Cardinal Rodé

Tom Fox of NCR has posted a little "meditation" on some photos of Cardinal Rodé, the curial official overseeing the apostolic investigation of American women religious.

Fox writes,
Looking at these photos, one is reminded of the cultural, ecclesial, and socio-psychological diversity that make up our church. Living, as we do, in the early 21st century, we should recognize we are products of a mix of complex and unprecedented pre-modern, modern, and post-modern influences and temperaments.
He wonders if Rodé, "whose penchant for a traditional, monarchical, European styled, pre-counciliar church, is clearly evident in these photos," is really in a position to make any judgments about the women religious in a cultural setting so far removed from his own.

Fox is not judging Rodé simply on his fashion sense. He quotes a comment made by Rodé to John L. Allen, Jr. claiming that Vatican II "triggered 'the greatest crisis in church history.'" The image of Rodé walking in a procession, with his long train being carried behind him, is also revealing.

Fox provides a link to a site featuring numerous photos of Rodé which simply have to be seen to be believed.



More on the Anglican ordeal...

I’ve dreamt of a reunion of the Catholic and Anglican churches in the past but I always imagined it would be a marrying of the best of both, not a rallying of the worst.
(Love the title of the article. Wouldn't it be great if it was true...)

* * *

An article today inThe Independent, considers the question of how many Anglican priests will actually make the move:
It is in many people's interests to big this up. There has been talk of as many as a thousand CofE priests leaving, plus thousands more in America and Australia. The 1,000 figure comes from the church's traditionalist Forward in Faith faction (whose critics call it Backward in Bigotry). (emphasis added)
I find that hard to believe. There are fewer than 18,000 priests in the Episcopal Church. Many of the conservatives, I imagine, tend more toward the evangelical wing rather than the Catholic one.

As for the number that will actually "carry out the threat," the article says,
When women priests were first ordained it was said 1,000 priests would quit. In the event only 441 took the financial compensation package on offer, and scores of those have returned from Rome disillusioned since.
Later it says the Vatican "may want a separate Anglican Ordinariate in order to quarantine the newcomers from cradle Catholics. Rome doesn't want the influx of married priests to add legitimacy to the call for married priests among mainstream English Catholics."

I'm not sure how it can fail to do that, actually.

* * *

Here's a bit by John L. Allen, Jr. from NCR:
What's the deal on married priests?

The Vatican announcement on Tuesday clearly ruled in current Anglican ministers who are married and who wish to become Catholic priests, and clearly ruled out married bishops. It's still vague, however, what the situation will be going forward. During the briefing, Levada appeared to suggest that married Anglican seminarians could also be ordained Catholic priests -- but will that be a transitional allowance, or a permanent exception to the discipline of celibacy? In other words, will be the personal ordinariates be like the Eastern churches, able to ordain married priests in perpetuity?

Jesuit Fr. Tom Reese has raised two related questions along these lines:

  • Could a married Catholic man join the Anglicans, enter an Anglican seminary and then return to the Catholic Church?
  • Could married Catholic men from the traditional dioceses join the Anglican ordinariate and become seminarians and priests?

Obviously, the question becomes what impact such allowances might have on the broader debate over priestly celibacy. Whatever happens, it seems likely that the Vatican will be concerned that the opening to Anglicans not evolve into a massive loophole that ends up eroding the discipline of celibacy on a wider basis.

* * *

A New York Times article made the following observation:
The overture toward the Anglicans speaks to a central theme in Benedict’s papacy: his desire to bring in traditional believers at all costs to help Catholicism become a “creative minority” in increasingly secular Europe.
I think it's funny that he said that. Because, as we all know, conservatives are so creative.

The "creative minority" is what historian Arnold Toynbee called the small number of people in any society who stave off decline by being the ones to find solutions in every age to the big challenges the society faces. They succeed when they are followed by a large enough segment of the population.

In our time -- or in any time, actually -- "traditional believers" are hardly the ones we should be looking to for such solutions. Creativity requires divergent thinking, which is obviously not a conservative strength.

Slightly off-topic, but it needed to be said.



Some thoughts on the Anglican situation...

Some progressive may worry, with Michael Sean Winters, "that some of these newcomers will also be nostalgists, anti-feminists, and anti-gay bigots."

Of course they will, but let's not worry about that. I mean, this is the Roman Catholic Church. A few thousand more of each would be a drop in the bucket compared to what we already have.

