Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Division Grows Deeper But Will It Divide?

John Joseph Myers, Archbishop
of Newark
Well the Synod goes on and the markers of division within the Church grow stronger and stronger as fear of change haunts the anti-Francis faction in the Church.  I posted on this past Monday about the letter sent to Pope Francis by Cardinal Pell and several (the exact number is disputed as it seems some Cardinal’s names were added without their knowledge) other Cardinals protesting that the Synod has been rigged to predetermine a more progressive agenda towards sacramental inclusion of those in “irregular” unions. 
Now it turns out that Newark New Jersey Archbishop John Joseph (aka “Farmer John” because of his southern Illinois roots) Myers of Newark sent a letter to his clergy insisting on the tightest of guidelines about who may and who may not receive Holy Communion.   Turns out that the priests and religious of the Archdiocese are as banned from the Lord’s Table as are the multiply married, the transgendered and the gay.  “His Grace,” as he likes to be known with all the affectations of an Anglican Primate waddling into the House of Lords, has declared that “Catholics must be in a marriage recognized as valid by the Church to receive Holy Communion or other sacraments.”  Well, golly gee.  That puts the Arch himself in a catch 22.   If he is married, it cannot be in a canonical marriage, as priests cannot validly marry.  And if he is not married—well he himself has declared that only those in a marriage the Church recognizes as valid can receive the Sacraments—he is not eligible for Holy Communion.  We have canon lawyers for a reason—you would think they would have checked his letter before it was sent out.  In fact you would think a good secretary would catch the blunder.  But at the end of the day there are more horses’ asses than horses.  No need to verify the obvious. 
But that is only part of the story.  “His Grace” of Newark is living beneath the shadow of his far more popular successor, the appointed coadjutor, Bernard Hebda, as the clergy and faithful count down the days to Myers’ 75th.  Myers and Hebda provide  a sort of good cop/bad cop duo.  Hebda, at least in his public face, walks a more Francis line on things.  He lives more simply, living in a dorm at Seton Hall University.  He has better people skills and is more approachable.  Behind the scenes he is every bit the Institution Man that most bishops are, but if life is a Christmas pageant, he knows how to play the shepherd.  That alone gives him an edge over many of his colleagues who are still into the Prince of the Church model and can’t seem to shift.  In any event, Archbishop Hebda gave a good talk to the Religious of the Archdiocese yesterday where he offered a far more inclusive theology of Church than Myers’ terse veditum.   It wasn’t a direct assault on Myers’ position but it made it clear that there is a new sheriff waiting in the wings, one who sees the Church as more inclusive and welcoming to all.  In the event, most priests have said that they will take the Archbishop’s letter for what it is worth and that policies in the parishes will change little if at all.  The Archdiocese is in the middle of a 90 million dollar capital campaign and it will be interesting to see if Archbishop Myers’ letter causes much fallout.  
Myers is not the only bishop to express his concerns about where Francis is taking the Church.  Cardinal Burke has said that the Church under Francis is a ship without a rudder.  Bishop Tobin of Providence has criticized Pope Francis.  Archbishop Chaput who just two weeks ago welcomed the Pope to Philadelphia has spoken up about the “anxiety” that Francis’ Synod on the Family is causing among those determined to resist any change in pastoral practice.  Several other bishops—Cordileone of San Francisco, Loverde of Arlington, Lori of Baltimore, Paprocki of Springfield, Lennon of Cleveland, Sheridan of Colorado Springs, Slattery of Tulsa, Olmstead of Phoenix, have all been quoted from private conversations—often after a drink too many—with disparaging remarks about Pope Francis or the direction in which he is taking the Church.  I am sure they are not the only bishops who have let slip their dismay with the current occupant of Peter’s chair.
