Fr. Tom Doyle has a great commentary on the new Vatican norms (here) regarding clerical abuse and other abuses of the sacraments. There are blog posts and commentaries all over discussing the women's ordination issue and the merits of the changes in the clerical abuse norms, but Father Doyle mentions one revision everyone else has more or less over looked. First is the revision and next is Fr. Doyle's interpretation.
8. The delicta contra fidem (heresy, apostasy and schism) have been included;
for these delicts, the norms indicate a particular competence for the local
Ordinary to proceed ad normam iuris, either in a judicial manner or extra
iudicium in the first instance, maintaining the right of appeal or recourse to the Congregation for the Doctine of the Faith.
"The eighth revision is a potential for disaster. This one gives the local bishops the power to proceed judicially against people whom they suspect of heresy, apostasy or schism. The potential for misuse of this norm and the consequent denial of due process and the right of free expression to people the bishops decide don't think like them is terrifying."
Perhaps one of my frequent commenter's is correct when he wrote "the Inquisition is coming" because this sure seems to give the local bishop the right to conduct his own inquisition. Not many bloggers for instance, are going to have the resources to appeal a negative decision to the CDF or wait around decades for an answer, so appeal is sort of meaningless.
I can't help but think of those 250 Australian priests and Australia's Cardinal Pell, who might be just the man to take advantage of this particular revision. American Catholics have a pretty good idea what such a revision would be like in the hands of Archbishop Burke. Who, come to think of it, probably had a little bit of input into these revisions. Since only the Pope or the CDF can accuse bishops of heresy, schism or apostasy, most of them will be pretty safe if their use of this new norm is so punitive it crosses into episcopal malpractice with regards to progessives and such like.
Sadly, this may scare off a number of priests from blogging anything other than the approved line, and I suppose it could be used against publications like the National Catholic Reporter and some writers for America, Commonweal, or Britain's Tablet. Perhaps we'll all start our musings with something like "I don't really believe this, but what if?"
Since one bishop's heresy is an other's ho hum definition of speculation, changes in bishops could be more of a shock then they already can be, and that too is a problem. Acceptable things in a diocese can change very drastically when bishops change, just as they can at the parish level when priests change. This new revision, sliding under a lot of radar screens, seems designed to reinforce that kind of fiefdom thinking.
Bill Lyndsey has published a brilliant piece on the underlying philosophy that Catholicism adopted after the merger of Church and state under Constantine. I highly recommend it if one cares to understand how the hierarchy comes up with the kind of thinking that gives the Vatican curia, individual bishops, and parish priests the right to think and act as if they own their sphere influence (along with the Church's sacraments).
I don't really think this, but what if these revised norms are really all about making bishops little tin gods answerable only to the big golden god in Rome? Couldn't that kind of thing possibly be heresy?
Anyway I bet these revised norms play real well amongst Traditional Anglicans, certain to reassure them the Vatican is not going to be over run by women bishops, but the question is will they instead be over run by a Vatican appointed celibate male Archbishop?