Friday, May 03, 2013

Curial Reform: start from the top

Simon Peter has a special role amongst the Apostles, he is charged with strengthening the brethren, with feeding the lambs and sheep.  In the first ever infallible statement he speaks on behalf of the other Apostles, when they express confusion, he, speaking for them, says, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God". The immediate response of Jesus is "You are the Rock, on which I will build my Church".

Even so Paul is willing to challenge Peter, when he seems to fail to understand the fullness of his statement, "You are the Christ", for example when Peter seems to side with "the men from Jerusalem", the Cutters, the Judaisers, Paul corrects him, even to the point of rebuking him publicly, yet it seems that Paul always wanted to act in communion with Peter.

Historians, suggest the monarchical Epoiscopate, at a local level, seems to take some 50 years to emerge to as the norm, although the Pastoral Epistles seem suggest Timothy and, perhaps, Titus as the overseer of local Churches. The functions of those termed Bishop, Presbyter and even Deacon are unclear in the New Testament, even though as Catholics we are bound to believe they originate with the Lord.

Although I tend to argue against a "Spirit of Vatican One" understanding of the Papacy, the Synoptic Gospels, and in different way the Gospel of John, seem to have a common Petrine thread running through them, they can be described as Petrine. Apostolic Christianity in both East and West is Petrine.

The Church has the Apostles as its foundation, it is through our communion with them, or rather their successors today's Bishops, that we are united to Christ the "Cornerstone". The Dominical model of Church, is actually top down, it starts with the Peter and then the Apostles, the Pope and the Bishops, they are the ones who bring the faith, they are the ones who admit to the sacraments, we have access to Christ through them. We recognise them as authentic Apostles by their communion with the successor of Peter.

The first step towards Curial reform, which seems to be on everyone's lips, surely cannot begin without first of all recognising that the purpose of the Curia which is essentially about Communion with Peter. Its purpose is to assist Peter in being in Communion with the local Churches, in order to fulfill the role given him by Christ to "feed", to "strengthen" and to be "the centre of unity".

Communion however is a two-way street, there has to be a desire at the local level to be "in communion". Pope Francis and his various associates seem to be scattering ideas around like pixie-dust, presumably to stimulate debate and prayer but at some point the Church has to decide what it actually means to be "in communion with Peter".

The Romanitas of the Church is marked specifically by the Cardinals, whose theoretical role "Roman clergy" should be a guarantee of Communion with Peter, in practice this just doesn't happen and has to be backed up by the system on Nuncios. Perhaps rather than naming as Cardinal the Archbishop of principle city a Cardinal ought to be the bishop most skilled in holding his fellows in Communion with Peter and themselves.
The experience of the Church in may parts of the world is that the Cardinals are often set on dis-Communion with Rome, certainly that was the experience in England and Wales with Cardinal Hume.

The rather long and tedious negotiations between Benedict's Curia and groups like the SSPX, which have proved ultimately stillborn as far as unity is concerned have been very fruitful in causing us to question what exactly "Communion" is, in the same way, at the other end of the spectrum the negotiations with the "beyond Jesus" American nuns. Eventually the very simple issue of what is meant "Communion" must be answered. Reference to "aerosol" or "rosewater" Christianity might be an indication that we have to move beyond something so ill defined as self defined Catholicism.

The implied criticism by Cardinal Ouillet, who seems to be one Pope Francis' most frequent visitors, of our own Bishops recently on their Roman retreat might suggest "Communion" is more, even than a congruence of faith.
‘My brother bishops, you face many challenges in your apostolic ministry in England and Wales. Perhaps you can identify with Peter and John as they are dragged before the Sanhedrin to be pressured, threatened and even beaten to stop proclaiming the saving Truth of Jesus Christ. Perhaps you can sense viscerally the pressure to obey men rather than God, to see yourself-as a mere manager or functionary rather than a disciple and an apostle.’
As Catholics we believe in salvation through faith which is "fruitful in good works", this seems to be a major theme in the Pope's teaching.
Cleaning up the Curia, isn't just about competence it must be about appointing men who are "fully converted", who are willing to be real evangelists, who are not slaves to the Law but actually have a real spirit of discipleship with fire in their bellies.
Cardinal Ouillet went on to say:
‘Pope Francis, also makes us feel uncomfortable. One thing I have noticed, even in my personal meetings with him, is that Pope Francis’ sole criterion is Jesus Christ. The Holy Father does not get distracted by peripheral considerations. He goes to the heart of things with simplicity and boldness. You recall that just two days after his election he said to the Cardinal Electors gathered in Rome: “If we do not profess Jesus Christ, things go wrong. We may become a charitable NGO, but not the Church, the Bride of the Lord …. When we do not profess Jesus Christ, we profess the worldliness of the devil, a demonic worldliness” (Homily from Missa pro Ecclesia with the Cardinal Electors, March 14,2013). 
‘Yet the verbal surgery of the Incarnate and Risen Word and of His Vicar has a point: having cut away what is not of Jesus Christ, we can encounter Him and be united with Him in love and intimate friendship. Exposing the weakness and failure is the condition of possibility for creating communion with the Risen Christ and sharing in His Easter joy.
Before anything else, especially in the light of the O'Brien  scandal, reform must start with the College of Cardinals.

Were those "wolves" which Pope Benedict feared most feared members of the College who should have been his closest collaborators?


vetusta ecclesia said...

Can someone tell me which was the document from Rome greeted by Hume with the words "it does not apply to England and Wales"?

Fr Ray Blake said...

It was the document on the "Unordained Faithful"

anonymous said...

'self defined Catholicism'...'demonic worldliness.' this is the average from pope to Buddha lovin' priestly pulpit. why should a church who courts everything ad hoc bother with the SSPX? a hunger for authentic Catholicism. the Ram Inn in Gloucteshire (purportedly) one of the most 'haunted' sites in Britain is good example of the western church. Back in the 70s or 80s the owner got an Anglican priest in to 'exorcise' the evil from the place...the demon/s humiliated the 'Bishop'...the place is basically a shrine to every culture; a multicultural pantheon of 'good' and 'saving', 'gods', to help the owner in his winter years. Christianity...'Catholicism', is evident in the Inn as one set of 'idols', amongst many.

in revelation the bishops of the seven churches are coded as 'angels', even though they are still chastised...these days bishops are helpers of demons rather than angels...the bloke of theRam Inn would find more salvation from his local paranormal society than anything ordained. ..who wuould have fingers to work with if had to counton them how many priests didn't think christ is something Socrates, or mohamet or Buddha or ghandi couldn't have done?

Sixupman said...

+++Hume, also, upon the elevation of +++Ratzinger to the Papacy, opined:
"our man was not elected" or words to that effect. Very sad reflection upon the E&W Episcopacy!

Fr Ray Blake said...

Hume was dead then!

Sixupman said...

Apologies: +++Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, eighteen hour days catching up with me.

Mea Culpa.

polycarped said...

"Perhaps rather than naming as Cardinal the Archbishop of principle city a Cardinal ought to be the bishop most skilled in holding his fellows in Communion with Peter and themselves".

Hear, hear! And those demonstrating courage in proclaiming Catholic truth.

vetusta ecclesia said...

Thank you, Father Ray