Monday, July 30, 2012

The Not So Secular Olympic Ceremonies

Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer!
The "Queen" arrives at Olympic Stadium.
I mentioned in yesterday’s entry the fascination of a billion people with the opening “liturgy” of the Olympics as compared and contrasted with the dwindling and graying congregations at Sunday Mass.  But what really drew my attention to the opening ceremonies of the Olympics was not the questions it raises about liturgy but what it said about British secularism as differentiated from American secularism.  So, did you catch in the opening sequence Sir Hubert Parry’s fabulous hymn based on William Blake’s poem Jerusalem?  

And did those feet in ancient time.
Walk upon England’s mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On England’s pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In Englands green & pleasant Land

And Blake’s “Jerusalem” was not all.  Checking the playlist I could not find the John Hughes/William Williams Welsh hymn, “Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer” a perennial favorite of the Royals, but I know that I heard it—the refrain: “feed me till I want no more” is an inside joke among several of us and it caught my attention, plus the tune itself is a great melody. Even as the Blake lyrics represented England, and “Flower of Scotland” (another of my favorites) represented the Northern Kingdom, I suspect that the Hughes/Williams piece was a tip to Wales.  All well and good in Britain, but could you imagine if two ardent Christian hymns were ever included in a civic ritual in the United States?  People would be screaming about Separation of Church and State.  Of course England doesn’t have separation of Church and State—the Church of England being by law established, but that isn’t the point.  In America we want religion and all its vestiges banished from public life, that is every religion except for the lack of religion.  Too bad, for as we saw at Danny Boyle’s spectacular, religion—all religion—has some great tunes.    And I love a good tune, religious or otherwise. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Four Hours--not in Church! Olympics vs Liturgy

I am not sure what to think of the opening ceremonies of the 2012 London Olympics   can you imagine sitting for four hours through a Church service?  And yet there I sat—and how many others worldwide—for a four hour “liturgy” celebrating—well I am not sure what it was celebrating.  It was so, well, post-modern.  I can’t say that I didn’t like it.  I did, for the most part.  Particularly the Queen’s parachuting in with James Bond.  The old lady is a good sport. (Well, we all know it was a stunt-double for the parachute part, but she went along with act and played her part at the palace and stadium.) But what did it all mean? 
I think one of the significant problems with the Liturgy of the Western Church (as opposed to the Eastern Churches and their various rites) is that we western Christians tend to over-define our doctrines so that the experience of liturgy leaves nothing with which to inform the intellect. I mean you get all these doctrines all the time so that when you get to Mass the actual experience of worship has nothing left to reveal to you.  And that approach of doctrine first leaves everything in the head rather than let the head learn through the experience of the heart.  (The various rites of the Eastern Churches, Catholic and Orthodox, leave much more to the doctrinal implications unfolding from an encounter with the Mysterium.)  On the other hand, the Olympic ceremonies had no coherent doctrine to unfold and so created sentiment without content, and though they did that splendidly—to what purpose?  But I think that triumph of amorphous form over vapid content is the hallmark of post-modernism. 
So I really don’t want to write about the ceremonies except to draw our attention to the fact that hundreds of millions of people—allegedly a billion people worldwide—are able to sit through a four-hour ritual, however vapid.  Why are these same people so bored with Sunday Mornings at Our Lady of Perpetual Responsibility?   I must say that the new translation with its complex syntax isn’t helping, but I think the problem is much deeper than that. 
Years ago when I was in grad school I remember one of my professors (Jewish) saying that Christianity is a religion of orthodoxis whereas Judaism and Islam is a religion of orthopraxis.  She meant—and I think she assesses it quite well—that Christianity is all about doctrine and Judaism and Islam are about experience.  Perhaps we Christians, at least western Christians, need more experience of the Divine to balance out the heavy doses of doctrine.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Why Arlington? Historical Context of Clerical Madness 2

