Autonomy and obedience

Bishop Kevin Dowling of South Africa has recently had his knuckles rapped by the Southern African Bishops’ Conference. Among other criticisms he had charged the Church leadership with undermining the Catholic principle of subsidiarity, which holds that higher levels in an institution should not interfere with the decisions which lower levels can make on their own. The Conference responded by affirming the principle of subsidiarity, stating that “the very structure of the Church”, from the parishes up to the Pope, “is evidence of the principle of subsidiarity in the Church”.

Unfortunately it is evidence of no such thing. And, unless they said much more than the National Catholic Reporter account, it is clear that this Conference has no useful understanding of the principle. This comes as no surprise because subsidiarity, despite its importance, is not well understood.

A good example is provided by the experience of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL). Their translation of the liturgy produced at the behest of the Vatican Council and with the blessing of Paul VI, was snubbed and simply shelved, after 16 years work, by the Congregation of Divine Worship. The quality of its replacement is not the question (we shall wait and see) it is the manner in which it took place. We might also notice the increasing centralisation of the Church in a whole range of matters.

The principle of subsidiarity is not a fad, or a current management fashion. It is, as the Catechism explains, part of the natural law. That is, it recognises that the individual must be able to use his intelligence and the autonomy of his free will to the greatest practicable extent. Any higher power which arrogates this God-given freedom without serious need is acting against nature.

While this is generally true of secular social organisation – the state and the citizen, for instance – it is equally true of the Church. We say this not because Bishop Dowling says it or because Pius XII said it in 1946, but because reason tells us that it is so.

So far, so straightforward. Here the difficulties begin. Subsidiarity is a principle and not a formula. Clearly there is often need for higher authority to govern for the sake of the members. A government must make rules and regulations so that society can work; the committee of a golf club must do the same and so, of course, must the Magisterium of the Church. We can no more have individuals deciding on which side of the road they should drive than we can invite Catholics to decide for themselves how many persons are in the Trinity.

The decisions about which freedoms must be reserved to higher authority will vary in different organisations and different roles. The army, for example, will have different types of subsidiarity from a local education authority or from the Church.

But the common ground is that the authority must always be trying to maximise autonomy. And where it seeks to curtail it, the burden of justification lies with the curtailer. That burden is high. If we are to imitate God in his gift of free will we must seek, as a necessary and instinctive virtue, the desire to liberate. And this is a hard virtue to acquire because all our natural, fallen instincts pull us towards retaining power.

Two additional qualities are required. The first is the belief that people respond well to autonomy. There will be a few who abuse it, but many more who respond to it – bringing their commitment and goodwill to the enterprise. Strangely, having this belief appears to be a function of personality. That is, some – by temperament – believe that the great unwashed can only be controlled by sticks and carrots, and others believe that people control themselves constructively if they are led in the right way. I should say in passing that, as a generalisation, the evidence shows that the first group is wrong and the second is right.

The second quality is the readiness to ensure good communication – upwards, downwards and sideways. I developed the importance of this in my column of June 12 2009. It is intrinsically connected with the belief that people can be trusted with autonomy. And it relates to our temptation to retain power. A failure in frank communication, which of course includes constructive listening, is a way of maintaining control. Once again it is not a formula but a wish to respect the rights of a whole institution through shared and trusting dialogue. There is an essential difference between authority which only reveals information when it is obliged to do and an organisation which always communicates except when it is obliged not to do so.

Thus the existence of a hierarchy, such as the Southern African Bishops describe, may be failing in subsidiarity or fully implementing it. Similarly popes, bishops and priests, servi servorum Dei, are accountable to those whom they serve.

Some put the current scandals down to the venality of individual priests; others put it down to irresponsibility of bishops in ignoring the scandals. But the root cause is a fundamental lack of subsidiarity – the Church’s own principle. And, as most sociologists seem to agree, that has to begin at the top.

At a micro level I hear quite often from readers about particular parishes which are dominated by priests who run their parishes like medieval fiefdoms. It is a service of charity to point out, directly or through the bishop, that the priest is in breach of the natural law and the teaching of the Church. Radical re-training will often be necessary. Oh – and pop a copy to the Southern African Bishops’ Conference, they may need some retraining too.

