Chipping away…

In a time when the Catholic Church should be acting and speaking as one, there are countless people and institutions who do the opposite. Earlier this week Cardinal Bertone was an example of that. The Vatican today issued a statement distancing themselves from the cardinal statements that homosexuality and pedophilia are related. They said:

“Church authorities do not consider it their responsibility to make general statements of a specifically physiological or medical character, which is why they naturally refer back to experts study and ongoing research on the subject” . (Source)

In other words, Cardinal Bertone spoke about things that should have been left to the experts. But I’m afraid the damage is already done…

Other damage comes from a Dutch bishop, a retired one, but a bishop nonetheless.

Msgr. Philippe Bär is the former bishop of Rotterdam, and in an interview he gave recently he blamed the taboo culture in the Roman Curia for the problems of the Church.

“The Curia placed a taboo on everything, always arguing that the Holy Father would otherwise be disturbed. We now pay the high price of all those scandals for that.”

An overly simplistic thing to say. A slightly thorough reading of, for example, the Code of Canon Law will show that taboos are quite rare and they are never created to protect the wellbeing of the pope (knowing Pope Benedict XVI, he’d be the first to tell the Curia to act normally around him).

“Oh, my dear Church! There is so much joy in your message, so much positivity too. I shed hot tears as that is hidden by this reaction.”

Well, the bishop has a point there. The bad news does tend to overshadow the good. In part the Church is to blame for that; she has much to learn about communication. But the responsibility is also shared by the media and society as a whole. The good news is not hidden for the attentive reader.

“Pride is disappearing. That beautiful Church, with that beautiful past, with that marvellous tradition, with everything she has done for western culture. We may be proud of that. That is threatening to be lost. I suffer because of that.”

We should be careful with pride. Yes, the Church has done much for the good of society and culture, and we must be aware of that. But is that the core of the Church? No, that is the Good News of Jesus Christ. First and foremost, always, that is what the Church must be concerned about. Everything else, even the great tradition and all contributions to western culture, take a back seat to that.

“I try to be a child of these times, so I wish to be as open as befit these times. To not immediately say: “The Church does not want that.” The ease, the joy of discussion is something of these times. And, in my opinion, something belonging to Catholic culture, with her joy of life. But sadly the Church did not use the options that are part of that wonderful way of living, on the contrary. Nothing was allowed. I disagree about this with the Holy Father. It is high time that people speak about mandatory celibacy for priests. That must be discussed.”

Always celibacy… It is not the problem! Formation and preparation is, but not the fact itself. Bishop Bär wants to be a child of these times. But as  Catholics we are not part of the whims of the day, just like the Church herself is not. Certainly we live in our time, and must do so fully. But we can’t be subject to it. Discussion is good, but without well-established values it is pointless. Every party in a discussion must have a foundation. The Church has that. By diminishing this foundation as ‘the things the Church does not want’, the bishop betrays a serious lack of sensibility about his own priesthood, and a lack of knowledge of exactly what the Church teaches and why she does so.

“The Church must […] break down the walls, open herself for dialogue, enter into debate about celibacy, homosexuality, abortion, euthanasia. Throw it open!”

Around the time of Vatican II, someone (it might have been Pope John XXIII) warned that the faith must not be blown out of the newly opened windows. Dialogue and debate, as I have said, are good and deserve to be encouraged. But it does not mean that anything and everything is up for debate. Not if we want to maintain a semblance of identity and, most importantly, maintain that identity in Jesus Christ.

I recognise Bishop Bär’s concerns. They are well-merited. His solution to subject the Church to the ‘there are no certainties’ attitude of our times is not.



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