A Pope for our times?

Pope Francis 3

HILARY
So, Leslie, I imagine that you must be a fan of our new Pope. Perhaps he’s the man who will bring you the cuddly, feely Church you seem to be asking for.

LESLIE
He’s certainly made quite a media impact. That’s good as far as it goes but kissing babies won’t be enough.

HILARY
What do you mean?

LESLIE
Everything I have seen him doing looks excellent. His love for the poor and unfortunate is impressive, and the world is noticing. But, you know, it could be just public relations. The real hard work is to come.

HILARY
I think you’re a cynic. I hear that his example of simple living has already put the wind up the comfy members of the Curia. But, if you had to set out a programme for him, how would it look?

LESLIE
First things first, Hilary. He has really got to be a committed reformer. Don’t fool yourself, the Curia are experts at holding on to power, and delaying change. He’s 76. Let’s be optimistic and give him 10 years. In the history of the Vatican that’s just a moment. And I wonder whether he is a reformer at heart.

HILARY
What makes you say that?

LESLIE
I haven’t read anything about him asking for real change in the Church, have you? When he spoke to his brother cardinals back at the 2001 Synod you could be forgiven for thinking that he was a dyed in the wool centralist.

HILARY
But that was a long time ago – and so much has happened in the Church which simply cries out for change. The Holy Spirit wouldn’t have inspired the Conclave’s choice if he couldn’t do the job.

LESLIE
Surely, Hilary, you’re not claiming that an elected pope is the choice of the Holy Spirit? Take a look at all the bad popes if you believe that.  All I am saying is that the evidence isn’t there. He has a strong reputation as a doctrinal conservative. Nothing wrong with that, except that conservatism tends to be a state of mind or a general characteristic of temperament. It could well apply to his views on reforming the Church. It may be a straw in the wind, but look at his view on the Falklands. He simply assumed that the Government (of Argentina) was in the right. He didn’t give a thought to the inhabitants. That’s an establishment man for you.

HILARY
Perhaps that’s a very good thing. The last thing we want is a great row about changes all over the place. I suspect that what he is going to do is to focus on the Church behaving like the Church. That means holiness, compassion for the poor, and loyal, energetic support for established Christian doctrine. And of course it means unity for the Church. Historically the Church has survived and been strong because of the papacy as a principle of unity. If anything he’s going to strengthen that. If he reforms the Curia you can bet it will be to make it a more effective way of promoting papal influence.

LESLIE
So, you think no change on priestly celibacy, or proper recognition of the radical equality of women, or homosexuality? And the medieval practices of the Holy Office?

HILARY
I wouldn’t hold your breath. And I’m not sorry. You seem to think that the future of the Church lies with those liberals whose appetite for change is simply dismantling the Church, and making it into their own image. But he might do something about contraception.

LESLIE
You’re wrong there, Hilary, he’s well known for his support for the orthodox teaching.

HILARY
Right on, Leslie. He must be as aware as anyone that the contraception question divides the Church. And the damage continues because there’s a conspiracy of silence. Many priests don’t believe the teaching, but they keep silence. Much of the laity no longer even thinks about it. And they wouldn’t mention it in Confession – if they ever went to Confession. It wouldn’t surprise me if he emphasised its grave sinfulness and said that anyone who practised it or maintained that it was acceptable, could no longer think of themselves as Catholics. That might hurt a few people, but it would end the “silent schism” which is taken for granted nowadays.

LESLIE
So the remaining members of the Church – all twenty five of them – will at last get what they want?…

(Exit both, muttering fiercely.)
So what would you want Pope Francis to do over the next few years? And how realistic do you think your wishes are?

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About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
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81 Responses to A Pope for our times?

  1. Vincent says:

    I notice that those calling for reform of the Church in Ireland seem to be tepid about Pope Francis, They see no change in the culture or policies from such a conservative. The Pope’s attitude to the poor etc is admired but it is irrelevant to the young who are, in general, very critical of the Church. Of course they have in mind specific issues like celibate clergy or outright condemnation of homosexual behaviour or the scandal of clerical cover-up..

