Well, the Krazies are all atwitter with their undies in a bunch (aren’t they always) over a “secret” colloquium held at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome this past week to discuss various topics that will be addressed in the upcoming October Synod II on the Family. The blog Rorate Caeli, the Krazies version of L’Osservatore Romano, was just spitting nails (or s*itting bricks) about this “Vatican II style Rhineland coup.” I must admit that I am a bit baffled that Cardinals Burke, Bradmüller, Müller, Caffarra, and others can collaborate on a book to push their agenda, but other members of the hierarchy can’t sit down with a group of theologians and prepare their arguments for sound debate. A university colloquium is far less influential on public opinion—and on the Synod Delegates—than a published book, especially one that has received such publicity as Remaining in the Truth of Christ. Frankly I think it is a great idea for the Synod delegates on either side of the issues to do some serious theological research and reflection so as to be prepared for good discussion and wise discernment at the October meeting.
The Conference at the Gregorian University was not an attempt to rally bishops to the banner of an Eucharistic olly-olly-in-free for everyone from the LGBT community to multiply married Hollywood film-stars and members of the Kennedy Family. The Presidents of the German, Swiss, and French Conferences of Bishops were there but with only six other bishops. There were seventeen theologians representing a variety of disciplines from Scripture to moral theology to canon law. There was an auditor of the Sacred Roman Rota (the Roman “Court of Appeals” that deals with, among other things, marriage cases). The President of the Sant’Egidio Community, a prestigious lay association tightly connected to the Vatican was also there. All in all, no more than five of six participants are likely to be members of the upcoming Synod, but it did provide a good forum in which the theologians could advise the bishops what options for the future lay open to them for a more inclusive approach to Eucharistic participation by people who now feel “shut out” of the Church’s life. A handful of journalists from Catholic media outlets were also invited to be present which is typical for such academic colloquia at the Gregorian or other Pontifical Universities.
Why are the krazies so frightened of a change in Church discipline? Do they really think that Christ has deserted his Church and that it is fallen on them to guard the Deposit of Faith in his absence? Actually, I think the agenda is far different and has little direct reference to the upcoming Synod or to the issues of Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried or people in same-sex marriages. I think this has a lot to do with a fundamental shift in ecclesiology.
I have written about this before. Avery Dulles in his book The Catholicity of the Church, makes the—I believe prophetic—claim that the in the first millennium the papacy was concerned with spreading the faith; in the second with power, and in the third will be with service. This means that we are at a cusp where the institutional model of the Church will be giving way to another emphasis—the Church as Servant. In an earlier book, Dulles speaks of five models of the Church: Institution, Communio, Sacrament, Servant, and Kerygma. We do see the power waning and a serious shift away from the Institutional model. While there are those prelates like Cardinal Burke and Archbishop Cordileone who still like to parade around in glad rags that would make Marie Antoinette embarrassed, there has been an attempt to de-princify (or princessify) the Church. I am not sure that I like the current CEO model any more than I liked the Renaissance Prince model of the olden years, but it does send a message. Similarly, the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council have restructured the Mass to emphasize its communal nature rather than the priestly emphasis of the old Liturgy. Religious women have dropped the pseudo-medieval garb of the last two centuries as well as found new ways to live together without the faux-monasticism of convent life. All this drives the Krazies even krazier because it undermines the institutional model to which they are clinging.
While I think that that the model of the next millennium will emphasize the servant nature of the Church, I think it will also, by necessity, revive the kerygmatic emphasis. It is increasingly clear that European and North American societies are a challenge for a “New Evangelization.” And I think this is the neuralgic point for the krazies. A “New Evangelization” needs a different face on the Church as Evangelizer than the Institution. Today’s world is distrustful of Institutions. The International Football Association (FIFA) is plagued by scandal. Dennis Hastert, the “born-again evangelical” Republican former speaker of the House whose smarmy holier-than-just-about-everyone-else attitude led him to be so self-righteous in regards to President Bill Clinton, is now accused of paying hush money to a man whom Hastert sexually abused when Hastert taught high school in Illinois. Speaking of sex-abuse: it is no longer just a Catholic problem, or even Dennis Hastert’s issue: Boy Scouts of America, Little League, public and private high schools across the country. And of course there is the sexual harassment issues that plague the military, correction institutions, private industry, professional sports. And we have domestic violence just about everywhere you look. And just to bring matters back home: once Pope Francis cleaned up the Vatican Bank, profits multiplied 20 times over. 20 times over!!! Where was that money going before??? How will Gamarelli’s stay in business now that the graft has been exposed? Who can afford to buy a cappa magna out of his own pocket? Hopefully the Knights of Malta will pick up the tab for you know who.
No, we have to let the Institution of the Church morph into something less powerful and certainly not the public face of the Church. We’ve got to get those nuns on the bus back out there while they can still walk. We need that 85 year old Sister Megan Rice who poured blood on the wall of a nuclear weapons plant to get out there in front. C’mon Dan Berrigan—you’ve still got work to do. Father Warren Hall—ok, so the Bishop doesn’t want you at Seton Hall for you asking why we can’t all get along (LGBT themed agenda, but a good question none the less) but hey, the students believe in you. We need you up front, man, you got "street cred." And you Missionaries of Charity, yeah you’re pretty traditional but that isn’t the issue: you get down and dirty with the poor. You’re solid gold with this evangelization thing, ladies, and we need you. You see, our task isn’t to preserve the Church—let God take care of the Church—our task is to bring the Good News of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom/Gospel is our end; Church is only the means. Let’s not worry about the Synod and who can and who can’t go to communion. That is simply Rome fiddles while the world burns. We are just wasting our time trimming the Christmas Tree when we get caught in these endless arguments. People who are in the state of grace know that they are in the state of grace; those who know that they have some remedial work to do before coming to communion know that they have some remedial work to do. We need to call one another to be honest—brutally honest—about the state of our souls but not to waste time making judgments about others. God has more important work for us to do.