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About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
This entry was posted in Catholic Herald columns, Moral judgment. Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to Autonomy and obedience

  1. claret says:

    Quentin’s last paragraph sums up the matter and one is tempted to smile at the simplicity of it were it not so serious. The type of Priest described would book no criticism of how ‘he runs things’ ( no doubt in the firm belief that his way is best,) nor would his Bishop interfere in any way. Indeed does the Bishop have the authority to do so and is the Priest under any obligation to comply?

  2. st.joseph says:

    Quentin, what were the other criticisms that Bishop Kevin Dowling made to the Southern African Bishop’Conference.Or where would I find this?

  3. Vincent says:

    “Can. 391 §1 The diocesan Bishop governs the particular Church entrusted to him with legislative, executive and judicial power, in accordance with the law.” Diocesan priests are governed by the Bishop or Ordinary.Special arrangements are made for Personal Prelatures etc.

  4. st.joseph says:

    Thank you Quentin.
    I remember the National Pastoral Conference Liverpool 1980.
    The Laity had a questionaire to fill in-so that we could put our opinions on the church, and how we would like to make changes!
    I do believe that this was a particularly bad error of the Bishops,but with the Vatican 2 insights of some peoples understanding,it was an opening to dissent. It was meant to be a Pastoral Council not Doctrinal.
    I believe I mentioned this on an earliar post!
    This I feel caused more damage to the church, as the laity, or some laity thought ,that this was their way of changing the church for the better.
    and the true sense of Vatican 2 was ignored.
    So then arose all the organisations, like Catholics for a Changing Church.(I attended them all) Womens Ordination, with meetings in my Diocesan Cathedral, Married Priests-well thats debatable,anyway we have them now. Girl Altar Servers. Thats OK by me! We do as a Church move on, we cannot stay stagnant, but the Truths remain the same.
    I can’t remember before the National Conference, any questioning, maybe I was naive at the time.
    Then people were questioning the Pill- Abortion, and that was a difficult subject to convince even catholics .
    We had the New age movement with Matthew Fox and Star Hawk the White Witch ,also Mary Gray doing the rounds, with The bishops consent.Mary Gray speaking to seminarians, and so on. All in the freedom of speech. Nuns going ‘modern’ giving up their Habits going mufti.Because they were fed up with the way the church was.
    Which begs the question why did they join in the first place-or why didn’t they leave. Chaos upon chaos. I still dont know if anything better has come out of it. I only know that our young people in vocations have declined, and church attendance has fallen.
    But then we are now a liberated ‘People of God’, who supposedly have matured in the freedom of our Faith-who no longer need the Catechism of the Catholic Church to form our conscience,and not taught in schools, but thats all old tat anyway, just for the ‘Trads’. We have modernised the Hymns-some with no reflection on the holiness of Mass
    ‘We all get to Heaven anyway-with such a Loving God ,who will forgive us anything-because HE died on the Cross for us,as most funerals proclaim us Saints-before we are Cannonised!!!!!!’ No need for Confession any more.
    I do think that Bishop Dowling’s comment on all the ‘lace’ worn at Mass is a little ‘pathetic’. How does he know that it won’t be worn in ‘Heaven’
    Christ the King,whose Feast Day it is on Sunday.Why not? He ought to be Adorned in the Highest Majestical Garments,fit for a KIng, and after all, priests do take on His Personage when celebrating Holy Mass,in the presence of all the Angels and Saints, not forgetting His Blessed Mother.
    Perhaps a look ‘Back’ to the ‘Future’ in ‘some’ things, would be appropriate!

  5. Sr,jospeh, the link I gave you wasn’t ideal. Here is the quote from Dowling.

    “Applied to the church, the principle of subsidiarity requires of its leadership to actively promote and encourage participation, personal responsibility and effective engagement by everyone in terms of their particular calling and ministry in the church and world according to their opportunities and gifts.