    I am more optimistic. I don’t think that it’s a matter of different issues, Rather, it’s a matter of the elements in the Church really listening to one another. That brings trust, and it’s a lack of trust within the Church which is the real problem. The Curia don’t trust the rest of the Church, and vice versa. Diocesan bishops aren’t trusted to make their own decisions. Local churches aren’t trusted to choose and appoint bishops. The laity don’t trust the clergy, and the clergy don’t trust the laity – and so on. But once trust is there the important things get sorted out.

    Pope Francis can bring listening about: first by listening himself, and second by driving home the fact that a Church which doesn’t listen to itself cannot be a true community.

    • St.Joseph says:

      I would like to believe that instead of the Holy Father changing the teaching on contraception he will make provisions for a proper understanding on sexual ethics and human sexuality inside and outside the Sacrament of marriage.
      That will take lot of things into account and be a good start.
      We have always had a prayerful Church and help for the poor.
      We might then have vocations to the priesthood It is not a career Job..

      • milliganp says:

        I agree. 50 years ago people did not feel the need to have right and wrong explained individually to them. Now we have to explain but it is quite a complex area to explain when people place such high value on personal opinions and experience.
        When I was a child I felt called to the priesthood because I firmly believed that the words of institution in the mass and of absolution in confession were the two most transforming phrases any man could speak (in the name of Christ) on earth. I doubt that many children in our society would even begin to grasp these mysteries.

  2. claret says:

    What the Pope does in Rome has virtually no impact at parish level. A pp has more power than the Pope.
    One small but significant example is that in some parishes that I could name they don’t even have the precious blood administered because the pp is against it.
    There are a multitude of ‘diktats’ that are accompanied by provisos that give Bishops a ‘get out ‘ clause. For example the Permanent Diaconate was instituted (or re-instituted if preferred,) at Vat 2 but Bishops were allowed to ‘opt out’ so we have the situation were neighbouring Dioceses have differing policies on this and all sorts of other issues.
    There is total and complete lack of any type of governing democracy in the Church. Again at parish level even the toothless ‘parish council’ is non existent if the pp does not want one.

    • Singalong says:

      Yes, it is quite amazing, and completely at variance with a popular view of the Church, that we all get our orders individually and directly from Rome, with the “party line” spelled out for us to follow to the letter!

    • St.Joseph says:

      Claret would you be speaking about the Latin Mass.?
      Do you mean also that the some bishops are against Deacons?We do have a Bishops Conference.
      The Church is not a democracy, in the sense that subjects are not discussed, I believe they are in the higher level than parish Councils. There are Deanery meetings that take place.
      If a person wished to become a Deacon, I am sure they would not be prevented to do so.
      If they took it to the Bishops Conference I am sure they would be listened to

    • Vincent says:

      Claret, what you describe here is pretty depressing. A parish priest who behaves in the way you describe is likely have a very insecure, and indeed fearful, personality. For many people he would be an obstacle between them and Christ and not an open door.
      The sociologists tell us that good leadership tends to start at the top. If the head man is listening and responding to his senior executives, they will tend to follow the example with the next layer down, and so on. That won’t of course get down to every single pp but it could help a good deal. So that’s why the way that the new Pope handles things will be very important.
      Meanwhile I suppose we have to run with the doctrine that the validity of the sacraments is not dependent on the character or dispositions of the priest.