Mount Saint Mary's Seminary, Emmitsburg
where many of the Arlington clergy are
Arlington began to chart its distinctive ecclesiological path under its second bishop, John Keating.  Keating was an unusual choice for bishop as he was not particularly religious.  He was not a bad man, much less a bad priest; it was just that the Church for him was more a career than a vocation.  He was trained in canon law and had a love for the law, not in the sense of being a rigorist (which he was anything but) but as a genuine aesthetic appreciation of the Canon Law as an intricate intellectual system with its own unique internal comeliness and logic.  He approached the law like a chess-master appreciates his game or a calligrapher his script. 
Keating had made his mark as a canon lawyer with his Doctoral Dissertation at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome “The Bearing of Mental Impairment on the Validity of Marriage.”  This dissertation was a game-changer for Catholics seeking annulments to their marriages as it opened up the issue of psychological maturity (or, actually, lack thereof) as one the grounds for a marriage being declared null in Church courts.   In fact, Keating was no conservative during his tenure where he served as Vicar General of the Chicago Archdiocese under Archbishop Cardinal John Cody from 1979-1983.  He also was apostolic administrator of the Chicago See from the death of Cardinal Cody to the tenure of the new archbishop, Joseph Bernadin in 1983.
While Keating had a reputation for being a progressive, he and Bernardin were not cut from the same cloth and Bernardin wanted rid of him.  Yet, his years of service in the difficult final period of Cody’s tenure which saw the diocese in chaos because of  Cody’s deep unpopularity and the allegations of financial and moral impropriety against the Cardinal, meant that Keating had to be pensioned off in some way and not merely returned to a parish posting as a pastor.  And so he was named to be the second bishop of Arlington.  Bishop Welsh was translated to the Diocese of Allentown in Pennsylvania—a lateral move at best—and Keating was ordained bishop in his place on August 4, 1983. 
As I wrote above, John Richard Keating was not a bad man but neither was he particularly religious.  He always reminded me of a 12th century Bishop of Reims to whom is attributed the declaration: “This wouldn’t be a bad job (being a bishop), if you didn’t have to sing Mass.”  The liturgical duties of being a bishop seemed a torture for the canon lawyer.  Allegedly rather than officiate in his Cathedral or a parish church in his diocese on Sunday Mornings, he said a private Mass in his chapel and then headed out for a standing tee-time of 9 a.m. Sunday mornings at the Washington Country Club.  When he did say Mass publicly, he wanted the ceremonies had to be abbreviated as much as possible.  Confirmations were streamlined.  At the Easter Vigil he permitted the minimum of only two readings from the Old Testament and no baptisms or confirmations; you would be out in 90 minutes from a rite that took at least two and a half hours in most parishes.  After his body was entombed in the new mausoleum constructed in the crypt of Saint Thomas More Cathedral, the clergy joked that it was the first time that Keating had been present for all the Holy Week ceremonies in his Cathedral. 
I am not faulting Bishop Keating for his detesting the long and complicated rituals of his office—actually I think it could be seen to his credit.  As I have often complained about Cardinal Burke, most of the rituals surrounding prelates are more to their glory than to God’s.  But I don’t think the man was interested in the oversight of his diocese and he let many things go somewhat unsupervised.  One of them was vocations recruitment.
From this point out I am not going to give names to most of the figures I will write about as they are still living and perhaps they have repented of their misdeeds but one of the unnamed is a priest who served as vocation director for most of Bishop Keating’s tenure. 
In just over ten years as bishop, Keating ordained 84 priests for service in his diocese—record numbers for a small diocese in what was a national vocational drought.  How did he do it?  Well, let me tell one story.
Among my friends is a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington who served as a driver for Cardinal James Hickey during Hickey’s tenure as Archbishop of the nation’s capital, just across the river from the Arlington diocese.  This good priest has a poor sense of boundaries and loves to put the needle of jest, sometimes poisoned and always barbed, into anyone higher up the ecclesiastical food-chain than himself.  So one day he said to Cardinal Hickey: “How is it that Bishop Keating is ordaining twelve men this year and you are ordaining three.”  Hickey’s response was: “I don’t want the lawsuits.” 
The Vocation Director (they are called V.D.’s for short) for Arlington was notorious for grabbing any candidate he could in order to “make the numbers.”  A student was dismissed from a seminary for failure to make the grades—Arlington would grab him and send him on to a seminary where the standards might be a bit more, shall we say, “flexible.”  A seminarian was let go because his bishop thought he was too rigid or too conservative—no problem Arlington would take him.  Many—not all, but many—of the Arlington seminarians were part of the ‘biretta brigade’—seminarians who collected the antique vesture and vestments of the past with dreams of restoring the days of priests in the gender-amorphous regalia of nineteenth-century French abbés.  (When you think of it, you never saw Father Chuck O’Malley, aka Bing Crosby, dressed in all that folderol.  He wore a black suit, a clerical collar, and a straw hat.  No biretta.)  While Arlington managed to acquire some good men in this period, it also acquired a significant and disproportionately high number of highly dysfunctional ones thanks to this particular V.D. 
And it was not only the V.D. who was proactive in creating the ecclesial fantasyland that we developing in the northern reaches of the Old Dominion.  There was a small coterie of priests in the diocese who would train the young blood in the ways of reconstructing 1950’s Catholicism.  I remember one time asking a professor at Mount Saint Mary’s, the Emmitsburg seminary where many of the Arlington clergy train, “what are you teaching them there?” in response to some recent bizarreness I had witnessed.  I was told by this professor: “It isn’t us—it is what they are getting from Father X, Father Y, and Monsignor Z back in Arlington.”  And it is true.  But more on that next time.  

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Reformation Today! 7 --Needed: Leaders Who "Get It"

