Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Vatican vs. "Call to disobediance"

I feel this is a good follow-up to my post about Cardinal Dolan because this is a clear display of talking past each other, not to each other in the Church.

So, here's the story:

These priests in Austria sign a petition saying they want to see the following changes in the Church:

  1. In every liturgy they will include a petition for church reform.
  2. They will not deny Communion to faithful of good will, especially remarried people, members of other Christian churches, and in some cases those who have officially left the Catholic Church.
  3. As much as possible they will avoid celebrating multiple times on Sundays and feastdays, and avoid scheduling circuit rider priests unknown to the community. A locally-planned Liturgy of the Word is preferable.
  4. They will use the term “Priestless Eucharistic Celebration” for a Liturgy of the Word with distribution of Communion. This is how the Sunday Mass obligation is fulfilled when priests are in short supply.
  5. They will ignore the prohibition of preaching by competently trained laity, including female religion teachers. In difficult times, the Word of God must be proclaimed.
  6. They will advocate that every parish has a presiding leader – man or woman, married or unmarried, full-time or part time. Rather than consolidating parishes, they call for a new image of the priest.
  7. They will take every opportunity to speak up publicly for the admission of women and married people to the priesthood. These would be welcome colleagues in ministry.

Now, like Luther in his 95 Theses, these guys bring up some valid concerns, but you'd never know it because they are so weighed down with a lot of ideas that they know will never happen in the Church (at least they should know it, if they know anything about how the Church works and what the Church teaches).

For example: Clearly these guys are concerned about the priest shortage and the impact of the shortage on the community. They don't like seeing parishes consolidated (see 6 above) and they hate seeing priests preach to parishes they've never even met (see 3 above). I think both of those are valid concerns and I share them. But, the solution isn't married clergy (some of your most conservative dioceses have the most vocations) and we've already had an arguably infallible statement that women can't be priests (and I don't feel prejudiced against).

I share their concern about closed communion. It broke my heart that my parents couldn't receive communion at my wedding. But, again, the Church has good reasons. The Eucharist, in addition to being the Body and Blood of Christ, is also a sign of unity. If you are not in unity, you shouldn't receive it. It's even in the Bible, "For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself." (1 Corinthians 11:29) Now, you may argue that the passage is talking about someone eating knowing that themselves are unworthy, not someone else deeming them unworthy, but I would say that is begging the question. And, in the situation of my wedding, my mother didn't mind it at all. In fact, she refused to even be blessed, because "it's not my religion."

Preaching is very important. I love preaching. I'm discerning a vocation as a Lay Dominican for crying out loud. And laity can preach (I'm preaching right now), just not in the Mass.

This issue is only compounded by the rhetoric on both sides.

On the left: Church leadership is "paternalistic" and "unyielding." This is clearly a power-play, with the Magisterium scared they'll lose. The Church is an "absolutist monarchy" and is closed to all reform. The Pope is intolerant of all dissent. Priests seem to not care about the situation.

Sources: The Vienna Review, The New York Times, Women Priests, Reuters, and Pfarrer-Initiative (which is the organization that authored the document).

On the right: These priests want to give communion to "adulterers" (that is the quote that inspired this post, calling names is not going to fix the divorce crisis!). They are "pedophiles." They are leading their flocks to damnation. They are "heretics" (I would argue that 7 above could be classified as heresy and these priests apparently do not understand what the Church means by priesthood) They are doing the work of the devil.

Sources: Mundabor's Blog, Fr. Z, E F Pastoremeritus, and The Eponymous Flower (1 and 2).

The Pope is not a soulless dictator. He is the leader of the worldwide Church that is also one of the oldest continuously existing organizations in the world. These priests are not evil. I have seen the devil and these guys are not it. Let's just get those two points out in the open right away. Everyone at the table is beautiful and loved in God's sight.

I liked a post I saw on Rorate Caeli. Benedict XVI seems to know what I'm getting at. The disobedience of these priests seems to be misguided even though their hearts seem to be in the right place. The Vatican, on the other hand, needs to be open to change, as long as that change does not contradict Scripture or Tradition. The changes that these priests are calling for contradicts both Scripture and Tradition, but the problems they seek to resolve do need to be addressed. Name-calling and assuming each others motivations is not going to solve anything.

There is room in the Church for the left and the right as long as both sides are open to dialog. These sides of the Church could be complimentary if we let them. The left can challenge while the right keeps us from careening off the path. The left can open a window to let the air in while the right keeps the building from blowing away.

Meaningful disclaimer: I am, surprise-surprise, a liberal. My lovely husband is a conservative. We are both faithful Catholics who are very involved in our parish. If we can run a household, raise a child, and take communion (and often give communion, we're both Eucharistic ministers) at the same Mass, the right and the left in the Church can be civil. My husband and I have been together for going on 6 years and we will be buried together, despite the fact I'm a registered Democrat and he's a registered Republican. If we can do it, anyone can.


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