Saturday, February 16, 2013

De-Centralising the Church


Some of the leadership of the heretical Irish ACP and their fellow travellers elsewhere in the Church have been banging on about the Church becoming more centralised under Pope Benedict, thus moving away from one of the core visions of VII. In many ways this is a dog-whistle issue for dissenters and needs serious unpacking.

Even so, I think they are right to be concerned, and before his election, as Professor Ratzinger, the Pope would seem agree too. Even as Prefect of the CDF Cardinal Ratzinger would have agreed. On several occassions he has said that dissenting priests or religious should have been dealt with either by diocesan bishops or by episcopal conferences, rather than Rome ever becoming involved. Even as Pope he said to our own Bishops, "It is important to recognize dissent for what it is, and not to mistake it for a mature contribution to a balanced and wide-ranging debate." But actually they have done little, the Tablet is still at the back of Westminster Cathedral!.

The whole child abuse issue highlights how ineffective local bishops and even episcopal conferences are. The disasters, both of repeat offending and of episcopal cover-up were not dealt with on a local level but Rome, actually by Cardinal Ratzinger coming down heavily on abusers.

The Bishop Morrison affair in Australia demonstrates well how soon the local Church can depart from Catholic tradition, again, as in the St Mary's Community, Brisbane with Fr Peter Kennedy baptising with his own invented formula, it was Rome that acted whilst the local espiscopate did nothing. Similarly with US nuns who have "moved beyond Jesus" are unchecked, uncorrected by the local heirarchs. It is Rome that holds communion, whilst local bishops are either tolerant of heresy or blind to it.

Even with the liturgical translation, for years people were expressing dissatisfaction; "for many" "of one being" are serious corruptions of the actual Latin text, and actually tend to heresy or at least misunderstanding, the bishops dithered, Rome acted. thank God.

Without the intervention of Rome most local Churches will fall into loosely semi-humanist communities. The personal interpretion of the faith by a local bishop is not something I find either attractive or compelling, it is certainly not evangelical.

The model of a strong and effective local government of the Church might be desirable but at the moment it seems beyond our the ability of Catholic bishops. It exists in Orthodoxy but not in Catholicism. Why?

Orthodoxy seems to have a variety of theological expressions but appears united. It has an unchanging liturgy, and a sense that the faith is timeless but also that despite the fact the outward lives of many eastern Christians are unlikely to be much different from their western counterparts, bishops and laity including theologians and other specialists (liturgists, teachers etc),  seem to agree on the basis of Orthodoxy is. It seems to be that liturgy and devotions hold it together, rather like the pre-VII Catholic Church, before it became the perrogative of "Spirit of VII" specialists.

It strikes me that one can't have a de-centralised Church and Vatican II, or at least not until such time as we have regained a common understanding and presentation of the Liturgy and an agreed understanding of the Faith, and maybe most importantly of all, replanted this into the culture of the faithful. It strikes me that this was at the heart of the Ratzinger Papacy

17 comments:

Unknown said...

Dear Father:

I am not so sure the Orthodox hierarchy always acts in the manner you describe. There is a lack of unity, bishops contradicting each other and the phenomenon of semi-autonomous churches. It s their lack of a unity under one earthly head combined with nationalism that causes their problems of authority.

Thank you for your adherence to our orthodox faith.

Amfortas said...

Yes, and there's an absolutely wonderful article about Benedict XVI by Tracey Rowland in this week's Tablet, available at the back of Westminster Cathedral. It often has articles by John Pontifex from Aid to the Church in Need and some months back an excellent piece by George Weigel. Unfortunately all this good stuff is drowned by dreary article by Robert Mickens et al and letters to the editor full of anti-Catholic anger. If only the Catholic Herald had good international news coverage - rather than bishop so and so said such and such masquerading as news - and serious features rather than waspish columns. Then I could cancel my subscription to the heretical Tablet and just read the Herald. 5933orevedm

Deacon Augustine said...

Fr. you didn't need to go as far as the emerald isle to find heretics espousing their cause of de-centralization! I'm sure I read a report in the times about a bishop on the south coast saying exactly the same thing.

I just hope the new Pope has a belly for a fight. We've had 50 years of the "pastoral" approach and 50 years of proof that it won't work unless its backed up with a big stick.

Fr Ray Blake said...

D A
I can't imagine what you could mean, surely not!

Genty said...

Strange how ultra-liberal priests seem to favour grey shirts. I wonder if it's a badge of recognition for kindred spirits of V2.

Gervase Crouchback said...


The royal commission into child abuse in religious and other institutions here in Australia,may show the fialings of Bishops past and some present.
iN the Victorian State parliamentary inquiry into child abuse-Fr Dillon of the Basillica in Geelong stated that the abuse reporting system had failed and he said that the hierarchy only saw financial compensation rather than other forms of justice. he got a standing ovation.( he also organised the Papal visit of JPII in 1986 so he is no cowboy)

JARay said...