  3. mike Horsnall says:

    “Claret, what you describe here is pretty depressing. A parish priest who behaves in the way you describe is likely have a very insecure, and indeed fearful, personality. For many people he would be an obstacle between them and Christ and not an open door…”

    Claret is right on both counts above. Deacons find their welcome varies from enthusiastic reception to outright refusal and the form of ministration of sacrament (one kind or two) also varies. If a person wants to become a deacon and the diocese agree then they can be trained and move parish, this is because the Diaconate answers in theory at least to the Bishop. However the initial reccomendation as to a deacons suitability for training comes usually from the PP. This means that not only does the uptake of diaconate training vary at diocese level but also from parish to parish. Working quite closely with my PP I agree with Claret that individual practice is quite vaiable….I don’t know if this is good or bad or just average but I do know that it means an awful lot of things hang on the personality of the PP. It does seem to me that the way an individual PP percieves and ministers his ‘authority’ is a very important issue, some of this seems to depend on whether the PP believes it is the visible or the invisible church that forms the body of Christ. In my parish over the past 7years three PP’s have come and gone, all very different in their handling of things overall.

  4. Geordie says:

    “What the Pope does in Rome has virtually no impact at parish level. A pp has more power than the Pope.”
    You are absolutely right, Claret. All the parish priests whom I have known, good ones, bad ones and indifferent ones, all think they have a touch of the infalliblities. There is only one priest, whom I can remember, who didn’t treat disagreement as a personal affront. Most of them just stopped speaking to the people who upset them. They gave sermons about love and respect and a few minutes later they would ignore certain parishioners who had given years of service to the parish.
    When our latest pp came to the parish he stood at the back of the church and greeted people as they came in, prompting one parishioner to comment, “That’s the longest conversation I had with a priest in ten years”.
    We worry about the lapsation rate in the Church. I marvel that so many people still come to church.

    • Quentin says:

      Surprise, surprise! Pope Francis is making a contribution to our blog. This is what he says about Claret’s issue on priests:

      The priest, in his role as teacher, teaches, proposes the truth revealed and accompanies you. Even if he has to face failure, he is with you. A teacher who assumes the role of making decisions for the disciple is not a good priest. He is a good dictator, an annihilator of the religious personalities of others.

      A priest dictator weakens and holds back people in the search for God. A true teacher will let his disciple go and he will walk with him in his spiritual life

      Of course I cheated by lifting that out of a book he wrote with a Rabbi. (Translation by NCR)

      National Catholic Reporter also records his view on atheists, abortion and same sex marriage. Here is the link: http://ncronline.org/node/49066

      This discussion about the Church at the parish level is very important, but we need to look at other issues too. How do you think these might look in five years time?

  5. claret says:

    It is not just at parish level but at Diocesan level too because as I wrote earlier Bishops are given a ‘get out ‘ clause on all manner of things and I gave one example of the Diaconate.
    So we end up with an authoritative institution that is at the whim of a Bishop as to whether or not he has it in his Diocese. The next Bishop could well have a different view thus making a nonsense of the ‘system.’
    St. Joseph’s faith in the conference of Bishops is regrettably misplaced. It is just a different level of self indulgence.
    Many a promising candidate for the Diaconate gets no further than his pp who HAS to give his backing to the candidate for his application to be proceeded with.
    I tell the truth here when I relate that a Priest who was directly involved in the ‘recruitment’ of Deacons told me that an applicant would come with a verbal recommendation of acceptance from his pp followed by a written one from the same pp saying the very opposite.
    It would seem from some of the comments on here that it is at parish and Diocesean level that change needs to be implemented when in fact it is often killed in its tracks.
    Were there some real democracy in the twenty first century in the church then some of the burning issues could at least be debated and voted upon. The Pope could still set the agenda and indeed have a ‘veto’ but at least there would be some evidence of being open to discuss those issues that are arguable because of no clear directive in scripture.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Claret.
      The Clifton Diocese 2010 Directory lists 49 deacons. More since then. I believe 10 now training- what reference can you give to the Dioceses that refuse men to become Deacons.
      Not all are suitable,if they are refused, there may be a reason.
      If there isn’t, then if a male leaves the decision to a pp, then he will not be the kind of person to become one!Because if he really desires that and finds it his vocation-wild horses would not prevent him doing so.
      We have to persevere to what we feel is right within the teaching of Holy Mother Church.
      I believe that to be a Virtue.!

