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Irish Bishop Calls for Married Priesthood
One of President Barack Obama's former advisors, Rahm Emanuel, may achieve lasting renown of a sort from an unguarded comment that continues to resonate among political pundits: “Never let a crisis go to waste.”
The import of the statement is that one can implement radical policy changes with relative ease under the cover of an emergency measure to “fix” a problem whose solution will brook no delay. Such was the rationale for the “stimulus” package, an unprecedented intrusion of government — and taxpayer money — into the private sector to “save” the economy.
The Catholic Church is facing various crises involving the clergy, and there are some who see in the present turmoil an opportunity to advance an agenda that might otherwise be regarded as unacceptable by both the hierarchy and the laity.
The call for allowing priests to marry is not a new one. Since the 1960s — that is, since the deluge of “reforms” following Vatican II — voices have been raised in its favor. But the continuing scandal of sexual abuse of young people by priests has given an impetus to the cause that makes it appear less radical and more plausible.
We are watching a confrontation unfold in Austria now that involves a significant number of its priests who have joined what is termed “A Call for Disobedience.” (See: “Diabolical Disorientation Update: The Summer of Discontent”.) Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, the Archbishop of Vienna, after some strong rhetoric at the outset, has adopted a conciliatory tone and agreed to meetings (negotiations?) with the dissidents who call for, among other things, the approval of married clergy.
Bishop Edward Daly, former bishop of Derry in Northern Ireland, is a high profile figure in that nation's Church and political landscape. A staunch advocate for peace and an opponent of the IRA's policy of violence, Daly has been a force in the formation of public opinion ever since, as a priest, he stood in front of British paratroopers waving a blood-stained white handkerchief on the day in 1972 when 13 civilians were killed. He is a symbol of courage and hope.
At 77, he is pitting himself against the Vatican in proposing what he claims may be a solution to the problems of priest shortages and sexual abuse. His so-called solution, however, may ignore the root causes of both problems. (See: “Change We Can Believe In”.)
But the laity are weary of hearing about yet another incidence of a teen or young man sexually abused by a priest in whom he trusted. And the Church has tried with little success to fill its mostly empty seminaries. The one point of consensus is that something must be done. But a false solution will only compound the problems.
A married priesthood would radically change the entire sociological structure of the Church. One cause for fewer vocations may be the uncertainty about just what a priest's role is in the current ecclesiastical confusion. This would not appear to be an appropriate juncture for introducing yet another radical change into the basic fabric of Catholic life.
And the trust that Catholics repose in their priests has more than a little to do with priestly celibacy. A priest who is allowed to marry is necessarily allowed to date. A priest who may be looking for a wife is not a man who can be confided in without reserve. The field of temptation and the scope for possible corruption widens.
And the laity know there is a world of difference in the outlook of a man who is married to the Church and one who is married to a wife. Few secrets are kept in marriage, and anything one tells to Father is likely to become known to “Mrs. Father.”
And a priest with a family is also a man who needs money. The laity may resent the lifestyle of a priest's family if it exceeds in ease and affluence that which they enjoy. Another potential conflict arises.
Common sense across the board would seem to counsel against a married priesthood, but we are facing crises involving the clergy that must be resolved. Of course, they can only be resolved by fidelity to doctrine and tradition. And a return to tradition can only be accomplished at this juncture by resorting to the help offered by Heaven.
On Sept. 14, the Holy See Press Office issued a statement explaining, in partial terms, what took place that morning in discussions between the Society of St. Pius X and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. (See: “Vatican gives SSPX doctrinal statement to sign”.)
The long-awaited meeting's principal players were Cardinal William Levada, head of the CDF, and Bishop Bernard Fellay, head of the SSPX. Eight doctrinal talks in the course of two years preceded the summit, although the specific content of these talks has not been given in any detail. A two-page document, approved by the Pope, is said to summarize the contents of these talks, and it is this document that the SSPX is being asked to sign to enable it to achieve “full communion” with the Church. (See: “Judgement day has come for Lefebvrians and the Vatican”.)
The document is referred to as a “doctrinal preamble.” Preamble to what? A discussion of a canonical structure under which the SSPX would be enabled to operate without the interference of local bishops, presumably. The content of the preamble has not been disclosed, and Bishop Fellay, in an interview following the meeting, said he would need to study the document and consult with other members of the SSPX before making any decision regarding it. (See: “Interview with Bishop Bernard Fellay after his meeting with Cardinal William Levada”.)