    However, I think that today we have a leadership in the church which actually undermines the very notion of subsidiarity; where the minutiae of church life and praxis “at the lower level” are subject to examination and authentication being given by the “higher level,” in fact the highest level, e.g., the approval of liturgical language and texts; where one of the key Vatican II principles, collegiality in decision-making, is virtually non-existent. The eminent emeritus Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Franz König, wrote the following in 1999 — almost 35 years after Vatican II: “In fact, however, de facto and not de jure, intentionally or unintentionally, the curial authorities working in conjunction with the pope have appropriated the tasks of the episcopal college. It is they who now carry out almost all of them” (“My Vision of the church of the Future”, The Tablet, March 27, 1999, p. 434).”
    http://ncronline.org/news/vatican/catholic-social-teaching-finds-church-leadership-lacking
    and see:
    http://ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/safrica-bishops-respond-bishop-dowling

  6. st.joseph says:

    Thank you Quentin.
    I have looked on all the links you gave me.
    And after reading all the comments-I can only draw from them ,that there are so many voices with diffirent opinions on what kind of church they would like.
    All the more reason I believe that we ought to have a voice that stays consistant to the Truth.That is all I ask.
    I dont know much about the ‘politics’ of the church- but the many voices expressing their opinions, that I read in all the comments, I feel we would have more disunity than what we seem to have at the moment.
    I believe we have a healthy diversity at the moment, in England anyway. With all the different organisations working for the church, maybe we could do with a lot more. We have enough meetings and discussions as it is ,without having any more. There is plenty of work to do, for everyone.
    Also plenty of prayer groups to satisfy those who want to spent their time in meditation and contemplation- and also all the Retreats we have in our Religious houses. We ought to be thankful that we have so much freedom of worship-also in different ways in our parishes.
    I would like to think that gone are the days the 70s 80s 90s, where opinions were flying about all over the place, and that we do have a structure to work by.
    I dont want to attend a Tridentine Mass, and I dont!- Thankfully I can choose.
    I am not unhappy with ‘Clerical Dress’ I dont believe that shows the power of the church, but then that is just my ‘opinion’.
    If I had something to say about ‘subsidiarity’It would be that the Bishops don’t speak out more on Humanae Vitae.(why are they so silent)I dont hear the Bishops supporting the benefits of N.F.P and ‘encouraging participation’,I feel that is more important than Women Priests!Or what ever other gifts they are proclaiming- and want the church to listen to, perhaps someone will tell me.I am sure their is a lot more.
    I thought that the laity was overworked at the moment-with Extradionary Ministers, Liturgical meetings,and the organisations and charities,and pro-life issues we are involved ,in or am I speaking too much on the ‘lower level’ now.Just look at the Catholic Directory.All run by the laity.Maybe I am not getting the message yet!

  7. st. joseph, thank you for your thoughts.
    Perhaps we should note another element in this question which I had no space to develop in my column, although I have often written about it elsewhere.
    One could be forgiven for thinking that subsidiarity leads to disorder, but experience teaches that the effect is opposite.
    Although initially a community which feels more free for the first time is inclined to go too far (like the steam escaping at last from a boiler) this settles down. The nature of authority turns from domination to real leadership, and that leadership is mush more influential as a result.
    What seems to have happened is that the (frequent) excesses of the post Vat II era so frightened the powers that be that, in many ways, their domination and centralisation became stronger – leading to more discontent.
    On the other hand we were given an opportunity to see what real leadership could do when the Pope visited us recently.
    I think there is hope yet – if the Church could live up to its own principles, with the courage to accept that the long standing abuse of ecclesiastical domination will require a generation or two to be replaced by true leadership.

  8. Vincent says:

    Further to my comment above (3), an interesting piece has just been published by Zenit.org on the relationship between bishop and priest.
    http://www.zenit.org/article-31009?l=english
    One can understand better from this the tension between what a bishop feels he owes to his priests and what he owes to victims and civil authority.

  9. st.joseph says:

    With regards to the sin of a priest, how much duty and responsibility do Bishops have towards them, especially under the seal of confession
    My late husband, then not a catholic-always said that he could understand that the very nature of the relationship between the priesthood in charity, would be to protect them.Also the forgiving nature of christians would also lean towards charity.But then he was a very forgiving person.
    I wonder how many parents would take their children to a police station, without trying to help them first-even though it might be the right thing to do.

  10. st.joseph says:

    Thank you Quentin, I understand what we say in your last paragraph And we will pray for that!