  6. John Nolan says:

    There was a quite erroneous tendency on the part of the media to overstate the contrast between Pope Francis and his predecessor. The same media that assumes that Catholic doctrine represents the views of the current occupant of the Chair of Peter. In a sermon earlier today the Pope warned that “the Faith isn’t negotiable” and there was a temptation “to chop off a bit of the Faith”, to be a bit “like everyone else does” or “not to be so very rigid”, which he described as “the path of apostasy, of disloyalty to the Lord”.

    I would expect some changes in the way the Church is governed at the centre, but the idea of giving more autonomy to national bishops’ conferences is questionable. Rome will not quickly forget the lamentable failure of subsidiarity over the sex abuse scandals. And the English and Welsh Bishops Conference was for too long a self-perpetuating oligarchy, and a spineless one at that.

    The greatest scandal in the Church at the moment is the abysmal quality of liturgy, and especially liturgical music, in most parishes. Any change will be slow and bottom-up, but younger priests are better formed, and those who imbibed the fashionable liturgical notions of the 1960s and 1970s are near retiring age.

    • Quentin says:

      John, I don’t disagree with your facts but I do question your inferences. The shortcomings of the episcopacy in the question of sex abuse scandals appear to have been largely caused by the enclosed clerical culture which regarded itself as answerable only to itself. This is the opposite of the openness which occurs when established subsidiarity has allowed a proper sense of responsibility to the whole community to develop. And of course in was in part the failure of the authorities to listen and respond to the complaints which came upwards from the laity who were involved. In fact relatively few complaints came upwards because the victims believed that no one would believe them – another symptom of the same problem.

      Perhaps one reason for the spinelessness of the English and Welsh Bishops lies in the fact that over many years only ‘safe’ i.e. spineless candidates could be considered suitable. Appoint a lickspittle and you get lickspittle behaviour.

      A big obstacle to subsidiarity is that when it is introduced there is usually a period of anarchy since those involved, relieved from the reins, cut loose – and give subsidiarity a bad name. (This was very much what happened following Vat II and HV.) It is necessary to get through this first phase with patience and firm leadership so that subsidiarity can become properly rooted.

      • John Nolan says:

        Quentin, agreed, but the E&W Bishops’ Conference was hardly a ‘lickspittle’ to Rome. It is well known that Basil Hume supported Wojtyla in order to stop Siri, and in 1978 organized a ‘Stop Siri’ campaign. When their compromise candidate turned out to be a giant, and an orthodox one at that, they could hardly conceal their disappointment. Hume worked long and hard to make the Catholic Church in England part of the Establishment (himself being a member of the Athenaeum) although there is evidence that towards the end of his life he realized his error.

  7. John Candido says:

    I would like the Pope to abolish celibacy, introduce women to the priesthood and the diaconate, reappraise the Church’s stance on homosexuality, strengthen dialogue with non-Christian religions, place greater emphasis on ecumenism, soften the Church’s stance on secularism, have a less fearful relationship with contemporary science, and have a more understanding relationship with atheism. In addition, to be a champion of human rights both within the Church and elsewhere, to re-examine the Church’s position on artificial contraception and abortion, to bolter religious freedom within Catholicism and outside the Church, complete freedom for all Catholic academics, theologians, and historians, abolish the CDF, rescind papal infallibility, replace the absolute monarchy of the papacy with greater democracy in the Church, introduce greater transparency and accountability, and completely reform the Vatican bureaucracy from top to bottom, and either reform or abolish the Vatican bank.

    How realistic will it be that all of these matters will be attended to by Pope Francis, to the satisfaction of liberals like me?

    Answer: I wouldn’t hold my breath.