Clergy and laity are far more outspoken.  Despite the lovely welcoming ceremony at the seminary of Saint Charles in Philadelphia, the word is that the student body is overwhelmingly anti-Francis.  Even more rabid are the seminarians at Mount Saint Mary’s in Emmitsburg where Francis is widely regarded as a usurper on the Papal Throne.  And an acquaintance just back from the sabbatical program at the Pontifical North American College  (you know, you saw the video of the NAC *** Men’s Chorus and the toe-tapping clerics of Little Broadway) was shocked by the anti-Francis sentiments being expressed openly by “a vast majority” of the NACers.  Diocese of Arlington clergy regularly undermine the Pope and his desire for a more inclusive Church from the pulpits of Saint John the Beloved in McLean, Saint John the Apostle in Leesburg, Saint John the Evangelist in Warrenton, Saint John the Baptist in Front Royal, and several other parishes where the priests are determined to hold the line against any loosening up of Church discipline.  Arlington, while particularly infested with clergy who are anti-Francis is far from the only diocese that is suffering from a split Catholicism.  Examples can also be found in New York, Philadelphia, and Boston.  And of course, our friends such as the Canons of Saint John Cantius in Chicago and the Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem in Wheeling and in Saint Louis as well as the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest run churches that are bubbles of a bygone Catholicism and while they are devout in prayers for the Holy Father, otherwise barely acknowledge his existence much less his vision for the Church in our contemporary world. 
And then we have the blogging priests.  “Father Z,” who in between gorging himself with culinary delights and squeezing into over-sized airline seats manages to blog consistently against Francis and his policies, is sort of the Dean of the Anti-Francis blogs.  More vicious but less well known is the English Father Hunwicke, a refugee from the Church of England who would like to make us all over in his image and likeness of what the Catholic Church should be, as if the soured Anglican would know authentic Catholicism.  And of course there is Rene Henry Gracida, the retired bishop of Corpus Christi and his blog, Abyssus Abyssum Invocat which might be better translated the Abysmal Calls to the Abysmal.  Honest to goodness, the man was a poor enough excuse for a bishop, as a blogger he just fills the world with a gloomy faux gospel of judgment and condemnation.  Father Joseph Illo, aka Father Riceroni, the San Francisco treat, makes sure everyone is on board with his scribe and Pharisee Catholicism in contradistinction to Francis’ message of Mercy.  And then there is The Black Biretta: A Cleric Opines.  Sorry Father, but stop opining and get to work preaching the Gospel, the Good News of salvation not the sour news of condemnation.  You weren’t ordained to opine and you obviously weren’t give the charism by the Holy Spirit to have anything worthwhile to say. 
I won’t even go into the Lay Bloggers save to say that Michael Hichborn of Lepanto Institute is in virtual schism in what he says about Pope Francis and the Synod of Bishops.  Rorate Caeli, at one time a worthwhile blog despite its right-wing biases, has lost any credibility for sound theological thinking or for loyalty to the Church and has just morphed into a rant.  As for the witches of Eastwick, Janet and Carole and Mary Ann and the other koven of krazies are beside themselves in despair and ready to jump ship from Peter’s barque should compassion and reconciliation triumph over self-righteousness and spiritual pride.  Let ‘em go, let them all go. 
In the end it will be, I think, much ado about nothing because while many priests and the wing-nut laity will let spiritual pride win out and convince them that they know Catholicism better than the Pope, ultimately I don’t think a single bishop will go with them. You can’t have a schism without a bishop.   In the end Myers and Sheridan and Olmstead and Lori and Burke—and even that old senile windbag Gracida—won’t walk Peter’s plank.  Frankly I might have more respect for them if they did.  I can deal with stupidity, but it shakes me to see people who lack moral courage to stand by their convictions.  Old hens all, I am afraid, who squawk and pick and ruffle their feathers but nothing more.  


