Tuesday, December 03, 2013
Is there a new Franciscan Ecclesiology? It seems as if orthodoxy is now no longer a requirement in the Catholic Church that we should recognise 'what is' rather than insist on 'what should be'. Pastoral realism seems to be what Pope Francis is insisting on. Every bishop, every priest, every informed lay person knows that there is great gulf between 'what is' and 'what should be'.
The Pope talks about not refusing baptism to the children of those who are not married or divorced and remarried, this might be an issue in Argentina but I know of no priest in England and Wales who would refuse baptism on that issue. The vast majority of those I marry are living together before marriage, some chastely but most, I assume, not. Contraception, or even early stage 'contraceptive' abortion are as normal amongst Catholics as non-Catholics according to various surveys. Those in 'irregular unions' or 'same sex unions' seem not to understand the Church's teaching, or have rejected it. Many priests who might want to adopt a position on these issues know that they would not be backed up by their bishop and that their brother priests are happy to turn a blind eye, it is difficult to be the odd one out, and effectively put people in 'bad faith' or in a state of simple confusion if most bishops and priests are 'pastoral'. The Church is after all about Communion, we are not Presbyterians, where individual priests do their own thing without reference to the head of the local Church. We are 'in Communion' with Christ and his Church because of our Communion with our Bishop, every Mass is an act of Communion with the local Bishop.
Sandro Magister speaks of 'a Federal Church' and draws on two issues raised by Francis' Exhortation, a) Synodalism and local bishops meeting in their Episcopal Conferences and exercising doctrinal autonomy, b) Enculturation and the de-Westernisation or de-Helenisation of Catholicism, both of which were opposed by rigorously by Benedict XVI.
Benedict represents the tidy centralised Church, Francis the messy decentralised Church, 'Go back to your dioceses and make a mess'. The great problem is that the we Catholics have no experience of a decentralised Church, like David Cameron's 'equal marriage' it is an untried experiment. Already, as Magister points out, priests are being sent home from the Roman dicasteries, heads of certain formerly powerful dicasteries have not been appointed. The CDW is one example, in a decentralised Church, presumably the local bishops will decide on how liturgy is celebrated in their local Churches, and dare I suggest, following the principle of lex credendi lex orandi, what doctrines are celebrated.
As Catholics we believe that no Bishop even the Bishop of Rome can change doctrine but any Bishop can choose to ignore certain doctrines or simply downplay them.
I am not sure what is going on in the tussle between Mueller and Zollitsch both sides claim to have the Pope on their side, perhaps both do, perhaps the Pope just wants them to sort things out between themselves. It is interesting that no pressure, as far as we know, has been put on the German Bishops to change their permission to issue abortiofacients in German Catholic hospitals. Our experience over the last 50 years is that what starts in Germany spreads to the rest of the Church.
I am anxious about the phrase 'genuine doctrinal authority' Pope Francis hasn't explained it. Could it mean that German bishops might decide to establish a rite for the ordering (rather than ordaining) of deaconesses on their 'genuine doctrinal authority', can it be kept in Germany? What will stop them from allowing inter-communion with Lutherans, or for that matter Concelebration with them, which already happens in some places in Germany, why should it not spread to other national Churches?
The problem is that doctrinally in many parts of the world doctrinally the Church is in a mess, unlike the Orthodox Church we Catholics do not have a strong sense of being part of an ancient Tradition or even much sense of Unity, indeed our 'Tradition' has been to throw out babies with bath water.
Posted by Fr Ray Blake