Monday, February 9, 2009

The Church In The Modern World

In the wake of the controversy over the lifting of the excommunication on holocaust denying SSPX Bishop Richard Williamson, Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi has said the Vatican needs to improve its communications.

"We didn't control the communications," said Fr Lombardi, whose office originally announced the pope's decision in a simple statement accompanied by the Vatican legal document that readmitted the four back into the Roman Catholic Church, Reuters reports.

"I think we still have to create a communications culture inside the Curia, where each dicastery communicates by itself, not necessarily thinking of going through the press room or issuing an explanatory note when the issue is complex."

Fr Lombardi, whose comments were distributed by French Catholic newspaper La Croix before publication on Friday, said the Vatican could have avoided several hectic days if it had issued the order for Williamson to recant along with the announcement of the bans lifting.

"Especially when it's about hot topics, it's better to prepare the explanations," he said. Fr Lombardi said the Vatican officials who dealt with the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), the breakaway group the four bishops lead, focused on the views of the group's leader Bishop Bernard Fellay and not those of Williamson or the others. (Better late than never, I guess.)

"They didn't take the views of the other bishops enough into account," he said. "One thing that's certain is that the pope didn't know. If someone should have known, it was Cardinal (Dario) Castrillon Hoyos."

Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos heads the Vatican department that deals with traditionalist Catholics.
Lombardi said modern communications made it difficult for the Vatican to issue some statements.

"Certain documents are meant for specialists of canon law, others for theologians, others for all Catholics or all people," he said. "But today, whatever the type of document, it all ends up directly in the public sphere. It gets difficult to manage."

(I wonder where Jesus would be on this list, or if He would get cc'd as anything other than 'for all Catholics' or 'all people'. Maybe there's a huge message here from the Holy Spirit about the true scope of the people of God, that all these documents wind up "directly in the public sphere.")

Elsewhere, Father Eberhard von Gemmingen, the head of Vatican Radio's German service, said in an interview with the Passauer Neue Presse newspaper that a new "wave of exits" had already set in after the lifting of the excommunications, Deutsche Welle says.

(In Germany, I understand that formally requesting to leave the Church also has consequences for personal taxes, in that a person stipulates by formally leaving that they no longer want a specific portion of their taxes to go to the church they are leaving.)

In Germany, Austria and Switzerland, Catholics have the option of formally quitting the Church by registering their exit with local authorities. They are then no longer considered Catholic.
"In other countries this is not possible, as baptism cannot be revoked," Gemmingen said.
The relationship of trust between the German born pope and German Catholics has been "shaken," Gemmingen said, but believed Benedict XVI's planned visit to his home country next year could repair some of the damage.

"It hurts if you see that many people do not understand Rome and the pope any longer," the Vatican expert said and also voiced scepticism whether the head of the Catholic Church would go ahead with his planned visit to Israel this year. But Reuters says that Israel's chief Rabbinate is resuming dialogue with the Vatican after freezing ties over a Holocaust denying bishop and the pope will meet major Jewish groups to try to make amends, a Church source said on Saturday. (It hurts me that once again our failure to understand is our failure and not Benedict's or the teaching authority.)


Father Frederico Lombardi is not the only prelate questioning Cardinal Hoyos. So are German, French, and Austrian cardinals and bishops. It seems the wagons are circling around the Pope and Cardinal Hoyos is being thrown under the wagons. For all I know, maybe he needs to be, but I can't believe Benedict spent 20 previous years working with SSPX and knew nothing about their anti Semitic activities. Maybe that's just my failure to understand Rome and the pope.

It's really hard for me to imagine Jesus running the Roman Catholic Church the way the Vatican does. Would he really have all these documents slated for all these different kinds of clerical professionals? Would Jesus give Peter his own private and secure email address instead of dressing Him down in front of all the other disciples? Would Jesus have Utube videos for the simple people, and major theological statements for the clerical elite? Would Jesus have used fear tactics and manipulate the Apostle's loyalty in order to remake them in His own image and likeness ala Maciel? Or give His very overt approval for this ala John Paul II?

Better question yet, would Jesus even care to have the Vatican email address?

People are leaving this Church in droves, by the millions, and more will leave over the insanity of the last three weeks. The apologists seem to be rewriting the real history of this mass exodus by blaming Vatican II and using Paul VI's statements in Humanae Vitae about the evils of birth control as the explanation for this mass exodus.