* * *

I doubt the numbers will be very substantial. I've seen a couple of articles that pointed out that the Anglican converts will be expected to accept the teachings about divorce, contraception, transubstantiation, and the pope as "God's representative on Earth." For many of us brought up in the Church, these are easily shrugged off as relics of a bygone era, but for prospective converts I imagine they will loom a bit more largely and will likely be stumbling blocks for many.

* * *

This could well hasten the arrival of a married Catholic priesthood, which was already inevitable. As someone who thinks the ordained ministry needs to be reformed far beyond the celibacy issue, I don't know how I feel about that. It will only delay the changes that really need to be made.

* * *

An article in The Times claims, "A 'rush to Rome' would resolve Catholicism's shortage of priests, win back some ancient church buildings annexed at the Reformation and reduce Anglicanism to an anxious, liberal rump."

Actually, it will do none of those things.

With Anglican laypeople coming over along with Anglican priests, the layperson-to-priest ratio is not likely to change much at all, much less "resolve" the problem.

In a comment attached to that story, a Rev. Peter Hawkins wrote,
Most ancient Church property in England is owned by the same officials that owned it at the time of the separation from Rome in 1570 with the excommunication of Elizabeth I. It is owned by Bishops, Deans, Chapters and Incumbents. They cease to hold their office if they become Roman Catholics or any other denomination. Modern Roman Catholic Church Property is owned by Diocesan Trusts. The Church of England in this matter is a series of linked corporations. It is most unlikely that any ancient property could or would be transferred to any Roman Catholic Trust.
Finally, there is good reason to believe that a lot of conservative Anglicans aren't going to see Rome as a solution to their problem. Some of the conservative Anglicans who have already broken away from the Anglican Church of Canada, for example, have already indicated their intention to stick with the Anglican Communion.

I have a feeling we'll look back on this in the future and wonder what all the fuss was about.

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What Good Is the Church?

I recently re-discovered this video featuring two pretty famous Catholic monks, Br. David Steindl-Rast, OSB, and Fr. Thomas Keating, OCSO, discussing the role of the institution of the Church.

Br. David makes the good point that the hierarchy is not the place to look for leadership in the Church (which doesn't mean official leaders don't serve an important function). They also talk about the role of tradition, among other things. Fr. Thomas tells an amusing anecdote about Pope John XXIII. His joke at the beginning won't make sense to anyone unfamiliar with the colour-coded stages of Spiral Dynamics, but it's worth watching.

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"American women religious are being bullied": Sister X

Commonweal has posted an interesting and rather moving article by "Sister X," a nun for over thirty years, reflecting on the Vatican "visitations." She writes anonymously because of the "threat of disciplinary action" that has discouraged all but a few sisters from saying anything publicly about this matter.

She doubts the Vatican is primarily motivated by concern for American nuns. The question they are really interested in, she thinks, is why there aren't more of them.

(I've suggested before that if the Vatican really wants to understand why more women aren't entering religious life, they should ask the women who aren't entering religious life. My guess is they know they wouldn't like the answer.)

Anyway, it's well worth reading. Check it out here.



"Conservative Bible Project Cuts Out Liberal Passages": Not a Joke

This sounds like a hoax, but it's not: the nice people behind the Conservapedia website have started a "Wikipedia-like group editing project" (as this HuffPo article puts it) to produce a conservative translation of the Bible (as if the NIV wasn't bad enough).

The aims of this project are numerous, but among them is a determination to render the Biblical text in such a way that liberals will not be able to corrupt it.

This was, for me, a bit of a head-scratcher. Closer to the bottom of the page they admit that "professors and higher-educated" people -- you know, the people who typically translate the Bible from the original languages -- "can be expected to be liberal and feminist in outlook." I guess I don't understand how they could ever even dare to imagine that this online amateur translation could ever serve "as a bulwark against the liberal manipulation of meaning." Are the liberals and feminists who actually read the original languages going to forget what the original texts actually say? Do they imagine their opponents will give their "translation" any credence whatsover?

They want to avoid "gender inclusive language" and they want it to be "not dumbed down." You see, the NIV was "written at only the 7th grade level." (That's because it was written for conservatives. If they're looking for something written at a high school level, the NRSV is already available.)

Curiously, they also want to avoid "liberal wordiness." No word on how that will be squared with "not dumbing it down." (Actually, avoiding "wordiness" is one way to lower the grade level of a text.)

