Friday, July 16, 2010

Hmmm, Are We Missing Something In The New Vatican Norms

One of the revised norms could pave the way for a number of diocesan Inquisitions which would probably be taken as seriously as the depicted inquisitors.

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?


  1. Something tells me the Anglicans who have failed to achieve enough votes to get their way may need to consider that if they "switch" they won't get to vote PERIOD! That should stop them in their tracks right there!

    Put this post together with the previous post and you wind up with a situation where those who are branded heretics will be honored and feted and have an ever greater audience among the rank and file and even the lapsed!

    Let's here it for the Inquisition! Please help us identify those who are truly members of the Kingdom of God!

  2. This will be an interesting election period if the bishops can move from denying communion -think Vice President Biden-to excommunicating for "heresy"?
    word verification: militi

  3. Yes, let's hear it for the Inquisition. I hope they keep it up because my gut level instinct is there are still a large number of Catholics who are not quite willing to deal with how dysfunctional and corrupt the Vatican has become.

    It's no longer about spiritual Catholicism at all. It's all about religious control and self preservation. So much for the whole notion of carrying one's cross to death on Calvary. This notion obviously doesn't apply to bishops or the Vatican curia.

    It will be interesting to see how long it takes before some bishop excommunicates a democratic politician. You can bet many bishops are already hearing from political activists pointing out the power bishops suddenly have to get pro choice Catholics.

    Should be a really amusing political season fer sure.

  4. And here's the rub, Colleen. Those politicians who adhere to Vatican teaching (unwilling to risk independent thought and the potential for "punishment") will become suspect as no more than Vatican-controlled stooges. The conspiracy theorists can have a field-day! Something tells me the fundies will rise up and crucify politicians who would be assisting the Vatican in taking over the country!

    I really think there is potential for this to backfire from many directions. Progressives will rise up! Fundies will see a Papist conspiracy. And your chosen photo and few words under it - will make for late-night fodder for months to come!

  5. Nightmare! “My excommunication is bigger than your excommunication!

  6. Well, those excommunications have already happened. Can I just say "Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Nebraska"? He tossed out folks from Call to Action and Job's Daughters (the second group isn't even a Catholic group, go figure) among others.

  7. Oh my how could I forget about Fabian Bruskewitz. His excommunication is so much bigger than everyone else's excommunication it hits people he technically doesn't need to excommunicate.

  8. You're right, Colleen: the Inquisition are coming. At a local level, that is scary. However, I agree with Mary Daly at Religion Dispatches: the upside is that even now, more and more people are simply disregarding the Vatican commandments. If they get any weirder, they will simply move away, mentally if not physically. Even under excommunication, I cannot believe that in the modern world most ordinary people would find it impossible to worship and communicate.

    (I concede though, that it will become tougher for clergy and public figures.)

    Like Daly, I also believe firmly that these attempts to tighten and extend control demonstrate more than anything else a growing panic inside the Vatican that they are indeed losing their former grip on the mind of the church. Events are showing they will not recover it.

  9. Curious: local, individual bishops will be given the power to excommunicate but national conferences of bishops can't even translate liturgical texts.

  10. Kevin it makes perfect sense to me. An individual bishop is much easier to deal with than an entire national conference like the USCCB.

    It's much better for the Vatican to disembowel national conferences and empower isolated individuals. A free thinking national conference is a real threat to the Vatican curia which is why JPII did everything in his power to clip the wings of the USCCB and stock it with yes men.

  11. Colleen-

    A question for you (or anyone else here): Have you ever seen any of Fabian Buskewtiz's talks on EWTN?

    Well I have. Sight unseen, we know he is both a religious fanatic of the mode which Christ totally condemned. And a Vatican (OD friendly) 'yes man'.

    But my impression goes further then that: "pontificating, raging queen". It was obvious to me that Fabian has something in his closet.

    Now I do not care about the content of his closet, nor do I judge him for that alone. BUT.....where we have the one phenomenon, we have the other.

    Ppl with deeply rooted 'closet issues' (of any kind) make very useful fanatics.

    Anon Y. Mouse

  12. I don't know what's worse, the raging of Bruskewitz or the bs condescension towards women of Donna err Donald Wuerl.

  13. Colleen -