The Late Cardinal Anthony
Bevilaqua--what is there about
Pennsylvania that people just
don't get it?
According to Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports:
As penalties go for Penn State, death would've been preferable.
The NCAA hammered the Nittany Lions football program Monday for its role in concealing Jerry Sandusky's sexual molestation acts, leveling coach Joe Paterno's once revered team with stiff penalties and unprecedented fines that will hurt in ways that suspending play for a season or two might not have.
They include:
• A $60 million fine, with the money going to an endowment to benefit the welfare of children.
• A four-year ban on postseason play, including the Big Ten championship game, bowls or the playoffs coming in 2014.
• A reduction in the maximum allowance of scholarships offered to incoming players from 25 to 15 a year for the next four years.
• Any entering or returning player is free to transfer without restriction (such as sitting out one season). Others can maintain their scholarship at Penn State and choose not to play.
• The vacating of all victories from 1998-2011, which strips Paterno of his title as the winningest coach in college football history (now Grambling's Eddie Robinson) and Division I-A (now Bobby Bowden). Paterno, for the record, loses 111 wins and now ranks 12th with 298.
Mark Emmert took unprecedented measures to punish Penn State. (Getty Images)There’s more, such as a five-year probationary period and the hiring of an academic monitor of the NCAA's choosing and so forth. Penn State will not appeal the sanctions. School president Rodney Erickson signed a consent agreement with the NCAA and "accepts the penalties."
A harsh punishment, perhaps a fatal wound for a much cherished feature of Penn State’s collective life, but for some not harsh enough.  And yet, at the same time there are massed crowds chanting “We are Penn State” and demanding the return of Joe Paterno’s statue as well as life-as-normal on the Penn State campus.  “Don’t punish Penn State for the crimes of Jerry Sandusky,” they cry.  “We need to pick up the pieces of Penn State and put them back so that we can go on to a future even brighter than our past—that would be Joe Paterno’s legacy,” one campus orator repeatedly declaimed at a rally encouraging Penn State enthusiasts to “move on and move forward.”       
(Reuters) - Monsignor William Lynn, the highest-ranking clergyman convicted in the U.S. Roman Catholic Church scandal, was sentenced on Tuesday to up to six years in prison for covering up child sex abuse by priests in Philadelphia.  Judge M. Teresa Sarmina told Lynn, 61, the former secretary of the clergy for the Philadelphia Archdiocese, that he protected "monsters in clerical garb who molested children."
I have to admit that I don’t get satisfaction out of seeing anyone, especially a sixty-something overweight guy in a shabby black suit, go to prison, but that is not the issue.  The complaint has been made that Monsignor Lynn “is being held responsible for all of the abuse that occurred over 30 to 40 years, none of which he participated in.”  The Archdiocese of Philadelphia issued a statement saying "fair-minded people will question the severity" of what it called a "heavy" sentence. "We hope that when this punishment is objectively reviewed, it will be adjusted."  According to the Reuters report, the Archdiocese continued saying that the Church has changed since the events at the center of the trial.   But has it?   Maybe Lynn is taking the fall for decisions made by his boss, the late Cardinal Anthony Bevilaqua and Bevilaqua, splendidly entombed in the chapel at the Philly seminary, is beyond the call of human accountability, but Cardinal Law—the most notorious protector of clerical malfeasants is splendidly ensconced in luxury apartments in Rome where he has enough time to meddle in niggling accusations against the good Sisters of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. 
And this is the problem—whether it is the Church or Penn State or a thousand other institutions, too many organizations put their corporate good over the good of the individuals who comprise them. 
Joe Paterno and William Lynn (and their Eminences Law and Bevilaqua and Penn State officials) and how many others have desired at all costs to protect the institutions they represent rather than to see that institutions are here to serve—and protect—those entrusted to their care. 
Penn State lost its way.  The University does not exist for Football. The University exists for the men and women who go there to find the truths and an education is meant to offer.  And the Church has lost its way.  We, the faithful, do not exist for the Church.  The Church exists for us, and our well-being cannot be sacrificed for the good of some “Church” that exists only in theology books and the minds of hierarchs.  The Church exists for us—for our well-being in this life so that we can safely travel the path that leads us from today’s finite existence into the Infinite Reality which is the ultimate destiny for which we humans are created.  Our well-being in this life—spiritual, physical, emotional, mental well-being—are the first steps on the journey into what we Christians believe is the Fullness of Life which is our destiny.      
For too many people today—and especially for those whose life has become a full-time dedication to an institution that calls itself “the Church”—that institution which confuses itself for  “The Church” is more important than the men and women—and children—who comprise the flesh and blood reality of the Church.  The ultimate reality of the Church is not the Pope and Bishops and clergy and religious and laity in some pyramidal hierarchy (with its corresponding lower-archy), but it is the living Body of Christ with its diversity of members each with his or her own function and each with his or her key importance to the welfare of the whole.  In other words, when we talk about Church Reform today we need to vision it no longer from the top down but from within to see the network of individuals whose being woven together in a seamless unity of mutual respect and appreciation for the intrinsic worth of each member from the least to the greatest comprises the mystical Body of Christ.  In such a Church, there is no room for the arrogant triumphalism and self-aggrandizing clericalism of those who are trying to bring back the Church of the previous five centuries.  We need new models that display service rather than power and we need new leaders who have the spirituality to make those new models realities.  It appears that such new leadership would require a whole lot of housecleaning.    

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Why Arlington? Historical Context of Clerical Madness 1

