|Not a particularly banner headline in global Catholicism.|
Fr Richard McBrien's latest NCR post makes a couple of really important points about the period just after the Second Vatican Council. He brings these points up in reference to the Year of Faith Pope Benedict has instituted for October 2012 to November 2013. The last Year of Faith was called by Pope Paul VI, and that one did not turn out to be all that good a year for anyone's faith, least of all PP VI. The following is an excerpt of the original post.
......This is not the first time the church has been called to celebrate a Year of Faith, Benedict XVI pointed out. His predecessor, Pope Paul VI, announced one in 1967 to commemorate the martyrdom of Saints Peter and Paul.
Unfortunately, it began almost a year before the lowest point of his pontificate; namely, the publication of his last encyclical, Humanae Vitae ("Of Human Life") in July 1968 -- "last" because Paul VI was so taken aback by the negative reaction to the encyclical that he vowed never to write another one, and he did not.
The encyclical had declared that contraception is always seriously sinful. The central words that Paul VI used were that "each and every marriage act must be open to the transmission of life" (n. 11). (I sometimes wonder if the JPII generation actually understands how vehement the reaction was to this encyclical. It wasn't just a case of 'self centered' laity reacting--it was across the Catholic spectrum and included the vast majority of bishops. Unfortunately for laity, loyalty to the Vatican trumped personal conscience in way too many of these leaders. It sent a very loud message to Catholic laity about how far 'subsidiarity and solidarity' went between bishops and flock--as in nowhere.)
One might also place the publication of Paul VI's Credo of the People of God, which concluded the Year of Faith in 1968, as a distant second in relation to Humanae Vitae as another low point in his pontificate.
Benedict XVI said the Credo was "intended to show how much the essential content that for centuries has formed the heritage of all believers needs to be confirmed" (n. 4).
The Credo of the People of God was issued on June 30, 1968, just under a month before the release of Humanae Vitae, on July 25.
In my column for July 19, 1968, I wrote: "Insofar as this document allows the views of one particular school of theology (a minority view, let it be added, that was clearly rejected at Vatican II) to intrude itself upon the ground of authentic Christian tradition, the 'Credo' has transformed itself from an expression of common faith binding the whole Church together, into a personal brief on behalf of one party in the current theological debate." (Six days after Fr McBrien pens these prophetic words Humanae Vitae was released and we all learned just how much power that 'one party in the current theological debate" had in the Vatican.)
On the other hand, Benedict XVI did well to begin his own Year of Faith on the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican II to "provide a good opportunity to help people under-stand that the texts bequeathed by the council fathers 'have lost nothing of their value or brilliance' [John Paul II, Novo Millennio Ineunte, n. 308]" (n. 5).
And he concluded his apostolic letter on a very high note. He made it clear, in typically Catholic fashion, that faith without works is dead (James 2:14-18). He also cited Matthew 25:40: "As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me."
"What the world is in particular need of today," Benedict XVI wrote, "is the credible witness of people enlightened in mind and heart by the word of the Lord and capable of opening the hearts and minds of many to the desire for God and for true life, life without end" (n. 14).
I find myself in disagreement with Fr McBrien about Benedict's thoughts as quoted in the last paragraph. I would word it differently. "What the word is in particular need of today is the credible witness of people enlightened in mind and heart by the Law of Love and capable of opening the hearts and minds of many to the desire for God's love and for the true life that comes with that Love." Too many people already think they know everything there is to know about the word of the Lord and use those words to engender hate. We don't need any more of that. We have had enough of that.....and enough of the rules and doctrines those Words of the Lord have generated in an attempt to control the rest of us.
The minority theological view that McBrien references in the above was perfectly exemplified in Humanae Vitae. The Law of Love is based in compassion and and in the idea of growth towards a fuller understanding of God's love and how that love is expressed amongst each other. Humanae Vitae was the antithesis of that understanding, reducing sexuality to it's base biological function, utterly devoid of the concept of compassion and divorced from any notion of relational love. I sometimes find myself laughing when PPVI is called 'prophetic' because of some of the observations in Humanae Vitae. It didn't take a prophetic genius to predict once married couples could actually plan for their children that they wouldn't have a dozen children and that the birth rate would fall to or below replacement levels. That was the whole idea in the first place.
What didn't happen was any forward thinking political solutions to deal with that very predictable demographic fact. The one obvious solution is immigration and population redistribution, but of course, that means white hegemony is dead in Europe and soon to be in North America. For all our Christian love, we can't be havin' that. Pope Benedict must not want that either if his recent batch of Cardinals is any indication. The truth is the last thing Mother Earth needs is relatively wealthy white consumers having more hordes of relatively wealthy white consumer children. There is not enough Mother Earth to sustain that level of consumerism.
All of which brings me to Martin Luther King day. This was a man who was well on the path to understanding the Law of Love and the incredible demands it places on evaluating our attitudes towards our fellow travelers on the road of life. The Law of Love demands we see our fellows travelers exactly as we see ourselves. There are no 'others'. There is only 'us'. That is a very difficult command to follow because we have to shed all the years of conditioning which have told 'us' we are 'us' because we are not 'them' and 'they' are not 'us'. Every time I read of some Bishop or another who is defining Catholicism against one or another 'other' of the month, I want to cringe. All of this is utterly antithetical to what Jesus taught and lived. This is not love. This is not Faith. This is plain old fear.