the case. It surely was intended to be an Ecumenical council and many traditionalist were up in arms at the time because it was precisely an ecumenical council.

Is the church changing in this regard? Regrettably, some would say so. Even the SSPX’s Bishop Fellay says in his article that they have not changed as a group but Rome has.

An interesting point to consider is that often on matters of belief and tradition many will say that the church must consider how change might effect the entire church and not just some small faction of it. For example, how would ordaining women to the diaconate be received in Africa? But by the same token, how would saying that the tenets of the Second Vatican Council need not be accepted, be received in the United States?

In fairness, because I’m the king of fairness, the issue at hand is really one of media literacy (again!). How many nominal Catholics or even Catholics who attend mass regularly can even name the tenets of Vatican II? I’d presume not a whole lot. How many people under the age of 50 even have had an experience of what Vatican II meant for the church? For most, Vatican II is the only experience of church that they’ve had. They haven’t had an experience of what the church was like before the council, so they have no experience of a Pre-Vatican II church. Even those who esteem things like a Latin Mass, it’s not nostalgia that they seek. Perhaps it’s more curiosity than anything else in these cases or a desire for silence in a world of noise or engaging with mystery.

With this in mind the Vatican is gambling that Americans, in particular won’t put up much of a fight about eschewing with some of the tenets of Vatican II. This may in fact be at the heart of Benedict’s “smaller and more pure” view of the church. They’ll assume that most will just go along with them because it doesn’t effect their lives all that much. For most, just attending mass is their only participation and it doesn’t seem like the Pope is going to change having mass in the vernacular, but rather will make the option of Latin mass for those who want it more available (which has already been done).

I doubt that this will go smoothly, especially since the SSPX are so controversial, but more importantly, it seems like they are back-pedaling on Vatican II and that we should not stand for as an informed laity. The informed will be the ones who need to stand up against this. The only question I have is “Will they?” and “How many will?”

Regardless, this should be interesting as we move into the summer months.