Thomas J Welsh, First Bishop
of Arlington

I think the thing that has most worried me about this whole episode of a “fidelity oath” that allegedly was to be imposed on catechists and their teaching aides—some of whom are only in their early teens and would have no idea of what they were being asked to swear to—was the expectation that such an “oath” would apply not only to the public or external forum (what we say, write, publish, teach) but to the internal forum (what we believe to be true and by which we direct our moral actions) and this would break new and dangerous ground in the Church.  The internal forum—matters of conscience—are traditionally sacrosanct in our Catholic tradition and are dealt with only with one’s confessor and/or spiritual director but are never subject to public appraisal.  I was struck in a recent book edited by Jesuit historian John O’Malley (Vatican II: Did Anything Happen?, New York: Continuum, 2011 )  by his insight that in all the anathemas imposed by ecumenical councils from the first, Nicea, to Vatican I (Vatican II did not threaten with anathemas) that they always applied explicitly to what one said or denied or taught or in some way did observably—that is to the external forum—and never to what one thought or held interiorly, i.e., the internal forum.   What was so disquieting in the Arlington kerfuffle was how quick some were to take up the crusade against others with whom they disagree and with how much anger they wanted to push those who disagree with them to the margins of the Church, or even beyond.  One person wrote on the blog of a friend of mine “If your conscience prevents you from teaching what the Church teaches, then perhaps you are a better Protestant than a Catholic. There are a hundred thousand alternatives. Take your pick ”as if she could not too quickly be rid of the company of others whose understanding of our Catholic faith differs from hers.  There is a noxious air in the Arlington Diocese, an atmosphere of anger and self-righteous pseudo-orthodoxy, that is rooted in a curious combination of the American “Culture Wars” and the particular circumstances in which the Diocese has its roots. 
Arlington Diocese, of course, is a case somewhat of itself.  If one knows the history of Arlington, the diocese was conceived in sin and over the decades of its existence has probably needed an exorcist more than a bishop.  Back in the early ‘70’s when Richmond Bishop John Russell who had been a Council Father at Vatican II was retiring and Walter Sullivan—a known progressive—was named to replace him, a group of Northern Virginia pastors used their influence with the Apostolic Delegate to split the Richmond diocese and create the Diocese of Arlington from the Washington DC suburbs and the northern half of the State of Virginia.  To be fair, it was probably time to create a second diocese in Virginia, and these particular pastors had been strategizing about it for a period of time, but the way in which the split was organized and the intentions behind it laid the groundwork for today’s rancorous divisions in the new diocese. 
Monsignors Justin McClunn, T.P.Scannell, Richard Burke among other conservative pastors were by no means the ideologues of today’s Arlington right-wing clerics but they were appalled at the extremes to which some Richmond priests were going in liturgical experimentation.  When one looks at the churches they built—McClunn’s St. Louis in Alexandria or Scannell’s St. Michael’s in Annandale—these were not men trying to undo the liturgical reforms proposed by the Second Vatican Council but neither were they the sort to go along with exotic escapades of the likes of Fr. Tom Quinlan who one Christmas dressed as a “Blue Angel” (remember Marlene Dietrich?) or one Palm Sunday drove a Volkswagen Beetle down the aisle in his Procession of Palms.  This is not to say that McClunn and company were simply “High Churchmen”—while they embraced the new liturgy (done according to the established norms of the times), they were not of the temperament to share decision making with the laity in their parishes nor to be “transparent” about finances.  (Scannell was a financial wizard whose foresight in acquiring property all over Northern Virginia served the new diocese well when it came time to open new parishes.)    Let me also say that McClunn, Scannell, Burke and associates were, at least in my memory (I was quite young then and only an observer to the diocese being a grad student in DC but with many ties to Northern Virginia and its clergy) were gentlemen.  While I would at the time not have agreed with them on very much about the Church and where it needed to go, and while most of my clergy friends were in the opposition camp to them, I found them unfailingly hospitable and gracious men.  I cannot say that about many in the current crop of their heirs among the Arlington crazies.  
It was a disappointment to this coterie of monsignoral conservatives that McClunn was not, as expected, named the new bishop.  And perhaps, in retrospect, it was too bad that he wasn’t.   Philadelphia auxiliary Thomas Welsh became the first bishop of Arlington.  Welsh was not a bad man nor a retro bishop.  Granted, he was one to put the brakes on, but not to put the car in reverse much less turn around and make hell-bent-for-leather into the days of preconciliar Catholicism.  Nevertheless, the clergy being given the option of with which diocese to affiliate, most of the progressives fled south to Richmond leaving Arlington with a clergy somewhat skewed to the right.  It was not time yet to panic however.  Most of the Arlington clergy were moderate in their conservative views.  Conciliar and post-conciliar reforms—the RCIA, the 1974 revisions in the Rite of Reconciliation, the use of Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist, the option of receiving communion in one’s hand, all were introduced as they were elsewhere.  Altars faced the people.  New churches were being built in designs that reflected the congregational role of participation in the liturgy.  Arlington may have been moving somewhat slower and more cautiously into the emerging Church of Vatican II, but it wasn’t resisting it or even dragging its feet.  But that was before the proactive campaign to recruit recidivist clergy that would take place under Arlington’s second bishop, John Richard Keating.  More on that to come. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Inquisition Cancelled--All A Misunderstanding

Arlington Bishop,
Paul Loverde
I am deeply ashamed.  I broke a cardinal rule of historians.  I published (albeit in blog form) without having completed my research.  It turns out that there is no “fidelity oath” in the Diocese of Arlington after all.  After contacting the diocese I received a copy of Bishop Loverde’s letter and of the alleged “oath.”  And the diocesan spokesperson told me: “It is not an oath.  It is a profession of faith”—and that is the very sort of thing that I had said was the appropriate requirement. Here is the text of the Arlington profession of faith.  

