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Monday, November 24, 2003

Oh, the humanity!

A Devil's Dictionary for Catholics, Installment II:
"Violence, n. 1. The failure to affirm the views of progressive Catholic clergy or religious in all particulars."

The head of a union for Catholic religious was recently slammed into an iron maiden, had his toenails torn out, and spent weeks on the rack. All the while, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger laughed diabolically and sneered: "Ve haff vays uff making you talk."

Well, it happened in the spiritual sense. I mean, he survived to whinge about it for eighteen paragraphs in The Tablet, after all. Fear not--the Spirit of Vatican II™ is with him.

TO SPEAK of violence in the Church might seem nonsensical.

As Fr. Macisse is about to demonstrate at wearying length.

Violence is the application of physical, moral or psychological force to impose or coerce, and this should be unthinkable in the community of believers founded by Jesus, the Prince of Peace, who came to free us from all slavery and oppression, built his Church on love of God and neighbour, and commanded us to love even our enemies.

True enough as far as it goes, one supposes. But, as always is the case with progressives, it doesn't go anywhere near far enough. Must be that "hierarchy of truths" at work again.

Instead, we have a predictable depiction of the Very, Very Nice Jesus of Very, Very Bad Devotional Art. Funny how this guy, the Jesus big on church discipline, never shows up in these discussions. You know, the judgmental fellow. Employing Fr. Macisse's novel definition, "violent," even.

Instead, we get force-fed Josh, the nebbish who was so darn nice hardly anyone noticed he was there.

The reason being, of course, is that you can't find Josh in the New Testament, no matter how much of the text you force-feed into the historical-critical blender.

[Large section of paragraph positively graphic in its recitation of the word "violence" snipped.]

These days, the Church no longer employs physical coercion.

With that essential concession, any sensible individual would sign off. But if that happened, we could hardly open the cause for the canonization of St. Camilo Macisse (proposed Patron for those suffering from martyr complexes), now could we?

But the other forms of violence – moral and psychological – continue, in an exercise of power which ignores both legitimate diversity in the Church and the Gospel insistence on dialogue. I have had intimate knowledge of this violence, above all as exercised by a number of Roman departments.

"Dialogue" and "diversity"--the canary just up and died, and that's your cue to run--not walk--to the nearest exit. Preferably screaming "The dead live! Kill it! Kill it!" "Dialogue" and "diversity" will make Episcopalians of us all.

It comes in many forms.

First and foremost is the refusal to cede power to me, to be wielded according to my whi--um, principles of Gospel communitarian siblinghood as epitomized by Jesus. Second is the failure to recognize my theological genius. Third is the unwillingness to return my calls. Fourth is the refusal to report to me the names of errant underlings who also fail to affirm my genius, so that I may engage them in "fraternal dialogue." I, Ven. Camilo, will illustrate these in turn.

One of those forms is centralism, which seeks to concentrate decision-making powers in a church bureaucracy distant from the life of believers in different circumstances. Incapable of accepting pluralism, it is a way of treating believers at all levels, from bishops’ conferences to groups of lay people, as children in need of protection who must be disciplined according to short-sighted criteria.

Oh, goody--our first reference to D­äs Curia. Indeed, it's evolved into a peculiar form of Tourette's among such superannuated eminenti as Kung, McBrien, Curran, etc. They will simply bark out "CURIA! IT'S THE CURIA!"or "Vatican. Definitely the Vatican. Gotta fly Al Italia..." for no apparent reason. They also tend to kick into Outraged Teenager Denied The Keys To The Family Minivan mode, screeching about dad being out of touch, infantilization, how the other churches let their kids drive, ad infinitum. The Ven. Camilo suffers from the same syndrome.

Since the Second Vatican Council the shift towards decentralisation by enhancing episcopal collegiality – the government of the Church by the college of bishops with and under the pope – has gradually been undermined.

Maybe because the behavior of the bishops since 1965 has pretty well dispensed with that whole "with and under the pope" surplusage? Can I get a shout out from the abused faithful of Rochester, Lafayette-in-Indiana, [Feel free to mention the name your Newkirkian diocese here]?

For a lot of us, "collegiality" means "Your very own Borgia pope--right down the street." Consider this example, wherein the various diocese for the state of Michigan announce their compliance schedules for the changes in the GIRM:

Nor is there a uniform rush among bishops to comply with the rules. In Michigan, dioceses based in Lansing and Grand Rapids complied earlier this year.