  11. claret says:

    St. Joseph raises a very valid point on the matter of ‘seal of confession’ as it is a very likely to become a ‘point of law’ and indeed there are suggestions already that Bishops who knowingly hide criminal allegations are in danger of breaking the criminal law themselves. It has always been accepted that a ‘client – solicitor’ conversation is immune from such legislation and the ‘priest – penitient’ comes under the same heading, ( but I don’t think it is actually catered for in legislation. More likely common law as opposed to statute law.) However the recent abuse scandals in Belgium perpetrated by clergy are beginning to knock big holes in this ‘immunity.’
    Here in the UK there is such an offence as ‘assisting an offender’ and there have been more than strong hints that Bishops and priests who have colluded to protect another member of the clergy in certain circumstances can be guilty of this offence even if they learn of it through the confessional.
    There has been a fairly recent case ( i don’t know all the details)of a Priest convicted of a whole catologue of sex abuse crimes who was allegedly ‘financed’ and allowed to escape prosecution for many years by being ‘allowed’ to reside in another country and it took years of extradition procedures to get him back to the UK to face criminal prosecution and conviction. The judge raised these same questions that are posed here as to ‘assisiting an offender.’
    I ask would it really make any difference to a prosecution case of assisting an offender if the Priest revealed his crimes in a confessional box and the person hearing that confession then went on to offer practical assistance to aid the penitent to escape justice?
    All it needs is for an abuse victim to take their case to the European Courts or Supreme Court to get a ruling on this and such courts would, my opinion, be duty bound to find for the abuse victim.

  12. Iona says:

    Claret suggests that a priest hearing a confession might then go on “to offer practical assistance to aid the penitent to escape justice”. Surely such a response has no place in a confessional? In which case it could indeed make the priest offering the advice liable for prosecution, but that’s a very different matter from prosecuting him for not revealing what he had heard under the seal of confession.

  13. st.joseph says:

    If a Priest couldn’t reveal what was told to him in Confession- how would one get the proof that he had confessed.
    Another example, would a Priest be duty bound to keep the law of the Church or law of the land.
    Could he be put under oath to reveal someone,or would his conscience move towards his vows.In other words-would he lie under oath

    Years ago there were quite a few films made on this subject,whereby someone had committed a murder, and told the priest in confession. I cant remember,only that the seal of Confession was Sacred. I seem to remember one occasion where the person couldn’t be found guilty because of the priests silence.

    I believe the duty of the priest would be to tell the person he must confess.But that is a bit far fetched,I cant see anyone giving themselves up to the police.
    I maybe wrong here, but I thought sexual abuse many years ago wasn’t a criminal offence, unless it was forced rape.
    A friend of mine from Northern Ireland was telling me the other day that sexual abuse was very common among families years ago in Ireland,as I suppose it was everywhere too.
    Of course children who are given the pill and morning after pill must be a form of abuse by our Government.I dont see the law questioning that!

  14. claret says:

    St. Joseph: There is no ‘statute of limitations’ when it comes to crime hence someone can be convicted of sex abuse crimes many years after they have been committed. One has only to see the way that DNA evidence is bringing offenders to justice for crimes committed 20 years ago and more.
    What remains of course are practical difficulties of the availabliity of witnesses ,hazy memory , lost evidence etc.
    As for the confessional there are obvious difficulties here as well. Proving something heard in a confessional between two people , even if one of them wants to ‘come clean’ to the Police, is fraught with problems. However the not too unlikeley a scenario is where a member of the clergy is arrested on suspicion of sex abuse and the question comes up as to how he has been able to continue to commit the crimes and he was to admit that he had told his Bishop of them in the confessional.The Bishop had kept the crime to himself (no choice ?) and in fact had allowed the clergyman to simply resign and had then provided him with the means of making his way in the world , say by finding him accommodation in another country, or simply moving him to another parish. In those kind of circumstances then the question of assisiting an offender becomes very real. Of course the Bishop would nver reveal how he heard of the crimes , or would he ? Because to admit how he heard of the crime would be mitigation for not reporting it. We can then see how things might develop from there.

  15. st.joseph says:

    Thank You Claret.

  16. John Nolan says:

    I had always associated subsidiarity with the EU rather than with the Church, but I see where you’re coming from! That said, I don’t think the example of ICEL is particularly relevant. It was a super-quango (admittedly with representation from national bishops’ conferences) but was very much a law unto itself. It came unstuck because it was arrogating to itself the competence to add its own prayers to the (English) liturgy. The CDW, not surprisingly, objected to this and then said, in effect “Oh, and while you’re at it, the current translations do not conform to ‘Liturgiam Authenticam’. Do it again!”
    The Holy See has always reserved to itself the right to legislate on liturgical matters pertaining to the Latin Rite. The 1970 missal of Paul VI was imposed much more strictly than was that of St Pius V 400 years earlier.