    Realistically, it is far too early to tell what Pope Francis will do theologically and canonically. So far he has been a much needed tonic for the Roman Catholic Church; a huge breath of fresh air. He gets full marks from me for his humility, and in doing ordinary things in an ordinary manner, rather than leaving them to his many servants. It is simply unheard of for a Pope to go to the hotel in a minibus, with his Cardinals, to pay his hotel bill, ring his former local newsagent in Argentina to cancel his newspaper delivery, use the Pope mobile without adequate security precautions, in order to be closer to the people by getting off it so as to talk with them and bless the sick, forgo the papal palace to live in a small apartment, refuse ermine robes, red leather shoes, and gold pectoral crosses, and talk informally and spontaneously during masses, rather than reading prepared speeches in a more regal manner. What a good start! Astonishing!

    There are four other things that he has said or done, that are simply mindboggling.

    Firstly, he chose to conduct Holy Thursday’s liturgy in a youth detention facility rather than the Vatican, and have twelve youths as ‘apostles’, rather than make use of any Cardinals, in order to kiss and wash their feet. To add fuel to the fire, he allows two girls to be apostles; one being a Muslim. This has riled ultra-conservatives who are confused by his actions.

    Secondly, he states that women were the first witnesses to the Resurrection of Jesus and has stressed the fundamental importance of women in the Roman Catholic Church to communicate and pass on the faith to their children. This is uncontroversial. He goes on to say that in scripture, women were not acknowledged as witnesses to the Resurrection because of the culture of Jewish Law during the first century deemed women and children to be unreliable witnesses. Francis said, ‘this tells us that God does not choose according to human criteria.’ What on earth does all this imply vis-à-vis women’s ordination?

    Thirdly, in his Easter Vigil address he referred to women prominently and urged believers not to fear change. What???!!!

    Lastly, he has warned his Cardinals that the Church risked becoming just another NGO, if it failed to focus on its true mission. All of these things, which are partly symbolic and part substance, are simply magnificent.

    When I think about what he has already done in terms of symbolism, it almost makes me want to cry tears of joy. This has almost occurred several times since his election. But then I realise that I have to control myself, and actively repress my wild expectations from running away from me. I can almost be forgiven for thinking that Francis is playing games with our minds. John Nolan’s report of his more conservative side is to be expected. We simply cannot have everything we want in life.

    • Vincent says:

      And there was I, thinking how strange not to hear from JC (our JC, I mean). What a splendid account he gives of his reform agenda. And of his instinctive response to Pope Francis. There’s hope for us yet.
      Aux armes, citoyens!

    • John Nolan says:

      JC, you have to distinguish style from substance (in a previous age it wouldn’t have mattered). Pope Francis is not playing games with your mind or my mind. Some of his practices or assumptions as Abp of Beunos Aeres will have to be jettisoned quite smartish, but what he said about women was actually taken from Benedict XVI’s writings.

      Yes, paying his hotel bill in person is a nice way to say “I didn’t expect to be elected” and is quite touching. However, too many gestures advertising ‘humility’ can be counter-productive. Notice that he wears B XVI’s pallium and carries his papal staff – in my opinion he is sending a message to uber-traddies and uber-liberals alike.

      As for your shibboleths about women priests and approval of sodomy – forget it. Not just in this pontificate, but in all others until the consummation of the world.

      • St.Joseph says:

        JC.
        I think you underestimate what women have done in the past., and are Canonized Saints and are saints that are not canonized.
        Many females who if were ordained would never reach that state of holiness.
        Like many males ordained. Think about it!!

  8. Iona says:

    Please excuse my ignorance. Although there seems to be general agreement that the Curia is in need of reform, I am unclear about three things:
    1. Is the need for reform just down to the Curia’s inefficiency, or are the world, the flesh and the devil currently at work in it?
    2. If the Curia were reformed, would that automatically bring in all the changes John Candido is calling for? If the answer’s in the negative – which I’m sure it must be – what is John Candido looking for in addition to Curial reform?
    3. Suppose the Curia were reformed, how would I – as an ordinary, Mass-going Catholic, trying with varying degrees of success to follow the teachings of the Gospel and not having much interest in the way the Church is organised in the higher levels of its hierarchy, – notice the difference? I might add that I have never even for a moment felt the slightest calling to the priesthood or the diaconate, so am unmoved by the thought that if John C. had his way I would be able to become a woman priest. I was saddened when we lost some of our non-Sunday Holy Days of Obligation, notably Epiphany and Ascension Day which have lost their respective links to Christmas and Easter, but don’t think that change had anything to do with the Curia.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Iona
      A very interesting comment. I would like someone to tell me the answer to that question too..!