I lived through that period of church history and I remember things quite a bit differently. It was the issuance of Humanae Vitae itself which precipitated this stunning exodus in the Western church. Not just because of what it said, but because it's issuance directly contradicted the whole concept of collegiality as taught by the Council.

Paul VI ignored the advice of most of his bishops and his own papal commission in favor of Cardinal Ottaviani's small group of like minded Vatican bureaucrats who saw a change in birth control as a direct attack on Papal infallibility. It's not that the faithful didn't get Rome or the pope, it's that the faithful got Rome and the Pope all too well. There were massive demonstrations and lots of people walked out of Mass never to return.

The other little bit of revisionist history going on is the talk about the decline in the older women's religious orders and how the new young orthodox orders are drawing in all kinds of people. OK, how many of those new orthodox people does anyone really think are out there in the general population? I suspect it's exactly enough to service the remnant of a remnant and no where near the numbers needed to serve the totality of the People of God. I'm supposed to rejoice in this?

Will this new Vatican commission on women's religious bother to interview any of the 60,000 who have left their orders, or will it merely interview the ones who stayed? It would be somewhat dangerous ground to do exit interviews because the information might shine some light in areas the Vatican doesn't want to go.

Areas such as the destruction of hope in these orders under JPII. Hopes they had about things like women religious doing something more in the Vatican than answering phones, making beds, and serving food. Hopes they had that their advanced degrees in theology, philosophy, medicine, and the social sciences might actually mean something. Hopes they had that their voices as women might be taken seriously. Hopes that had nothing to do with their choice of habit.

Dashed hopes perfectly illustrated by the fact it's taken the Vatican 40 plus years to get around to acknowledging convents are having issues. 40 plus years, and anyone wonders why so many religious women left? Maybe they got the message their clerical brethren didn't give a damn about them. Maybe they got the same message millions of other Catholics did. That in spite of the high flowing rhetoric of Vatican II, it is now, as it has been since Pope Pius IX (otherwise known as Pio NoNo), strictly about the papacy. Which really means, it's about one man's view of the Church and the rest of us be damned. OK, we get it.


  1. And the exodus away from the RCC continues. but not because of the birth control issue. Most catholics simply ignore that "teaching".

    According to the Pew Forum, the net change in Catholic membership is a -7.5% per year. Contrary to what the faithful orthodox would like us to believe, the RCC is losing more per year than they are gaining. With the losses that are exploding as a result of the SSPX fiasco the rate is probably higher now.

    By far the biggest reason that disaffected Catholics give for changing faiths is that the were lied to or deceived by the RCC leadership.

    47% of catholics have post secondary education. It seems the more highly educated one is, the more likely they are to leave the RCC. Those who are more highly educated are less likely to tolerate the fascist leadership style of the Vatican.

    There is a lot of data to wade through, but most of it can be downloaded in PDF. The statistics are extremely enlightening.

  2. Fascinating to read how

    "It hurts if you see that many people do not understand Rome and the pope any longer"

    It hurts even more how little "Rome and the pope" do not understand real people and real lives.

    It is worth remembering that the church has not always been this all-powerful, autocratic hiearchical structure we have today. The early church was totally different, before the invention of the papacy. It can be re-invented yet.

  3. An article today on MSN News, caught my eye this morning, because once again we see the fallibility of the RCC leadership exposed and acknowledged in the news.

    "Search on for graves of unbaptized babies"

    It is worthy to note, that there has been no effort yet by anyone in authority to apologize to the families for the error.

  4. That's the trouble with creeping infallibility, if you apologize you admit you aren't infallible.
    Benedict would probably find it a lot easier to be Pope if he didn't have to be infallible about everything.

    Pio NoNo gave us our current version of the Papacy. It's amazing to me how many of the traditionalists have not done their research about Vatican I. That must have been some kind of Council when one third of the bishops walked out and went home before the voting on the infallibility issues and the very extensive list of anathemas.

    Compared to Vat I, I guess Vat II was a kumbaya session.

  5. Colleen, excellent first-hand testimony about Vatican II, from someone who remembers that period. Your testimony puts the lie to the propaganda of those on the right now trying to blame the church's problems on Vatican II--and not on the restorationist agenda.

    Thanks for continuing to speak out. I think we can look for those of us doing so, and seeking the truth, to be tarred with quite a few brushes in the coming days, as the Catholic version of the religious right gets into full reaction mode.