  17. Superview says:

    John Nolan’s perspective is partial. For another partial, but different,perspective see:

    http://ncronline.org/news/faith-parish/scathing-report-missal-translations-sent-bishops

    It looks like another example of the Vatican fiddling while Rome burns.

  18. John Nolan says:

    Thanks for the link, Superview. My partiality re ICEL probably stems from the fact that I have spent the best part of 40 years doing my utmost to avoid having to hear its wretched English version of the Novus Ordo. Subsidiarity is alive and well as far as the liturgy is concerned – how many English parishes make any effort to implement Redemptionis Sacramentum, if indeed they have ever heard of it?

  19. st.joseph says:

    I dont think there will be many parishes,who dont implement Redemptionis Sacramentum to-day.
    At least all those that I have attended Holy Mass at do!
    It has always been a concern of mine when the Holy Father says Mass out door to large crowds,and how often is The Blessed Sacrament abused.Whereby people just stick one hand out no one knows who is receiving the Sacred Host.Priests dont always see everything when they are putting their hand through the railings!
    And I watch it always on EWTN,and I must say it does bother me.

  20. st.joseph says:

    I would prefer to attend the Novus Ordo Mass than a Tridentine Mass which is celebrated in 20 minutes, which someone said to me the other day, in fact not complaining-but saying how good it was.The Novus Ordo Mass does consist of quite a lot of Latin, at least where I worship. And the Vestments are beautiful!
    .

  21. Superview says:

    One of the things I appreciate about the Second Sight blog is the avenues its contributors open up for further exploration. I’m grateful to John Nolan for the reference to Redemptoris Sacramentum, which I have read with interest. I should explain that I am on a journey to clarify what I can give assent to in the Church’s teachings through reason and what it is that relies upon faith alone. It is, as I have discovered, a high risk venture, not least because I have been surprised that so much of what we are told must be obediently accepted – for, example, by order of Papal authority – does not stand up to critical scrutiny.
    The blog has visited the topic covered by Red. Sacr. before, in September 2009. This is what I wrote at the time:
    “I believe we have to acknowledge the phenomenon that is at the root of the concern which is leading to the arguments for ‘reform of the reforms’ and the restoration of mystery. I can remember the time when a minority of the congregation went to communion. Now, each Sunday, 99.9% of people in our parish go to communion (and maybe 80% under both kinds when it is available). It is certain that many of them have not been to confession for some time. It is also apparent that most do not continue to show by their body language the devout reverence that used to characterise the period after communion for more than a few moments. The conclusion being drawn is that these are signs that something is wrong. Are they? I have wondered at this for some time, having often compelled myself to dwell fearfully, and inevitably unworthily, on the enormity of the ‘most important act in human history’. On balance I’m inclined to think that what we are seeing is something more positive than negative; that people want to be ‘in communion’ and approach the altar faithfully and with confidence and without fear, and who knows what their personal prayers are. But is this enough? If there were more mystery and fear would they behave differently and more appropriately in God’s eyes?”
    I’ve detected the anxiety about Eucharistic ministers (the term commonly used in my experience, but obviously not approved by Red. Sacr.) giving rise to confusion about the status of the priest. For those who believe it to be the case, it is, it would seem, a lost cause, as they are to be found virtually universally – which couldn’t happen without the blessing of bishops and priests.

  22. John Nolan says:

    The misuse of EMHCs is endemic in most parishes. I have seen them communicating with the celebrant in the manner of concelebrating clergy, helping themselves to the chalice and carrying out the ablutions while the priest remains seated, all serious abuses. Redemptionis Sacramentum is not merely a set of guidelines; it is an instruction and bishops who choose to ignore it need to be called to account.

  23. Superview says:

    In the context of the Roman Catholic Church in the year 2010 there are infinitely more appropriate applications of the description “serious abuses”.
    I saw the exact situation described by John Nolan two weeks ago. The priest was disabled and unable to stand for more than the few moments of the consecration. His Eucharistic ministers moved with dignity and respect around the altar and as a celebration of the Eucharist it was a Mass that lacked nothing.
    The pity is that John Nolan, and others with the same perspective, seems to have brooded so much and for so long on what he perceives as deficiencies in translation and the application of liturgical rules. I can understand how this can happen, having been disproportionately irritated by our current parish priest sacking all the Eucharistic ministers, discarding all the ceramic vessels and replacing them with old-fashioned chalices, conspicuously refusing to greet the congregation, buying new archaic-style vestments, etc etc, on his mission to roll back the clock.
    It stems from, it would seem, a fear of what might happen if the people attend at the table as in the early Church (some would say before the clerical cult seized control). There is evidence of this in Redemptionis Sacramentum (April 2004). Hold in mind the belief that the pope and the bishops and priests are ‘primary and principal members of the Church’ and the rest of us are, well, the rest, when reading this extract:

