"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

Friday 12 September 2008

Benedict XVI, Women Priests and the "Reform of the Reform"

The Press used to say that there were two parties in Vatican II, the "conservatives" and the "progressives". It was an oversimplification, but it served their journalistic purpose and helped the public to understand something of what was going on. In fact, the reality was more complex: the "progressives" were divided into at least two groups. However, both wanted liturgical reform; both wanted decentralization and a re=emphasis on the function of the bishop and the local church; both wanted less rigid controls from the centre, and both were ecumenical. This served to cover up real and important differences between them. Perhaps, Hans Kung can be used to give one party a human face, and Joseph Ratzinger can be used to represent the other.

The "liberals" belonged to the same tradition as the "conservatives". Like the conservatives they used political terms to describe the Church and saw it primarily as a legal entity, bound together by jurisdiction. The body of Christ on earth is a human society, and the relationship of its members is governed by the same forces that make any other human society work. In it, those who are empowered by ordination to preach the word and celebrate the sacraments can do so legitimately. They differed from the conservatives in that but they wanted a change in the balance of power away from the Vatican. This would give local churches more freedom to adapt the liturgy to their concrete pastoral situations. For the same reason, they wanted parishes and other pastoral groupings that are less than a diocese to have greater freedom from episcopal control to adapt to their situations. They interpreted dogmas as truths that have to be believed by the faithful, this obligation arising from the fact that the Holy Spirit keeps the pope or general council from error. They also believed that it is entirely up to the individual whether or not he accepts teachings of the Church not covered by dogmatic pronouncements. However, they complained of "creeping infallibility", which is the tendency of the Vatican to impose interpretations of teachings and insist on rules not covered by the Vatican I definition of Papal Infallibility. They wanted as much freedom as possible to exercise as many adaptations as possible, and they were seeking greater tolerance of dissent and a measure of democracy. They contine to interpret problems in political and pastoral terms: women priests are about equal opportunities for women and a solution to the grave lack of priests. Their natural ecumenical ally is the Anglican Communion.

The other grouping was chiefly made up of patristic scholars, liturgists and liturgical theologians. It differs from both "conservatives" and "liberals" in that it sees the legal structure of the Church as secondary to its liturgical structure. Of course, they were in the majority in drawing up the Constitution on the Liturgy in the 2nd Vatican Council, and it says:

"The liturgy is the summit towards which the activity of the Church is directed, at the same time, it is the fountainfrom which all her power flows." (I. 10) The Catechism of the Catholic Church spells out the meaning of this sentence:

1108: In evry liturgical action the Holy Spiritis sent in order to bring us in communion with Christ and so to form his Body. The Holy Spirit is like the sap of the Father´s vine which bears fruit in its branches. The most intimate co=operation of the Holy Spirit and the Church is achieved in the liturgy. The Spirit, who is the Spirit of communion, abides indefectibly in the Church. For this reason the Church is the great sacrament of divine communion which gathers God´s scattered children together. COMMUNION WITH THE HOLY TRINITY AND FRATERNAL COMMUNION ARE INSEPARABLY THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT IN THE LITURGY (My emphasis).

Hence, the Church is not infallible because the pope and council are infallible. The reverse is true. The power to make a dogmatic definition arises from the presence of the Spirit in the liturgy, and this definition does not completely fulfil its purpose until the doctrine is expressed in the liturgy. ("Orthodoxy" means, at one and the same time "true doctrine" and "true worship".) Moreover, the Church throughout the world is not one because it is united to the Pope: the reverse is true. The Church discovers its essential unity in the Eucharist and makes it work at a human level by communion with the papacy. Hence, Jurisdiction, whether of pope or bishops, has only a limited role in relation to the liturgy, because of the "intimate co=operation between the Holy Spirit and the Church" in the liturgy; and the Holy Spirit outranks the pope. In a way, the Church is the most imperfect of societies because the Holy Spirit makes it what it is, and the Spirit is outside its control, and both church authorities and those who obey them owe him a response of faith,

According to Pope Benedict, ecclesiastical authority can neither invent the liturgy for the Church nor abolish a rite that the Church has recognized as fully Catholic over many centuries. Nor can he radically re=structure the liturgy. It is not what the papacy is for. The liturgy is something given, the fruit of the harmony between the Holy Spirit and the Church Of the classical rites of the Church, Cardinal Ratzinger wrote:

"The Christian faith can never be separated from the soil of sacred events, from the choice made by God, who wanted to speak to us, to become man, to die and rise again, in a particular place and at a particular time. . . . The Church does not pray in some kind of mythical omnitemporality. She cannot forsake her roots. She recognizes the true utterance of God precisely in the concreteness of its history, in time and place: to these God ties us, and by these we are all tied together. The diachronic aspect, praying with the Fathers and the apostles, is part of what we mean by rite, but it also includes a local aspect, extending from Jerusalem to Antioch, Rome, Alexandria, and Constantinople. Rites are not, therefore, just the products of inculturation, however much they may have incorporated elements from different cultures. They are forms of the apostolic Tradition and of its unfolding in the great places of the Tradition.

He has written that the function of Pope is that of a gardener who tends his plants while obeying the laws of botany. He is not a mechanic who can introduce new machines or re=construct old ones. He is as subject as any other Catholic to the same Apostolic Tradition of which these rites are the classical expression. He said

"It is good to recall here what Cardinal Newman observed, that the Church, throughout her history, has never abolished nor forbidden orthodox liturgical forms, which would be quite alien to the Spirit of the Church. An orthodox liturgy, that is to say, one which expresses the true faith, is never a compilation made according to the pragmatic criteria of different ceremonies, handled in a positivist and arbitrary way, one way today and another way tomorrow.
The orthodox forms of a rite are living realities, born out of the dialogue of love between the Church and her Lord. They are expressions of the life of the Church, in which are distilled the faith, the prayer and the very life of whole generations, and which make incarnate in specific forms both the action of God and the response of man. Such rites can die, if those who have used them in a particular era should disappear, or if the life- situation of those same people should change.

The authority of the Church has the power to define and limit the use of such rites in different historical situations, but she never just purely and simply forbids them. Thus the Council ordered a reform of the liturgical books, but it did not prohibit the former books. The criterion which the Council established is both much larger and more demanding; it invites us all to self-criticism."

Hence the Papal authority does not make him free of Tradition of which he is a guardian. Unlike dogmas, liturgies can develop and may need reform from time to time, but their internal integrity must be respected because they are the classic means by which the faithful as a community participate in the Paschal Mystery and, as such, are the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church.

Considering the Spirit=filled authority of Tradition as expressed in the ordinary magisterium of the Church, especially in the liturgy, Pope Benedict teaches, as did John Paul II, that neither Pope nor Council has the authority to permit women priests or bishops. However much they may believe it to be a good idea, Tradition has ruled it out. In the liberal view of the Church, only dogmas compell agreement: everything else can be doubted or changed. In the sacramental view of the Church, the exercise of the ordinary magisterium in the celebration of the liturgy, is product of the synergy between the Spirit and the Church and, therefore, is as infallible as you can get.

The 1st Vatican Council decreed that the Pope has full episcopal authority over the whole Church, but, in their reply to certain criticisms of the dogma it was stated that this does not make the bishops simply assistents of the Pope. These two statements of the Council Fathers contradict one another, unless there is another factor which does not deny the universal episcopal jurisdiction of the Pope but which makes clear the role of the local bishop as it differs from that of Pope.