I, N., with firm faith believe and profess everything that is contained in the Symbol of faith: namely:
I believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen. I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten not made, one in Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation, he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets. I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
With firm faith, I also believe everything contained in the Word of God, whether written or handed down in Tradition, which the Church, either by a solemn judgment or by the ordinary and universal Magisterium, sets forth to be believed as divinely revealed.
I also firmly accept and hold each and everything definitively proposed by the Church regarding teaching on faith and morals.
Moreover, I 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 profession of faith contains the key doctrines of the faith as articulated in the Nicene Creed, as well as that which is taught by the Magisterium as divinely revealed in scripture and (Apostolic) Tradition.  It further demands assent to that which has been defined by the Church in the areas of faith and morals.  And it includes that which is taught by the Universal Magisterium even when it is not defined as dogma.  That is actually not asking a lot, especially of a potential religion teacher.  When one understands the language, it is not as fearful as it might sound. 
First, while I would have preferred that it not require a “religious submission of will and intellect” to that which is taught by the Roman Pontiff and the College of Bishops,” such a requirement does not infringe on the rights and obligations of conscience in the interior forum.  It simply means that in the public forum—in the classroom, in public discussions, in what one writes or publishes—one does not dissent from that which is taught by the Pope or by the College of Bishops, that is by the ordinary magisterium.  One must agree publically with what the Pope has taught not only in “infallible statements” but in his ordinary teaching mode—i.e. encyclicals.  (This would exclude Mr. Justice Scalia from teaching CCD were he so inclined as he has publicly dissented from the teaching on Capital Punishment as laid out in Evangelium Vitae.  By equivalency, however, it also means that one cannot dissent in teaching, writing, publishing, or public speaking from the teaching on contraception as outlined in Humanae Vitae.)  It does not mean, however, that one in one’s own conscience cannot reach a different conclusion on contraception, or another issue taught by the magisterium.   Operative here is “in one’s own conscience” which is not a public forum but a matter of internal forum.  Of course such a private divergence from Church teaching requires that one have studied the issue with due seriousness.  Furthermore, if one is to actually practice contraception (and not only privately disagree with the teaching) it normally would mean that in addition to a serious study of the issue, one has discussed this with his or her confessor before deciding that the moral principles laid out in the Church’s teaching for some grave reason do not apply to the particular circumstances of one’s own life.  And it would require due discretion in the public forum regarding such a decision.  While one might come to such a conclusion in one’s own circumstances, and one can discuss it freely with one’s family or friends, one should not advertise one’s dissent—theoretical or practical—from magisterial teaching.    I know this sounds awfully complicated but there are some fine lines here precisely to protect the sovereignty of conscience. 
Secondly, in regard to this final paragraph of required profession of faith, let me draw your attention to the phrase “College of Bishops.”  One must not only show public respect and not publicly dissent from the magisterial teachings of the Roman Pontiff, but also to the magisterial authority of the College of Bishops. 
While a bishop can require of the Catholic faithful over whom he has authority assent to his magisterial authority in his diocese, this document does not attempt to go that far.  It only requires assent to the magisterial authority of the Pope and the College of Bishops.  That refers to the universal college of bishops acting as one such as when the bishops proclaim in the canons or decrees of an Ecumenical Council.  “College of Bishops” refers neither to an individual bishop nor to a Conference of Bishops such as the USCCB.  A bishop (who is the Ordinary, i.e. the bishop of the diocese) has magisterial authority in his own diocese but this document does not include that.  A Bishops’ Conference (such as the USCCB) does not have magisterial authority in any circumstances.  So the USCCB position on the HHS mandate is not binding—publicly or privately—on the faithful, even those called to be catechists.   It also must be remembered that magisterial authority is limited in all cases—even that of the Roman Pontiff—to matters of faith and morals.  While faith and morals can (and should) have impact on one’s political, economic,  or social behavior or one’s ideas in philosophy, history, science, mathematics,  magisterial authority extends only over areas of doctrine and morals.  Thus the magisterium cannot directly command a particular political choice though it can lay out the moral principles which should bind the Catholic citizen to certain criterion in making his or her political choice.  In any event, despite the claim of the unnamed doctrinal authority of the Arlington Diocese quoted by the Washington Post, there is no required affirmation that the HHS mandate violates the religious freedom of the Church.  One may hold that opinion if one so chooses but the USCCB has no authority to require assent to any teaching and while the universal magisterium rightly teaches the moral requirement for freedom of religious practice, the question of whether this particular bill impinges on that freedom is a matter of Constitutional Law and not in the realm of faith/morals. 
More comments on the Arlington Profession of Faith in future entries.      

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Reformation Today 6! A Voice For The Faithful