It is reasonable to assume that both sides are still hopeful that a resolution of the SSPX's difficulties with the Vatican can be resolved; otherwise, the Sept. 14 meeting would not have taken place. The Vatican issued a six-paragraph press release following the meeting.
The substance of the press release is the acknowledgment that Church teachings can be separated into two basic categories: those that require unreserved assent and those which are susceptible of discussion (and disagreement?).
What is highly significant is wording in the Vatican press release that acknowledges there may be legitimate discussion about “individual expressions or formulations present in the documents of the Second Vatican Council and the successive magisterium.”
If the documents themselves contain formulations that admit of such discussion, how can they be given the weight of magisterial teaching? And on this point, one is reminded of the proclaimed “pastoral” as opposed to doctrinal nature of Vatican II.
The Pope has insisted that the SSPX acknowledge the authority of the magisterium as well as the authority of Vatican II. But at the heart of the SSPX's dispute with Rome is the exact nature of the authority of Vatican II and how conciliar documents are to be evaluated in light of the constant magisterium.
The Holy Father has implicitly admitted that the magisterial weight of the Council's teaching is not always clear and that its documents have to be evaluated using a “hermeneutic of continuity.”
It is the contention of the SSPX that it has been using such a hermeneutic all along. The areas of disagreement with the Vatican have centered principally on the reform of the Mass and ecumenism. The SSPX argues that post-conciliar reforms and some phraseology in the conciliar documents themselves contradict traditional magisterial teaching.
So the crux of the matter appears to lie in how one interprets the Holy Father's “hermeneutic of continuity.” If one may be permitted a speculative reading between the lines of the Vatican press release, Rome seems to placing its hopes in an agreement to disagree about specific post-conciliar policies, which would include precisely those areas of conflict between the Vatican and the SSPX: the New Mass and ecumenism.
It would seem that in its standoff with the SSPX, the Vatican has blinked. The question is, will the SSPX soften its insistence that specific post-conciliar reforms contradict defined doctrine and so must be jettisoned?
Neither side would call the preceding talks “negotiations.” The Vatican insisted that the SSPX submit to its authority — and the as yet undefined authority of Vatican II — and the SSPX said that its purpose was to point out the heterodoxy of Vatican II documents and post-conciliar reforms and insist upon a return to Tradition.
The Vatican now appears ready to move to a structural solution in the form of personal prelature that would remove the SSPX from the jurisdiction of local bishops. But the need for such a prelature only underscores the fact that doctrinal problems have not been resolved.
No deadline has been set for the SSPX to sign the preamble, nor has any consequence for failing to sign been specified. As much as it appears desirable that the SSPX be granted full recognition as a priestly fraternity in good standing with the Church, it is imperative that orthodoxy continue to be championed, no matter what the personal cost — even at the cost of a personal prelature.
The Fatima Crusader On-line
In Issue #99 of The Fatima Crusader, read excerpts of the addresses given by three bishops at the “Consecration Now?” conference (Rome, May 2011) in which they pled and counseled for rejection of the false solutions to peace of a one-world government (ruled by money and power-hungry men) and a one-world false religion and to embrace instead Heaven's plan, given to us by Our Lady of Fatima. At this same conference, Father Gruner showed that the Fatima apparitions were a direct response to an appeal by Pope Benedict XV, asking that Our Lady show the world the way to peace — which She did — and that there is no genuine obstacle to excuse for not obeying Our Lady. Also read a brief excerpt from Father Kramer's new book in which he shows that the Consecration of Russia is the one and only way that mankind can be delivered from the terrible chastisements about to befall the world; and an analysis of a book that supports the false argument that the Fatima prophecies are fulfilled, the Third Secret entirely revealed, Russia consecrated, and the Message of Fatima remains only a general call to prayer and penance.
Latest Fatima Perspectives
An Unholy Alliance: Newspapers and the Government — The obituary for print journalism will have to be published on the Internet, that is, if a significant number of people are to read it. Few, I think, will shed a tear at the demise of this not-so-venerable institution. Newspapers, like universal literacy, are of relatively recent vintage, and the generation for whom the daily reading of broadsheet and tabloid became a habit have already, or will fairly soon, meet their own deadline, so to speak.
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