The Church is a sacramental entity, the body of Christ, The presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church is what binds the Church together in Christ; and this presence of the Spirit is made visible in ecclesial love, or fraternal love in Christ. As Fr Ceslaus Spicq OP used to say, it is love that makes the Church visible to the world, and lack of love makes it invisible. One of the Greek Fathers put it more strongly, "Orthodoxy without love is the religion of the devil." Thus, what really binds a bishop to his church is nothing less than the Holy Spirit, manifesting his presence in fraternal love. This is seen in the sacrament of confirmation, in which the bishop or his representative ´confirms´the new Christian by giving him the seal of the Holy Spirit with the gifts of the Spirit that the Christian must exercise in communion with the bishop. There is much in the Letters of St Ignatius of Antioch and in the writings of St Cyprian of Carthage on the relation between a bishop and the members of his flock. The relationship between patriarch and the bishops of his patriarchate may well be expressed very clearly in Canon Law, but this is not what binds the bishops together. What binds them together is the Holy Spirit acting through their ordination as bishops, expressing his presence in their fraternal love. St Augustine, in his debate with the Donatists, made "fraternal love" synonimous with "ecclesiastical communion". A person who excluded himself from ecclesiastical communion was putting himself outside the fraternal love which is not a mere sentiment but evidence of the presence of the Spirit. The Pope has universal episcopal jurisdiction over the whole Church and over every member of the Church, but this is not what binds the Pope to the whole Church nor the Church to him. Papal authority makes all other jurisdiction relative so that no church can identify itself completely with a nation, however Catholic that nation may be. The present Pope has a horror of welding together religion and nationalism because that was the goal of the Nazi Party in his own country. He agrees with these word of Origen, "Whoever delivers himself over to what is national, and in place of thinking and living humanly, thinks and lives in the confines of a nation, such a one places himself under the sway of his evil angel." Looking into history or modern events, it is apparent that nationalism, when supported by religion, can become diabolical, all the more diabolical if the religion is true. Papal jurisdiction is at the service of universal love, and exists, in part, to prevent any jurisdiction from becoming a block to a universal ecclesial love. St Ignatius of Antioch described the Church of Rome as "presiding in love". That is what the papacy is about, and one reason why it is not recognised by many churches that have kept their tradition intact is that there have been times in history when the love of the popes for the universal Church has not matched the universal jurisdiction the popes have claimed.

It is the function of jurisdiction in the Church to make ecclesial love workable and efficient by defining the field in which it has to operate, by providing means of communication and by attempting to remove obstacles to its exercise. It does this because this Christian form of love is an instrument of the Holy Spirit. The epi=centre of this activity is the Eucharist in which the sacrifice of Christ´s self=giving love for the Father and for us transforms the Church into the Body of Christ and thus into a sharer in his self=giving.

Clearly the liberal group look for their ecumenical allies in the Anglican Communion which was by law established, and whose liturgy, for all its beauty, is the classic example of the power of law over Tradition. The Anglican Church is being true to itself when it accepts that a vote in Synod has the authority to modify the constant and universal liturgical practice of the Catholic Church. In contrast, Pope Benedict holds strongly that the Catholic Church would be untrue to itself if it followed the same road. He denies he has the authority to do so; and he denies thathe has the authority to simply abolish the pre=vatican II Mass. That the Anglican Church and the Catholic Church have taken different paths is because they are different. Hence, before the question of women bishops and priests is resolved, there is a more basic question. Is the Church a divine=human entity as body of Christ, moulded by the Spirit and accepted as given by the faithful, including the Pope and bishops; or is its organization completely subject to human control and human law, exercised in Christ´s name by the competent authorities? "He that hears you hears me" will be interpreted as a legal statement by one group and as a sacramental and liturgical truth by the other. The legalistic tradition has a long history in the West, and it is this that the Pope is saying is not sufficiently profound. If you hold the liberal position, you will become closer to the Anglicans. If you hold the Pope´s position you will be closer to the Orthodox and Oriental Churches and to the Church Fathers. One thing is certain: you cannot answer the problem of women priests or the problem of the old Tridentine Mass in isolation from the deeper question.

Actually, conservatives and liberals share the same pre=suppositions. Has it occurred to you that those who advocate defining as a dogma "mary, Mediatrix of All Graces" and those who wish the Pope to abolish the old Mass have the same basic attitude towards the Papacy. Both believe that a simple papal signature will solve their problems. Those in favour of law over liturgy are not impressed by the fact thatthe doctrine of the mediation of Mary is celebrated in the liturgy, even though it is in the liturgy that the truth finds its place in giving glory to God. Their grasp of the liturgy as fruit of the synergy betyween the Spirit and the Church is weak, nor do they give sufficient notice to the organic relationship between truths of the faith. While some truths have to be believed in order for someone to take part meaningfully in Christian worship; but there are others which become known only through participation in Catholic worship. It is a mischief to turn one of the second group of truths into a compulsary belief, because this makes it impossible for people to discover these truths by participating in Catholic liturgy

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