One of the many advantages of this online Bible is that it "would debunk the pervasive and hurtful myth that Jesus would be a political liberal today." One way it would do this, apparently, is by "explaining the numerous economic parables with their full free-market meaning."

They're also removing the story of the adulterous woman from the Gospel of John, as it gives liberals the idea that Jesus was opposed to the death penalty.

They already have some parts translated, including a number of passages from the Gospel of Mark. Among the proposed changes: "Holy Spirit" is now "Divine Guide." Amusingly, Jesus takes some "intellectual types" to task in Mark 2.8. Later, "the Pharisees" are referred to as "the Elite" (Mark 3.2). Another page suggests that the term "homeschool" might be relevant to Jesus's teaching of the younger apostles.

It's clear enough that the participants have no knowledge of Greek, and are merely paraphrasing (and loosely at that).

I can only imagine this will provoke horror -- not from their hated liberal enemies, but from fellow conservatives who won't appreciate the Word of God being cut up and paraphrased in such a "liberal" way.

I think it's amusing. Check it out here.

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The Clash of Hierarchies

Much of the conflict in the Church, I would argue, is the result of a disharmony between two different kinds of hierarchies.

One of these hierarchies is relatively obvious: it is part of the very institutional structure of the Church, with the pope and his fellow bishops at the top, then priests, and deacons. The laity is not typically reckoned as part of the “hierarchy,” but, being subordinate to the clergy, we are effectively at the bottom.

In addition to the institutional hierarchy is a hierarchy of a very different kind. It is what we might call a growth or development hierarchy.1

Here we are talking about the distribution of people in the Church across the different levels of development (including, for example, cognitive, moral, and spiritual development).

I think there has to be an isomorphism between any institutional hierarchy and it’s corresponding development hierarchy if the institution is going to function properly. The school system, for example, would not work if elementary and secondary teachers were not more developed than their students. Happily, they usually are.

For much of the history of the Church, there might well have been a similar isomorphism between the two hierarchies. For much of that history, the large majority its lay members were illiterate. From the inception of the ordained hierarchy in the post-apostolic period, right through the Middle Ages, the line between those who were educated and those who were not would have looked a lot like the line between the clergy and the laity. We can probably surmise, then, that the clergy was more cognitively, morally, and spiritually developed than the laity.2 Of course there were many exceptions on both sides of the divide – we know of many rather stupid and amoral priests and popes during that time period, as well as a number of deeply intelligent and enlightened laypeople – but generally this is likely to have been the case throughout much of the Church’s premodern history.

In the last century or so, and especially in the last few decades, a number of factors have converged to throw things quite out of whack.

One is that, at least in the developed world, Catholic lay people have become far more educated than ever before.

Another is that, not only has the number of men entering the priesthood has declined sharply, the quality of men seeking ordination has also dropped off.3

A further problem is the type of priests who have been promoted to the rank of bishop by the two most recent popes. Unhesitating conformity and excessive regard for external authority – characteristics of the relatively low Synthetic-Conventional stage – are apparently among the qualifications necessary for anyone to advance beyond being a mere priest.

All of these, as well as a number of things that could be mentioned, have put the ordained hierarchy in a very weird position relative to the laity: Many lay people are more developed than their pastors and bishops. And few if any in the hierarchy have recognised this.


[1] This is a term used by philosopher Ken Wilber to describe the more natural hierarchies (or “holarchies”) of things at different levels of development. Wilber uses the term very broadly to include, for example, the relationship between atoms, molecules, cells, and organisms. Each higher level includes the level that precedes it.

Wilber also uses the term to describe stages of human development, and I’m using it here in this sense.

[2] This is based on the belief, held by numerous researchers (such as Lawrence Kohlberg and James Fowler), that cognitive development is a necessary but not sufficient condition for moral and spiritual development.

[3] This observation has been made by more than a few people. This article by Peter Steinfels, for example, describes the findings of seminary faculty teams in the US, which found (as quoted on page 2)

Even among the academically gifted, as well as among the academically deficient, the faculty teams reported seminarians who “regardless of native abilities and educational experiences” resist “the learning enterprise” because it threatens their “preconceived ideas about theology.”

The Church is going to face an entire generation (or more) or official leaders who simply will not have the intellectual resources needed to meet, or even understand, the theological challenges facing the Church.

Here is another article about the conservatism of younger priests.

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