As in Detroit, the Diocese of Marquette in the Upper Peninsula will roll out changes this month. Kneelers are no problem there, because all parishes have them, a diocesan spokesperson said.

However, the Diocese of Kalamazoo will wait until the end of 2004 to comply. The Diocese of Gaylord will make changes gradually with no fixed deadline. And the Diocese of Saginaw may wait even longer until the final edition of a complete English-language guidebook to the mass is published, perhaps by 2005.

"No fixed deadline...wait even longer until...a complete English-language guidebook to the mass is published, perhaps by 2005." Yes, 2005--maybe--but remember there's the essential matter of making sure that guidebook is available in Esperanto, too, which could push it back even further, don't you know? Kneeling and reverence apparently are just too complicated for the benighted descendants of the diocese's formerly robust brand of German Catholicism, which has since been wadded into a beige Play-Doh at the behest of its enlightened ordinary.

Let's just say more than a few of us are happy that someone's (too) occasionally watching the watchmen, or at least making them circumspect.

Even the bishops’ synods called together every few years are heavily controlled by the Roman Curia, which determines both the process of discussion and the documents which result. In most of these synods there have been bishops who have deplored the violence of this control applied by neo-conservatives steeped in an abstract and anachronistic theology.

"I remember at one of the conferences how the bishops had painstakingly assembled a topical position paper on "Condiments as Sacramentals," only to have it ignored by those beastly curials! They muttered something about "life issues" and "the decay of catechesis and liturgy" taking precedence. Talk about nonessentials. Such violence..."

Oh, and note the first deployment of the nonsense term "neoconservatives." A popular meme and thought-substitute emanating from the Forces of Good, it means "the extra-Y chromosome types who will be first against the wall when we get Pope Joan."

Helpful Editorial Clarification No. 2: "abstract and anachronistic theology" means "something believed by Catholics before 1965."

When some dare to criticise these authorities out of love of the Church and always in communion with it

"What do you have against condiments?"

they are threatened and condemned, accused of practising a parallel teaching authority, a parallel pastoral action, or even of trying to create a parallel Church.

Curial official: "Uh, Excellency, those "cigarettes" of yours look a little stumpy, even for unfiltereds...."

Such centralism results in large part from distrust and fear. How else to account for the delay of three or more years in approving translations of liturgical texts carried out by experts and unanimously approved by local bishops’ conferences?

Maybe because the translations are utterly defective, banal, "inclusive" crap entirely beholden to the latest unCatholic flavor-of-the-month ideology of grievance appeasement that has managed to capture the Expertariat and browbeat the conferences into submission?

Just asking.

This same fear of losing control lay behind the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s proposal – first made at the Synod on Consecrated Life – that the Vatican should confirm the election of general superiors elected by their respective congregations.

Whatever for? I mean, it's not like you can't trust the religious to manage themselves these days, right?

Faced with an overwhelmingly negative response, the CDF wrote to theologians it trusted asking them to support this idea in their articles, so as to create a climate receptive to the idea.

Behold, the limits of dialogue: when progressives say "No!", the discussion is OVER. As in, "Shut the hell up. NOW."

What do you tell a "conservative" with two black eyes? Nothing--you already told him twice. Still, you should try to feel his pain.

Works for Frank Griswold & Co.

The Curia’s centralism also blocks groups entitled to direct communication with the Pope. The heads of the Union of (Male) Superiors General (USG) and the International Union of (Female) Religious Superiors (UISG) have been trying, without success, to have an audience with John Paul II since 1995. While other, lesser groups, including many individuals outside the faith and the Church have been granted this access, the representatives of more than 1 million consecrated religious, engaged in the most varied pastoral work on the frontiers of evangelism, have been consistently blocked.

"I hate him so much. And he won't return my calls, either!"

Some might take that stony silence as a giant-sized hint that there's a problem. But I'm suuuure that the problem is entirely that of the big bad Curia.

Another form of violence is patriarchal authoritarianism which excludes women from participation at all levels of the Church.

"I'll take 'Catholic Religious Subject to Papal Freeze-Outs' for a thousand, Alex."

"The answer is, 'He figuratively wiped his fanny with a copy of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis.'"

It is astonishing, for example, that contemplative women religious were never consulted during the preparation of the document on enclosure, Verbi Sponsa. Not one of the 49 associations or federations of Discalced Carmelites – which bring together 755 convents and more than 11,000 nuns – was consulted, and other large contemplative orders were similarly excluded; only the opinion of a small number of traditionalist convents was sought.