I think that I can sympathise with DA! and with the grey shirts comment.
I agree that awkward matters should first be sorted out at the local level but when that fails, and there have been many such failures over time, and especially recently, it must fall back onto Rome to do the sorting out.
I just may be a robot again when trying to post this. The numbers element is particularly difficult to read, especially the last digit.

Sixupman said...

Fr., I of the opinion, in error of course, that the Bishops' Conferences see themselves as 'national churches' which have a franchise to use the term Catholic. The expect the papacy to accept collegially their own interpretation of the franchise contract, with the pope another manifestation of Cantuar in the Anglican Community.

wretchedwithhope said...

"a common understanding and presentation of the Liturgy and an agreed understanding of the Faith"

seems the post-filioque era cemented those very virtues in the Orthodox Communion, despite the unsurprising politics of position that's inescapable this side of eternity

why don't the orthodox mess with liturgy? by and large, apart from France and England (this being prior to that font of modern charity - Marx - and post the so-called 'generosity of pagans') western Christendom didn't suffer the way the east has; over a thousand years of suffering due largely to a judeo-christian heresy recently called Islam.

I guess where the adversary couldn't make way through religion, he made way through secularism.

Dom said...

They need a lot more swapping and changing- no bishop or hierarch should expect to hold on to a diocese as a sinecure.

Many of the bishops forget that the laity hold their loyalty principally to the Church as a whole. if we wanted to be Anglicans or Presbyterians we would have left.

Mike Cliffson said...

Obedience.
Relatives of mine have reported verbatim , quoting approximately, within about five sentences of one another
" You need n't take much notice of what comes from Rome"
"As an X, you owe me obedience."
Yes I am proud myself.Yes I prefer to sinfully disobey than humbly obey. Am I alone in this?

GOR said...

rFiWho said this?

”That which I did, I did by the best learned men’s advice I could get at the time.”

Cardinal Mahony…? Archbishop Weakland…? Cardinal Law…?

Well you’d be excused for picking any one of the three, because each of them said words to that effect at some point.

No, it was much earlier and regarded abuse of a different kind.

It was Archbishop Thomas Cranmer at his trial in September 1555, seeking to justify his capitulation to the demands of King Henry VIII and betrayal of the Faith.

Like Luther, Calvin, Melancthon and others on the continent at the time, the first casualty of the so-called Reformation in England was…the Mass.

Plus ca change…

John Fisher said...

The Church and operations of its adminstration has alawys been extremelt orgainsed and centralised going back almostto the beginning. Lines of communication,heriachy of service, efficient record keeping and adminstration both finacncailly and canonicallt have been fairly cntralised and so the Church survived better when the civil adminstartion disintegrated. The world is now even more centralised. Communication is almost instant and industry has become multinational. Yet the Church it is suggested should decentralise! BUNK the reason they suggest this is so they can create their own little liberal cells within diocese, episcopal conferences etc. These priests should booted out of the priesthood.

Sixupman said...

John Fisher:

they already have created "liberal cells", but not "little" by far.

Supertradmum said...

Sadly, the bishops consecrated in the past 30 years have not been necessarily top drawer. As to news reports, the news in GB from the Catholic press is either very behind the times and old, or liberal. People in the pew who are not Internet savvy do not understand the depth of the problem. When I was in Ireland, a total of six months last year, the ignorance of even so called traditional Catholics as to what was happening with their clergy was woeful I knew more than most as I was paying attention.

Decentralization is a must. But, how can this happen in the current climate of cronyism and old boy networks which keep choosing liberals for the hierarchy? Can anyone imagine a Ray Blake or Tim Finigan being suggested for a bishopic? Until that type of choosing of the blue-eyed boys who are favourites nothing will change...

wretchedwithhope said...

Can anyone imagine a Ray Blake or Tim Finigan being suggested for a bishopic? 


...* noooo-if fr blogs et al were hog tied into bishoprics we poor binary code cave scroungers'd be hung and dried by tea time by their pop-appropriate house cleaners.

justin said...

It's the heresy of Gallicanism all over again reshaped and repackaged.

Can someone tell me, in this day and age, with the internet and communication so quick and evident, what is the point of having multiple dioceses and the local Church?

I can understand the necessity of it back when communications were difficult and it was important for one person, on the ground, to hold fast to the deposit of faith, and have immediate and personal authority - a local ordinary.

But given the speed at which things can be communicated now, and the ease of access to information of the faithful - as the media keep telling us we are a 'global' church (universal is the more accurate word but I digress).

What is to stop the suppression of every single Latin diocese except Rome, and bring us all into one big mega-Diocese of Rome. The current ordinaries can become titular bishops of Arundel, etc. and act as Vicars General to a particular "area" within the mega-Diocese of Rome with no personal authority but carrying out the orders of the Roman Pontiff. If we truly believe in Papal Infallibility, that surely should not be a problem?