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
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