John Henry Newman as a
young Anglican clergyman
John Henry Newman (1801-1890), made a Cardinal by Leo XIII and beatified by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010, is the darling of many of today’s Catholic neo-cons and it must only be because they have not done an in depth look at his life and career.  When he was made a Cardinal, Leo XIII told him that there had been much opposition to his receiving the red hat from the neo-cons of his day because he was too liberal.  Actually, while he was no ultramontane, liberal and conservative are each descriptions that do not fit Newman well. 
Newman had been born into a family with Calvinist lineage and a precocious reader, even by 19th century English Protestant bourgeois standards, he himself embraced evangelical Calvinism in his teen years.  This gave him a firm foundation in the fundamentals of Christian orthodoxy and removed him from the intellectual malaise of liberal Anglicanism’s drift towards religious indifferentism.  It was that same abhorrence of a non-intellectual Christianity however that drove Newman beyond evangelicalism even as it had first drawn him in.  Newman, a man of the most controlled affectivity, saw that many of his fellow evangelicals had embraced the movement not for its fidelity to the core Christian doctrines of the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the Atonement, but for the religious feelings that evangelical worship produced.  At university Newman settled more comfortably into the intellectual Anglicanism typical of the Oxbridge Colleges of the nineteenth century. 
Newman was ordained deacon and then priest in the Anglican Church in his Oxford years and undertook pastoral work as well as various tutorial and administrative posts.  His passion to understand Christian dogma led him to a thorough study of the Church Fathers.  His immersion into the Fathers led him to write The Arians of the Fourth Century which was published in 1833. 
It was doing his research on the Arian controversy where he discovered to his shock the while Saint Athanasius, Patriarch of Alexandria, and a only a minority of the bishops supported the doctrine that Jesus is equal in divinity to the Father, the majority of bishops accepted the Arian heresy.  Arius was a priest of Alexandria who in the late third and early fourth century taught that Jesus was not equal to the Father in his divinity.  The majority bishops, anxious to move slowly in articulating the evolution of the faith of the Church which was only then coming to understand the implications of the Divinity of Christ for the core dogma of the Oneness of God—that is only then questioning how if Jesus is God and the Father is God can God be One—were hedging on the Divinity of the Son, implying that Jesus’ Divinity was somehow less than the Divinity of the Father or of a lesser Divine Nature.  While Athanasius and a minority of bishops were brave enough to speak out for what eventually would be defined as Christian Orthodoxy it was the overwhelming support of the laity for the Divinity of the Logos, the Second Person of the Trinity, that carried the day.  This impressed Newman on the importance of the sensus fidelium—the consensus of the laity—not merely in passively accepting doctrine but whose acceptance of doctrine is a key element of its definition. 
Years later Newman wrote an essay for The Rambler “On Consulting the Faithful on Matters of Doctrine.”  This article which asserts the importance of the voice of the faithful in the formulation of doctrine without confusing it with the duties of the magisterium, attracted the wrath of Pius IX and the contempt of Newman’s peers.  One of those peers, a Monsignor George Talbot, said that the role of the laity was “to hunt, to shoot, and to entertain.”  There are many Talbots in the Church today who think that only the hierarchy has a role in the formation of doctrine and many of them have pictures of Newman above their desks or belong to various societies named after Newman.  But attracted to the glamor of a convert turned Cardinal, they don’t seem to understand how radical a thinker Newman was in his day.  Had Christians of the fourth century passively accepted in intellect and will all that was taught by the bishops, we would today be Unitarians. But God inspires more than just the magisterium; he inspires the entire Church.  Those voices who are questioning the "fidelity oath" in the Diocese of Arlington understand how important it is that they fully understand that to which they are swearing belief.   

Friday, July 20, 2012

Reformation Today! 5

John Henry, Cardinal Newman,
champion for the voice of the
faithful in the formulation of
Church Doctrine
This issue about the “loyalty oath” in the Arlington Diocese returns us to the topic of necessary reforms in the Catholic Church.  As I had written in some earlier entries, reform and reformation is always part of the Church’s agenda.  Semper reformans, semper reformanda—always reforming, always in need of reform is an old axiom of ecclesiology—the theology of the Church.
In the past many of the Church’s reformations such as the Carolingian Reform or the Tridentine Reform (sometimes called the Catholic Reformation to distinguish it from the Protestant Reformations which it followed and attempted to staunch) have been internal reforms.  Other times, unhappily, attempts to Reform the Church have ended up splitting the unity of the Church.  Luther’s Reformation and the English Reformation are two examples of this.  Sometimes Catholics lump Luther and Henry VIII and John Calvin and others all together into a single “Protestant Reformation but the history is far more complex and Luther, Calvin, the English Church, and other Protestant movements of the sixteenth century are as different from one another as they are from the Papal Catholicism from which they split.  If one is to consider the new religious groupings of the sixteenth century in general it is better to pluralize it and refer to the “Protestant Reformations.”   But that isn’t where I want to go today.
I think that “liberals” and “conservatives” alike can agree that there is an urgent need for Church Reform today.  We may disagree on how that reform be implemented, but we all can agree that there are serious problems facing our Church.  The sex-abuse scandals and the financial irregularities, both of which stretch from the highest authorities in Rome down to the level of local parishes, are only two such indications.  The emerging stories of nuns being sexually abused by priests in Africa is a third.  The loss of huge numbers of Catholics to secularism in Europe and to Evangelicalism in Latin America is yet another.  The vocation crisis facing the Church in Europe and North America is one more. 
At the same time that we speak of these problems, however, we can also see that in some ways the Church is healthier than it has been in centuries.  We have a much better educated membership.  We have a laity that is stepping up to bat and assuming vocations and ministries in the Church proper to their status as baptized and confirmed members of Christ’s Body.  The Church is growing rapidly in Asia, the Pacific, and Africa—and Latin America, where once the Catholic faith had fallen into gross inactivity through the lack of priests, is now alive and vibrant with small faith communities who are evangelizing and animating the faith of their neighbors.  While the Church in the Northeast and urban centers of the upper Midwest sees parishes closing, South of the Mason Dixon (once staunch Baptist land) and west of the Mississippi, new churches are being built to hold large congregations. 
Well what about the Arlington Oath?  How does that give us any indication of what is needed in Church reform?  Any reform of the Church today needs to respect the laity and take seriously their vocation as full members of the Body of Christ. When I speak with people who have left the Church for other religious groups, and especially the evangelical communities, it seems that the most common response I hear is that they were frustrated in the Church because they were not being listened to and their gifts were not being taken seriously. 
According to Blessed John Henry Newman, in the early days of the Church, when the Church was in its first flower and at its strongest, it spoke with three voices: the Magisterium—the bishops; the theologians, those who studied and knew the tradition and prepared the work of the magisterium; and the consensus fidelium—the articulated faith experience of the laity.  Over the centuries first the laity and then the theologians have been pushed to the margins.  The faithful were told to be quiet and think as they were told to think and act as they were told to act.  (Some would call this “assent of the intellect and will.)   Then from the end of the Council of Trent up to the present, the theologians have not been allowed to think for themselves but relegated to providing a rationale for what the magisterium was proclaiming.  And then, after Vatican I, the bishops—an essential component of the magisterium—were told that the Pope (and his Curia) would do the thinking for them and they simply had to utter to those below what they had heard from those above.  Although Vatican II and the decree Christus Dominus was an attempt to restore at least the bishops to their proper authority, the effort has been reversed in this and the previous pontificates.  This is not a healthy situation.  As Newman also said: when the laity stop questioning the bishops, the bishops fall into heresy.  (He was referring to the Arian heresy of the fourth century into which the majority of bishops fell and from which only the faithful adherence to orthodoxy of the laity preserved the Church.) 
We need a laity today who are educated (which we have), informed (which they must be) and are allowed to ask the significant questions and articulate the faith as their experience provides.  It doesn’t mean that they will always be right or that the Church is a democracy.  But they have been baptized and sealed with the Holy Spirit and their voice is an essential part of the confession of the Church’s faith.    And theologians must be allowed the freedom inquiry without which their work—formulating the faith of the Church with intellectual credibility—will be dismissed as insubstantial by those who use the intellects God has given them.    