    “[151.] Only out of true necessity is there to be recourse to the assistance of extraordinary ministers in the celebration of the Liturgy. Such recourse is not intended for the sake of a fuller participation of the laity but rather, by its very nature, is supplementary and provisional. Furthermore, when recourse is had out of necessity to the functions of extraordinary ministers, special urgent prayers of intercession should be multiplied that the Lord may soon send a Priest for the service of the community and raise up an abundance of vocations to sacred Orders. “

    In other words, pray that we can rid ourselves of these people at the earliest opportunity.
    Make connections: These are the same characters whose betrayal of their stewardship of the Church’s moral integrity led to the cover-up and perpetuation of the greatest scandal of our era.

  24. John Nolan says:

    “Sacking all the Eucharistic Ministers”. I thought we had ascertained that EMHCs should not be so described, and if they are not needed, why have them?
    “Discarding all ceramic vessels”. In other words complying with the General Instruction on the Roman Missal. How dare he?
    “Conspicuously refusing to greet the congregation”. Does he snub his parishioners in the street, or omit the ‘Dominus vobiscum’ at the start of Mass?
    “Buying new archaic-style vestments”. In other words displaying some aesthetic sense. Not everyone is in love with 1970s tat.
    “To roll back the clock”. But not far enough back, it seems, for someone who wants to return to the (conjectural) practice of the ‘early church’.
    I don’t see the connection between liturgical abuse and the scandal of clerical pederasty/paedophilia. The older abusers would have celebrated the Tridentine Mass; at least one of the more recent ones was a guitar-strumming trendy.

  25. st.joseph says:

    Superview, your comment , number22, reminds me of an incident at school when I was about nine years old. The teacher asked us to close our eyes while we say morning prayers. When we had finished,a little boy put his hand up and said,’Miss so and so (calling him by name) had his eyes open’.

    I like to think that when I am receiving Holy Communion-others will be making their Thanksgiving,instead of looking at me.

  26. Superview says:

    John Nolan gives my comment short shrift, but each of his points warrant a response.
    It is one thing to give something a title, it is quite another for people to use it in everyday language if it lacks verbal felicity. I think comparing what I reported as the common useage in my experience, namely ‘Eucharistic ministers’, with ‘Extraordinary ministers of holy communion’ speaks for itself. The Instruction also shortens it to ‘extraordinary ministers’ and in para 156 recognises that the EMHC ‘administer the Eucharist’, so Eucharistic minister is actually right on.
    As to why we should have them, well if we had several priests in each parish I guess they may be redundant. But I would suggest that most people (and I’m thinking internationally and three continents recently) welcome them as an enhancement of the liturgical experience, and unlikely to be sacked for sometime yet. Maybe prayers are not being answered?
    On the vessels, I’m not sure that what we had – that is, our parish, before this man arrived – were outside of the Instruction. They were beautifully made. Why anyone would prefer mock antique goblets is curious. I’m reminded of a remark of Savonarola: “In the early Church the vessels were of wood and the pastors were of gold, now the pastors are of wood and the vessels are of gold”. That was the 15th century of course.
    He does actually avoid eye contact with those who might wish to discuss the changes with him, and scurries away. What does Dominus Vobiscum mean?
    Our previous PP was a learned man, with the gift of combining holiness and humility with spirit and ambition for the parish and its people, which he maintained despite serious illness. He died a few weeks ago. His aesthetic taste was second to none, and your ‘tat’ remark is unworthy.
    In contrast, the present PP thinks looking like a scarab beetle is with it, and at not a penny from his pocket.
    You’re right of course about what we know of the early Church and the Eucharist, and I would like to know more about how a priesthood developed. At a series of talks last year on St. Paul, a contributor remarked that St Paul wasn’t a priest, which is a startling notion.
    The final point was aimed at those responsible for the cover-up of the child abuse scandal, and I’m afraid it is difficult for anyone in high authority at the Vatican (including those who put much time and energy into the Instruction) to avoid the charge of betrayal of stewardship.