Oh, it wasn't that the opinions of women weren't sought--the problem was that the wrong kind of women were spoken to--"traditionalists!" [Cue "The Imperial March" from The Empire Strikes Back]. Probably the ones with those things called "vocations" and a median age below 68. Got it.

[Repetitive commentary about infantilization snipped]

Other forms of authoritarian violence have become habitual. For example, those who send delations to Rome are guaranteed anonymity, because they are generally people of conservative temperament. When the accused is called to the tribunals of a number of Roman dicasteries, he is not allowed witnesses who can speak on his behalf. Letters are written by accusers who have never first sought dialogue with the accused. When the accused defends himself, and shows that the accusations are false, he never receives a letter absolving him of the calumnies directed against him.

Or maybe they're guaranteed anonymity because "whistleblower" protection is a little scanty for the People of God, and there's a history of retaliation in such situations. Same applies to that "seeking dialogue first" thing. Happens in the real world all the time. Yes, it might even be possible--at least theoretically, mind you--that even self-identified members of the Forces of Good could retaliate against a known complaining "conservative." Long odds, I know....

That lack of absolution problem is more along the lines of a good-faith complaint that was later determined to be inaccurate. So, instead of whingeing about your failure to get a gold star, you might want to consider that every accusation made against you is not done by bad-faith accusers and liars. Just a thought.

["Curia Responsible for Climate Change" thoughts snipped]

Another kind of church violence is a dogmatism which refuses to admit that in a pluralist world it is not possible to continue to assume just one religious, cultural and theological standpoint. Failing to distinguish between what is essential in Christian faith and its relative theological expressions, dogmatism insists on a single theological perspective, that of traditionalism, which starts from philosophical and cultural assumptions which belong to a previous age. The Church often seeks to impose these views without taking into account the pluralism of today’s societies.

Finally, the gist of the nub: failure to recognize my particular genius. Especially as an enlightened pluralistic modern who has outgrown those embarrassing Catholic distinctives, and can keep my eye on the ball--that Jesus was a Swell and Inspiring Guy. From "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life" to "A Way, True for Me, and That's Life."

Since the Second Vatican Council, violent repression has been unleashed against modern exegesis of Scripture, against new European theological perspectives, against liberation theology, against Asian and African theology, and against indigenous theology.

Say what you will about Fr. Macisse, he has a flair for the dramatic. "Violent repression." Oh, my.

"Hans Kung hasn't bought a new Beemer since 1998--1998! They're laughing at him in Tubingen these days. Laughing at him!"

Translation: The Church has serious problems with "Jesus was Just This Guy," "Jesus Was Remarkably Like Edward Schillebeeckx/Hans Kung," "Jesus was a Commie," "Jesus was a Hindu," "Jesus was an Animist," and "Jesus was a Whatever" schools of theology. And this is bad because....?

The actions against theologians almost always proceed violently: the CDF first receives accusations from conservative or ultraconservative people or from personal enemies who know that they will enjoy the protection, confidentiality, and unconditional support of its staff. The CDF then hands the texts of the accused over to “experts” who also enjoy anonymity and will at no point need to face the accused, who must then respond to the accusations and attempt to prove their orthodoxy. The “experts” often base their accusations on phrases taken out of context – a few pages are enough to prove the suspicion of unorthodoxy.

"I mean, you put a chapter entitled 'Gaylord: The Homosexual Life of Jesus' into your book on Christology and all hell breaks loose. Honestly--don't these knuckle-draggers understand the careful nuance necessary for cutting-edge theology these days? And when I said 'Jesus could have been born of a cheese log rolled in walnuts for all the significance it had for his person and ministry', you'd have thought I'd called the experts' moms a bad name. As Frank Griswold says, we need a pluriformity of truths expressed in the bonds of Christian love and unity.

You rotten, cowardly, stone-throwing oppressors."

When the accused has responded by making clear his position, he almost never receives a letter acknowledging that the “expert” is wrong. Nor does the accuser receive a rebuke or canonical penalty for having lied. This violent dogmatism has the effect of stultifying legitimate research and study by exegetes and theologians, many of whom impose self-censorship out of fear.

There's not even a remote chance the progressive accused could be wrong, nor that his accusers are anything other than bald-faced liars. Nope. We're the good guys.

[Remainder heralding the inevitable arrival of the Jubilee once the Good Guys get their way and their hands on the levers of power snipped.]

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