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Oath and the Offense of Lèse Majesté against God

The Bishop administering Confirmation in
the Arlington Diocese
Boy, this issue of the Arlington oath has exploded my blog with three-to-four times the number of hits this past day.  Well, more on it today. 
Some years ago I was in Rome for a meeting of a committee of which I was a member and a colleague of mine, an Italian priest who teaches Moral Theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University (though he isn’t a Jesuit) asked me why I had chosen to do my doctoral studies in history and not theology.   I told him that while theology interested me, I would be reluctant to take the oath required of theology professors. History lies outside the jurisdiction of the magisterium and it is better that I stick there.  While as a faithful Catholic, I would not knowingly teach anything contrary to the teaching of the Church, I found it demeaning that it would be presumed that I or any Catholic professor would violate our sacred trust and present ideas contrary to the faith of the Church as if they were in fact part of the deposit of faith.  It is demeaning to one’s human and professional dignity to presume that he or she would betray the trust given them.  If one betrays this trust—ok, then act but the oath given to theology professors on Catholic faculties unprovokedly calls into question their commitment to the faith.    
This moral theology professor poo-pooed my reservation and said: of those oaths—“they’re given in bad faith, take them in bad faith.”  
I have often told that story and always gotten a laugh.  And I can see how others could be so cavalier about an oath “given in bad faith,” but for me an oath is an oath and it calls upon God to be my witness.     
The Diocese of Arlington is asking Catholics to stand up and swear with God as their witness, that they hold everything that is taught not only by the universal magisterium (the Pope alone and the College of Bishops acting in concert with the Pope  but by the bishops collectively (The USCCB) and by the local bishop.  This is a tall order.  OK—they want the catechists to hold—not just publically but in their conscience—that abortion is morally evil, that contraception is morally evil, that same-sex relationships are morally evil.  OK—we got that.  But they also want Virginia Catholics to swear that they abide by the Church’s teaching on capital punishment.  They want Virginia Catholics to swear that they abide by the Church’s teaching on just war.  They want Virginia Catholics to swear that they abide by the Church’s teachings on the rights of people to migrate.  They want Virginia Catholics to swear that they abide by the Church teachings on economic justice.  Now I realize these teachings are nuanced—as is the teaching on contraception and, in fact, are all doctrines—but do you really think that the person-in-the-Arlington-pews supports the teaching on the Death Penalty and the very limited circumstances in which it can be used?  No one who is going to vote for Ken Cuccinelli this autumn would qualify.   Do you really think the person-in-the-Arlington-pews think that the Presidents Bush, I and II brought us into an unjust war in Iraq?  And if they do, did they think it at the time and would they still think it if the circumstances were repeated today?  Do you think the person-in-the-Arlington-pews agrees in intellect and will with the Bishops’ 1983 pastoral on nuclear weapons or 1986 letter on Economic justice?  These documents have never been repealed and still constitute part of the teaching required by the proposed oath.
No this oath is going to bring people of good faith who have legitimate reservations about Church teaching to either forsake the ministry of teaching or to call on God to witness a lie.  People of integrity will walk away from the oath.  People who do not take God seriously will step up and perjure themselves before God.

