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"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

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Friday, 10 October 2014

,THEOLOGICAL LIBERALISM AND THE SYNOD (5)

"Our diversity in practise confirms our unity in faith."  "It is God who has harmonised us in the symphony of faith." (St Irenaeus)

Those of you who have read my last post on the Church as Communion will have realised that the present Synod is based on a sound theology of the Church which has its roots in Vatican II and is in accordance with the wishes of the conclave that elected the present pope.   

We remember that the paradigm of the Church that was used in Vatican I was that of a "perfect society" centred on the universal jurisdiction of the pope.   This was not denied by Vatican II, but another paradigm became prominent, that of the eucharistic community.   The liturgy in general and the Eucharist in particular are the source and goal of all the Church's powers.   Hence, the "perfect society", all things being equal, is derived from the celebration of the liturgy throughout the world.   As a paradigm the eucharistic community is more useful because it opens up new questions and invites us to see old questions from a different angle.   In discussions on marriage there is a corresponding change of paradigm.   The classic Roman paradigm is that of a legal contract, made by the couple with each other and lasting until death.   Behind that is the paradigm of marriage as a relationship that mirrors the Holy Trinity and also the relationship between Christ and his Church.   Like the paradigm of the Church as eucharistic community, it opens up new questions and invites us to look at old ones in a new way.

This has absolutely nothing to do with liberalism.   It is about returning to the sources in order to find answers to perennial pastoral problems and to look for pastoral approaches that are more effective than the ones in current use.   The dogmatic teaching on marriage is accepted by all, and no one wants to change it.   This has been repeated very often before and during the synod.   What is being discussed is how best to put it into practice in the light of Evangelisation. 

However, just as in Vatican II, we have the press.   Journalists who are liberals are quick to interpret the words of people like Cardinal Kasper as though they support a liberal agenda; and it is unfortunately possible to give a liberal interpretation to these words as long as you take them out of context and do not listen carefully to all they say.   Liberals without a deep insight into the Catholic Faith may be excused for their lack of attention to detail; but there are Catholic priests who are so embittered about all that has happened since Vatican II that they make not the slightest effort to understand; and they rush to shovel all that is said to feed the fires of their own bitterness.   Such is the author of Rorate Caeli.   "Liberalism" becomes a blanket word for all they do not like about the modern Church.  It allows them to condemn without paying attention to detail.  Having described what is happening as "liberalism", Rorate Caeli then quotes Newman on liberalism, a statement made in an entirely different context, and then makes it appear as though Newman would have condemned the Synod.   Without any arguments beyond attaching a label to the proceedings, this post is without any theological value and is a mere expression of feelings.

The great thing about the Synod, like Vatican II before it, is that there are people like Cardinal Burke whose understanding of the Church does not differ all that much from the author of Rorate Caeli, and there are people like Cardinal Kasper, and there are others in between.   All accept the Catholic teaching on marriage and the home, but they differ on how it is to be applied in practise.   

In the Byzantine Rite, before the recitation of the Creed, the clergy exchange the kiss of peace, that all may proclaim the Creed with one heart and one voice.   Faith, according to Lonergan, is knowledge based on religious love, firstly God's love for us, and then our love for God and each other.   In the context of ecclesial love, the likes of Cardinals Burke and Kasper have their views put to the ultimate test. How will their theories fare when those who possess them seek unity in ecclesial love?  When ecclesial love is ignored, belief becomes mere opinion: when it is embraced, the resulting opinion coming out of the Synod glows with the presence of the Holy Spirit and can be presented to the world as belief.  There is nothing liberal about that!!

The truth is that John Henry Newman believed in the Church.  I see no evidence of that in the commentary in Rorate Caeli.   Let us look at the core of the blogger's complaint:
What is the current attempt to reduce doctrine to praxis if not an example of that liberalism against which Newman fought so strenuously in his own day?  What is the gobble-de-gook of prelates pontificating about mercy and the "law of graduality",  and the lack of true virile fatherhood among the shepherds, if not examples of that sentimentality that Newman detested and that is the acid of religion? 

It is mostly insult, without any attempt to justify with argument his disagreement over their theological positions.   Cardinal Kasper is a recognised theologian, commended by Pope Francis, with an international reputation.   His argument is based on the fact that Mercy is a constant theme in both the Old and New Testaments.   It isn't a sentiment: it is God's constant love for his creatures which is a reflection of the love of the Blessed Trinity for each other.   In practising Mercy, we share by grace in the Love that is God's nature.   The author of Rorate Caeli may not agree with Cardinal Kasper's conclusions, but the cardinal deserves his respect, and his theological opinion at least deserves a proper measured answer rather than an insulting "gobble-de-gook of prelates pontificating about mercy and the "law of graduality".   This is especially so when one of those "pontificating about mercy" is the pope.   