  27. John Nolan says:

    Superview, the cover-ups occurred at diocesan level, which brings us back to the issue of subsidiarity with which this discussion started.
    The dicastery which issued RS in 2004 was headed by the much-respected Cardinal Francis Arinze who might well have become the first black pope.
    On sacred vessels see GIRM para 328. Dominus vobiscum (the Lord be with you) is one of of the three formulas of greeting the people at the start of Mass. Pax vobis (peace be with you) is reserved to a bishop. Anything else along the lines of “Good morning everybody. Thanks awfully for turning up. See the Arsenal got stuffed last night” is otiose, childish and liturgically inappropriate.
    The ministers of the Eucharist are the bishop and priest, assisted by the deacon and in the EF the subdeacon. Extraordinary ministry has a specific meaning in canon law. Of course, we all share in the priesthood, and I would have no difficulty in performing a sung Latin Mass; but it would only be a performance, and a sacrilegious one to boot.
    In most parishes there is only one priest and EMHC do an invaluable service in taking Communion to the sick and housebound, but do we really need so many of them?
    Ah, Savonarola. He was certainly no aesthete – his reaction to a work of art was to chuck it on a bonfire – and he didn’t have much of a sense of humour. I doubt he was a heretic but he was certainly a fanatic, and is a bit of an embarrassment even to Dominicans.
    My final comment, slightly tongue-in-cheek is this. I understand that +Cantuar was a bit miffed over Anglicanorum Coetibus. I suggest he gets his own back by establishing an Ordinariate in the CofE for disaffected RCs. They could keep their 1973 ICEL translations, “folk” hymns, and (dare I say it) ceramic chalices and 70s-style vestments. Female EMHCs could be ordained and properly style themselves Eucharistic Ministers. I can even think of a bishop who might wish to lead them “across the Thames” (hang on, he lives on the Canterbury side of it anyway). Benedicamus Domino!

  28. Superview says:

    John Nolan, I chuckled through your last paragraph, as much of it as I could make sense of anyway, and much is redeemed that you have a sense of humour.
    Poor old Savonarola, he tells the truth and gets tortured and executed by a corrupt and licentious pope, and still gets a bad press – and I’m really hoping that you don’t suggest he deserved what he got? My little refresher on him is a dusty CTS pamphlet found in my loft a few weeks ago, dated 1926, price twopence, by Rev. Henry Tristram, Priest of the Birmingham Oratory. He is kinder to him than you are, to quote “It was rumoured at the time, and the rumour is repeated by some of his early biographers, that rare manuscripts and priceless works of art were destroyed in the enthusiasm of the moment; but it is scarcely probable that one who numbered among his disciples the men most famous in the world of art and science should have countenanced such an act of vandalism.”
    We do, I’m afraid, have locally a Man Utd supporter who is capable of your invented script, but then they are capable of anything. You make your point with caricature, and you go too far.
    Cardinal Ratzinger was Prefect of the CDF from Nov 1981 until April 2005, and it is unlikely, to say the least, that he had no knowledge of what was going on, and it is much more than likely that he managed the business for JPII. The consequences are summed up by Claret at the end of his comment (at 24)in the latest posting “The Hole in the Dyke”. This is what I mean by fiddling while Rome burns.

  29. John Nolan says:

    Superview, you have a point; trying to address complex issues in a few sentences tends to lead to generalization and hyperbole. Alexander Pope, who wrote “satire’s my weapon, but I’m too discreet/to run amuck and tilt at all I meet” was still capable of being outrageously offensive. I shall, however, try to deal with your last paragraph in a serious manner.
    When the US clerical abuse scandal (with cases going back 50 years and evidence of shameful cover-ups) broke in 2001 JPII asked Ratzinger to deal with it, although it was not part of the CDF’s remit (it is now). Ratzinger demanded all the files and actually read them. 20% of cases involved paedophilia (abuse of pre-pubertal children). Around 10% were offences against under-aged girls. At least 70% involved homosexual activity with adolescent boys (aged 13 to 17). Yet when Ratzinger took steps to eradicate the gay sub-culture in US seminaries he was attacked not just by the gay lobby but by the entire liberal secular establishment including the London Times.
    So who’s covering up for whom?

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