There is no need for such a moral quandary.  The oath is being arbitrarily imposed. Canon Law does not require—nor support—such an oath.  There are alternatives.  Catechists can, at the annual mass installing them in their ministry, be called on to stand in Church, recite a profession of faith, and promise the pastor and the congregation that they will teach the faith of the Church as the Church teaches it.  The same end is attained without the lèse majesté of an unnecessary oath. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Freedom of Conscience--All Depends On Whose Conscience It Is

Bishop Loverde of Arlington
teaching children the faith
My last posting concerned a “fidelity oath” that the Diocese of Arlington has imposed on teachers in Catholic Schools and Religious Education programs throughout the diocese.  This oath allegedly requires teachers to “believe everything the bishops characterize as divinely revealed and Arlington’s top doctrine official said it would include things like the bishops’ recent campaign against a White House mandate that most employers offer contraception coverage…” 
Well we have some problems, here, don’t we boys and girls?
In the first place, is the problem of oaths.  Let us look at paragraph 2155 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church
The holiness of the divine name demands that we neither use it for trivial matters, nor take an oath which on the basis of the circumstances could be interpreted as approval of an authority unjustly requiring it. When an oath is required by illegitimate civil authorities, it may be refused. It must be refused when it is required for purposes contrary to the dignity of persons or to ecclesial communion.
Now I will be the first to say that it is extremely important that those charged with teaching the faith teach the faith as the Church teaches it, no problem.  I will also agree that a priest being given the charge of souls as Parish Priest (the canonical term for a pastor) may be required to take an oath to teach the faith in its fullness and without alteration.  Even more would this be true for a man being installed as bishop of a diocese.  No problem.  But an oath requiring complete assent of intellect and will to be in conformity to all Church teaching for a man or woman teaching seven-year olds?  Or—for that matter—teaching seventeen year olds?  I think the pastor needs to meet with the teachers and explain the importance of teaching what the Church teaches.  I think teaching needs to be—to some extent—monitored to make sure the children are getting the faith of the Church and not the private opinions of a teacher presented as the teaching of the Church.  But an oath!  I would think that it is funny—somewhat like a cartoon of a man going after a horsefly with cannon—were it, if not a violation of the 2nd commandment at least skirting its violation. 
Secondly, in taking an oath, is the person being required to admit the right of
diocesan authorities to require such an oath and do the bishop and his officials  have the moral right to require religion teachers to take an oath that extends their authority over “intellect and will”? 
According to the catechism we should not take an oath that is being imposed unjustly lest the taking of that oath be interpreted as approving the unjust exercise of authority.  Do Diocesan authorities have the right to call in individuals and make them swear that not only in the public forum—i.e. in what they say in the classroom—but in the internal forum—i.e. what they believe and practice in their conscience—that they give complete assent to whatever the bishop(s) determine is divinely revealed.  This is very complicated as it involves authority over the internal forum—the conscience of the individual.  Now, under certain circumstances, the Church has imposed the obligation on certain people to give assent both internally and externally to certain doctrines, including the teaching on contraception.  I have no problem with the Church requiring priests and those who teach in the name of the Church to promise that they will not teach contrary to Church doctrine.  I do have a problem, however, when you talk about requiring internal assent if that extends to conscience.  While I believe that we must form our consciences according to the teaching of the Church, I also believe that the conscience is sacrosanct and that even an erroneous conscience must be listened to by the person to whom it belongs. I have been taught that this too is a fundamental principle of Catholic moral theology.  What authority then does the Church have to make a person hold in conscience what they do not in fact hold in conscience?    
Now up to this point we have been talking about issues like contraception or same-sex relationships and these are certainly within the area of the Church’s teaching competency, but this Arlington “oath” extends not only to such grave matters but to agreement of intellect and will that the HHS mandate that most employers offer contraception coverage is a violation of religious freedom.  We have crossed a line here from faith and morals (contraception) to Constitutional Law (that the mandate is an infringement of the First Amendment).  Can such a principle justly be required to be accepted in “intellect and will?”  Would not taking such an oath involving a constitutional question with political overtones be a validation of the authority of the Church to impose itself beyond the area of faith and morals?  Or perhaps the catechism is saying that the requirement to resist an unjust oath only applies to civil authorities but that the Church has such a right over its members? Hmmm.  No it seems to be that this oath is wrong in the first place because the matter is not sufficiently grave to require an oath.  Secondly it is wrong because it tries to exercise an absolute jurisdiction over an individual’s conscience.  Thirdly it seems to be to be wrong because it admits the validity of the diocesan authority to impose its weight beyond the competency of the Church’s magisterium.  Let me conclude with an email I recently received from a friend of mine.  It just repeats part of the Washington Post article—but a significant part
Loverde, who called for the oath, was not available for comment. Catholic bishops have broad authority in their dioceses, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said there is no churchwide requirement for such oaths.
Some experts said the oath embodies the intense struggle in Catholicism today to define what makes someone a true follower. What teachings are core? What authority do laypeople have?
The Rev. Ronald Nuzzi, who heads the leadership program for Catholic educators at the University of Notre Dame, said many bishops “are in a pickle.” They want Catholic institutions to be staffed by people who not only teach what the church teaches but whose “whole life will bear witness.”
Nuzzi said he keeps a photo on his desk from the 1940s that shows all the German bishops in their garb, doing the Nazi salute.
“I keep it there to remind people who say to do everything the church says, that their wisdom has limitations, too.”     
Let me repeat
“I keep it there to remind people who say to do everything the church says, that their wisdom has limitations, too.”