In fact, the contrast between the author of Rorate Caeli and John Henry Newman is very great.   Newman believed in the Church, not the Church as it used to be, nor an ideal Church, not a faction within the Church.  He believed that the Holy Spirit guides the Church, so that, even when it was decided to proclaim the dogmas of Vatican I, something he regarded as unnecessary, he accepted the fact because he believed in being obedient.   Padre Pio, also, although he was thoroughly conservative liturgically, blamed his sister who left her convent because she could not stand the new liturgy: he said that she should have obediently accepted.   Cardinal Burke ("conservative") and Cardinal Kasper ("progressive") as individuals are not what is important in the synod; parties are not important: what is important is the mind of the Church which will gradually be uncovered by pope, cardinals and bishops together, each making his contribution for the good of the whole in humility and charity, all this being product of communion.   If Rorate Caeli believes that to be a liberal position, then he doesn't understand liberalism.   Liberalism believes that the opinion of the individual is uppermost, and all opinions are permissable if they are ready to tolerate the rest.   In contrast, the Synod is an exercise in communion, a struggle in charity to understand the mind of the Church.   That is also what distinguishes it from the likes of Rorate Caeli in which a priest sits at home snarling at all those who disagree with him.   

I think a lecture by Professor John Behr, an Orthodox patristic scholar, has much to teach us on this subject.   It is called, "The Shocking Truth About Christian Orthodoxy."

taken from RORATE CAELI, an extremely conservative blog
Blessed John Henry Newman: "I have resisted to the best of my powers the spirit of liberalism in religion."



We cannot let the celebration of the day in which the memory of Blessed John Henry Newman is particularly remembered go by without recalling his remarkable prescience about the current condition of Western culture and the current situation in the Church, a situation that is itself a continuation of the troubled years since the Second Vatican Council.  The great irony—and Newman always understood irony—is that he has been invoked as the “absent Father” of that Council with respect to the role of the laity in the Church, religious freedom, and collegiality.  Those who invoke him in this way have obviously never read much Newman, for he would understand that  the Church today is in the parlous state in which she finds herself precisely because those to whom her ministry has been entrusted have swallowed and digested that noxious weed decried by Newman and are patting their stomachs in self-congratulation, having succumbed to that “liberalism in religion” whose heart is what Newman called the “anti-dogmatic principle”. 

What is the current attempt to reduce doctrine to praxis if not an example of that liberalism against which Newman fought so strenuously in his own day?  What is the gobble-de-gook of prelates pontificating about mercy and the "law of graduality",  and the lack of true virile fatherhood among the shepherds, if not examples of that sentimentality that Newman detested and that is the acid of religion? 

One can never read Newman’s Bigletto Speech too many times.  This was in a sense his last will and testament, for he who had been shunned in so many ways by the Catholic hierarchy throughout his Catholic life was given the honor of a Cardinal’s hat in the twilight of his life, and what he said in his acceptance of that honor from Pope Leo XIII, is chillingly prescient.  And this not only with reference to the current situation of the Church.  Newman knew as few today understand that the creeping papalism of the past century has been and is being enabled not by traditionalism but rather by liberalism. Here is the voice of the prophet for our times from his Bigletto speech.


In a long course of years I have made many mistakes. I have nothing of that high perfection which belongs to the writings of Saints, viz., that error cannot be found in them; but what I trust that I may claim all through what I have written, is this,—an honest intention, an absence of private ends, a temper of obedience, a willingness to be corrected, a dread of error, a desire to serve Holy Church, and, through Divine mercy, a fair measure of success. And, I rejoice to say, to one great mischief I have from the first opposed myself. For thirty, forty, fifty years I have resisted to the best of my powers the spirit of liberalism in religion. Never did Holy Church need champions against it more sorely than now, when, alas! it is an error overspreading, as a snare, the whole earth; and on this great occasion, when it is natural for one who is in my place to look out upon the world, and upon Holy Church as in it, and upon her future, it will not, I hope, be considered out of place, if I renew the protest against it which I have made so often…. Liberalism in religion is the doctrine that there is no positive truth in religion, but that one creed is as good as another, and this is the teaching which is gaining substance and force daily. It is inconsistent with any recognition of any religion, as true. It teaches that all are to be tolerated, for all are matters of opinion. Revealed religion is not a truth, but a sentiment and a taste; not an objective fact, not miraculous; and it is the right of each individual to make it say just what strikes his fancy… Such is the state of things in England, and it is well that it should be realised by all of us; but it must not be supposed for a moment that I am afraid of it. I lament it deeply, because I foresee that it may be the ruin of many souls; but I have no fear at all that it really can do aught of serious harm to the Word of God, to Holy Church, to our Almighty King, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, Faithful and True, or to His Vicar on earth. Christianity has been too often in what seemed deadly peril, that we should fear for it any new trial now. So far is certain; on the other hand, what is uncertain, and in these great contests commonly is uncertain, and what is commonly a great surprise, when it is witnessed, is the particular mode by which, in the event, Providence rescues and saves His elect inheritance. Sometimes our enemy is turned into a friend; sometimes he is despoiled of  that special virulence of evil which was so threatening; sometimes he falls to pieces of himself; sometimes he does just so much as is beneficial, and then is removed. Commonly the Church has nothing more to do than to go on in her own proper duties, in confidence and peace; to stand still and to see the salvation of God. 
Mansueti hereditabunt terram,
 et delectabuntur in multitudine pacis.

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