A couple of days ago, I posted a writing called Sweeping out the Cobwebs. It generated a number of excellent comments, and I thought it was worth another post to explore some of them, as well as answer a couple of criticisms.
Rick Allan writes:
Sherry, I guess I understand where you are coming from regarding Benedict because of the way the press has headlined this story, i.e., “Pope revokes excommunication after bishop denies holocaust.” It’s encouraged every “Ratzi is a Nazi” extremist on the web.
But surely you know that the SSPX schism was the largest that came out of Vatican II, and I don’t know why it’s scandalous that the Church continues to try to reconcile those who left or who were excommunicated.
The great irony, of course, is that, while none of those reconciled will be able to exercise any authority in the Church without acknowledging the legitimacy of Vatican II, Benedict keeps getting reviled for somehow trying to reverse it.
For years I have asked for any particular in which Benedict (or JPII) reversed or set aside any provision of the council decisions, and no one has been able to answer the question. It’s not as if the documents of the council are hard to come by; I still have my old 700-page Crossroads “Document of Vatican II” that it seems like, at one time, every Catholic had on the shelf. But it doesn’t take much reading to see that substantially all of the last two pope’s “controversial” positions on abortion, sexual mores, ecumenicism, marriage, and church and state, are all pretty much in accord with what the Council taught.
So, I understand that you disagree with most of what the Church teaches on many of those subjects, and, in that regard, I think you plainly stand with the majority. But this idea that there’s been some sort of “conservative coup” in the Church, or some sort of Vatican II roll back, seems unsupported by the facts.
Whenever I speak about the Roman Catholic Church, I run the risk of looking like someone who is simply bashing her. Let me set the record straight. As a practicing Roman Catholic, I often criticized the Church, mostly on the issue of women’s ordination, and contraception. As time went on, the list of things I disagreed about grew.
I became aware that contrary to what I had been taught by Catholic religious as well as clergy, contraception was not a matter of personal conscience, at least to those who took the extreme right position. I was told in effect, that “correct formation of personal conscience, could not in effect be correct unless in perfect conformity with church teaching.”
Now that of course means that there is no such thing as personal conscientiousness at all. Be that as it may, I learned of this and any number of other extreme right wing views at Catholic Answers, but increasingly at websites and blogs around the web. Increasingly I found Roman Catholic clergy who were of the same opinion also on the web, and they were stating as fact, things that were to put it mildly, against the great majority of Catholic thinking from theologians and other biblical experts.
All of this led me in the end to reject the Church as proper teacher of truth AS TO ME. I have never rejected the Church itself, nor do I reject a good deal of her teaching.
It goes without saying that Benedict’s elevation to the Chair of Saint Peter was met with dismay by most progressive, liberal, and a good many middle of the road Catholics. He was not referred as the “Rottweiler” for nothing. We had experienced a very clear conservative finger wagging when it came from JPII and we expected nothing better from Benedict, and I think it is fair to say, that he is just as conservative in his outlook as JPII was.
I am no expert on Vatican affairs. I have no quarrel with the Rick’s claim that neither JPII nor Benedict has actually reversed in any manner any of the Vatican II holdings. I’m not sure that either could do so unilaterally anyway, but that is not the issue.
What I claim is that there is an atmosphere around both recent popes that says, those of you who thought Vatican II introduced a breath of fresh air into the Magisterium, are pretty much wrong. They, it seems to me, go to lengths to claim that in reality Vatican II made no such great changes in the first place. Those on the left who think it did, are patently wrong.
Where once the Latin mass was allowed in few places, today, permission is being given freely as I understand it. I have no quarrel with this, since I have always thought the Latin mass beautiful and mysterious and I enjoyed them. But the trend is obvious.
I have no quarrel with Benedict’s desire to bring the SSPX group back into the flock per se. I don’t believe generally that excommunication is a good thing. What I object to, is that the fact that it has been withdrawn to a group which is in clear opposition to Magisterial teaching, yet excommunication is being used as a hammer against priests and others who speak in favor of women’s ordination and homosexual rights. Their “sin” seems to me certainly no greater than the SSPX’s.
I do believe that JPII added a great number of new cardinals to the college. I do believe he raised those who were conservative in the same manner than he was. I believe that is why Benedict was elevated. I believe that there is little hope that the progressive, liberal element of the Church will be heard in the near future, and this is by design.
I find the some of Benedicts faux pas regarding Muslims and Jews lately to reflect this more conservative element. I find it unhelpful and counterproductive to the work so many are doing to find ways of compromise and cooperation. I determined, in my decision to leave, that I would not live to see a modernizing of the Church, which I believe she very much needs.
I agree that the issue of a particular priest holding anti-Semitic views is hardly controlling in the decision by Benedict to withdraw the interdict of excommunication. I expect that the priest in question and others who have so defiantly opposed the Church will not be placed in positions of power. But I place this against the fact that the Church is upholding and supporting the decisions of various “rogue” bishops and archbishops in the US and around the world who in fact are about the business of denying communion to others for their views. On balance, I find that conservativism is winning.
What is most troubling to me, is that I find a definite viciousness, unchristian in nature, occurring throughout the US among a significant minority of extreme right wing Catholics. And they are most encouraged in their crusade by what Benedict and others are doing. They see that Benedict is patting them on the head and telling them they are right in their vicious assaults on people and organizations, political parties, and ideologies they don’t personally agree with.
Even so innocuous a thing as evolution is taking it’s toll. How does one argue with young earth creationists when they simply say, show me where the Magisterium says we may not believe these things and be in good stead with the Church. And of course, one can’t for the Church permits it, even though any sensible person who uses any modicum of logic, knows this to be utter falsehood of the most egregious kind.
Allowing the right wing to hold on to their various archaic beliefs only serves to make all Catholics look ridiculous in my opinion. I was admitted ashamed to learn that such views were held by what was at that time, my fellow Catholic brethren. I am not claiming that Catholics who cling to such notions be excommunicated or held in sin, I am simply saying that it is long past time for the Vatican to speak clearly on the subject. Have we not had enough of Galileo type issues?
Rick, I just want to say, that I value your opinions, and hope I have fairly answered you. It is seldom that people bother to visit blogs they don’t agree with, and thus comments end up being little more than simple “I agree” statements. You make us all think and thus sharpen our arguments.
To all the rest who commented, I found your thoughts most enlightening. As to remarks about inconsistency in life issues, I agree. It is difficult to reconcile even my own views at times. I am pulled in many directions. My remarks that there is racism in some of this is true I believe. I am sure it is not for many others, who sincerely believe in what they say. However I stand by the fact that when your ONLY issue is abortion, I find it hard to vilify Mr. Obama across the board, which some people do. This gives rise, in my mind at least, that there is a more subtle evil at work here.