  1. Fantastic! You have done in a more reasoned fashion what Fr. D does with his wicked humor and satire. You complement each other nicely. Although I consider his blog to be an occasional occasion of sin, I am addicted to both of yours. In the end, however, I ask myself why I continue to care about this odious situation in the church. Mockery is about the only thing left with which to survive it.

  2. I almost always agree with everything you write. But I disagree with you when you suggest that people who would "walk Peter's plank" may lack moral conviction. It could well be that they simply have a greater moral conviction to be part of the universal church than they do for their own personal preferences. I know I have certainly held my nose going along with the tide for the sake of unity.

    1. well, i guess my perspective as a historian is is that unity is the non-negotiable and unity with Peter. ubi Patrus, ibi ecclesia. I know that some of these bloggers feel that they are with the Church and that it is Pope Francis who is abandoning the Church, but I just can't see it that way. I would feel safer being wrong with Peter than right apart from him. and it is funny because, as you know, my historical training was in one of the most secular universities in the US. I always remember during my comprehensive exams that one of my Jewish Professors turned to the two Protestant professors on the panel and said "I will never understand how a Christian can be a medievalist and be anything other than a Catholic." And to me the only guarantee of Catholicity is union with Peter. I certainly was not a happy camper during much of the last to pontificates, but frankly there is no where else to go. I understand that people have to follow their own consciences and I believe we need to be more tolerant of dissent than John Paul or Benedict allowed, but in the end I have to stand with the Pope. I just can't see it any other way,

    2. I think your comment needs further explication, if not justification. It's all well and good to affirm that a material communio with the Petrine See is a sine qua non of Catholicity. The real issue is to what extent a formal adherence to the Roman Pontiff's teaching at any given moment is also necessary for ecclesial communion -- as described in that ridiculous Oath church leaders must publicly subscribe to upon assuming office (and many take, by the way, with their fingers crossed and with many a jesuitical reservation. Can you imagine the kind of pastors and religious superiors we would have if they meant what they say when swearing that they "adhere with religious submission of will and intellect to the teachings which either the Roman pontiff or the College of Bishops enunciate when they exercise their authentic Magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim these teachings by a definitive act?"). This is the kind of thing that resulted in the delations of seminary professors during the pontificate of "Saint" Pius X over such weighty matters as the personal authorship by Moses of the Pentateuch. Was the lack of formal submission of intellect to a series of propositions, under threat of excommunication, sufficient to separate them from communion with Peter -- propositions that no one embraces today? Today's controverted questions may well prove down the road to be similarly refuted despite the attempts to close doors to them by the recent analogues to Pius and his henchman Merry del Val, i.e. "Saint" John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger.

    3. I am not saying that we have to give formal assent to every proclamation that comes from the Pope but I am saying that we must be respectful of the Petrine authority and of the individual who exercises it when we voice our dissent. I think there is plenty of room for disagreement with the Pope and his alleged endorsement of the "Kasper agenda" and although I do not agree with them, I think the Cardinals who wrote the letter voicing their concerns about the Synodal processes and how they could skew the final outcomes expressed themselves appropriately. However to say that the Church is a "rudderless ship" under this Pope or to refer to the Pope as a "heretic" or question his authority (as opposed to his being right or wrong) is over the line. There was much in the pontificates of Pope John Paul and Pope Benedict that I think were "bad calls" and some actually of questionable moral principle (the public denial of support for Archbishop Romero which left him vulnerable to assassination). Another example would be the trumped up accusations against the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. While I thought these--and other things--were significant errors in judgement, I never questioned the authority of the Pope, I never spoke ill of the Pope, and I certainly never thought he did anything that lost him his authority. At the end of the day you stand with the Pope or you stand outside the Church. That is a historian's perspective and I doubt that you can find a reputable Catholic historian who differs.

  3. Auntie is surprised that anyone is surprised at the antics of . The Krazies have been judging popes for decades; most of them started out as Lutherans or Anglicans or other Protestants, where "Hier stehe ich, ich kann nicht anders" was the word of the day. The Krazy-blogger-in-chief, Father Z, may have left the Lutheran Church, but it sure hasn't left him.

    Yes, they are unleashing their vitriol on Pope Francis; but don't forget that they dissed Paul VI (Novus Ordo), JPII (Assisi, kissing the Koran, wore weird vestments, etc.) and even B16 from time to time -- didn't reimpose the old rite, too nice to the libs, etc.

    And of course the Krazies will instantly turn upon one another. Just watch what happens when any really controversial issue surfaces on any of the Krazy blogs ... actually, it doesn't even need to be controversial. Instant mayhem. Again, no surprise that most of the Krazybloggers either ban comments altogether or maintain tight censorship over them.

    What's happening in Krazyland today has been going on for a long time! It's "the hermeneutic of continuity"!