      The difference mentioned by John Candido is Red Shoes, riding in a bus, paying only his hotel bill,That does not make Pope Francis 1st more humble that the last Holy Fathers we have had in my ‘opinion’
      That does not infer that things will be changed to the teachings of the Church.
      The symbolism he mentioned made him cry tears of joy.
      If I cry tears it more tears of sorrow, My tears of joy are in the knowledge that we have priests to Celebrate Holy Mass,,and are fortunate to receive the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. So we pray for vocations to the priesthood and motherhood, and faith in our catholic schools. The bringing back of devotions in the Church ,Benediction,, Corpus Christi processions ,May processions also the Divine Mercy Sunday which seems in some parish’s neglected.,

    • Horace says:

      Iona –
      My sentiments exactly. I could not agree more!

    • Vincent says:

      Iona asks about the reform of the Curia. It is in fact a very lengthy subject. Archbishop Quinn (former president of the US National Conference of Bishops) wrote a book about it: The Reform of the Papacy. Nothing changed. But then the Curia is not very interested in a mere archbishop from out in the sticks.

      The Curia is not unlike the civil service of the Vatican. Clearly the pope could not possibly perform all his tasks without this. But to judge it we must remember that the context is the authority of the Church as given by Christ. The bishops are not delegates of the Pope. Each one holds his office as the Apostles did. So each one has apostolic authority in his area. For example, the Archbishop of Westminster is the head of the Catholic Church which is in Westminster. He performs his duties in communion with the Bishop of Rome and as a member of the college headed by the Bishop of Rome.

      What has happened is that, over a period of time, the Curia has taken over much of the diocesan bishops’ tasks, so that they have little margin to manoeuvre. In addition, in recent history, there has been a strong tendency to appoint only those who have toed the ‘party line’. Moreover, the Curia has the reputation of being a closed shop, holding itself remote from the real world of the Church. Its customary way of establishing authority is to claim continually that it is in fact the pope’s mouthpiece. All of this creates an authority structure which, like political dictatorship, retains power and ensures that nothing can ever change. I could illustrate this with various examples of curial activity, but that would make this a very long contribution.

      You can perhaps understand from this the impact of a new Pope who rejected customary behaviour and started to behave like a follower of Christ – in the Vatican this is a heresy in itself! What horrors are there to come – love, concern, humility, humble listening? – it’s barely credible that the Church should fall so low.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Vincent.
        Your last sentence ‘are you implying that our new Holy Father who has rejected customary behaviour and behaving like a follower of Christ’ that our last two popes did not.!
        I don’t believe that the Church has fallen so low at all. What I do believe though is that the Church was beginning to fall low with the misrepresentation of Vatican 2 ,Liberals and Feminists. The jolly jolly disrespectful Masses that we were having, etc.

      • John Nolan says:

        The Curia has not “taken over much of the diocesan bishops’ tasks”. Given the number of dioceses world-wide this would be quite impossible. Also “the party line” is that of the Bishops’ Conference, not that of Rome. The CDF would have little to do if bishops did their jobs properly.

      • John Candido says:

        I completely agree with Vincent. The very heart of clericalism will be found throughout the Curia. It is infected by clericalism. Apart from clericalism, there are two prime reasons why the curia needs to be reformed.

        1. The world-wide clerical sexual abuse scan dal is front and centre the main reason why the curia needs a highly competent and ferociously motivated Pope, in order to clear out every clericalist obfuscators. Careerists need not apply.

        Every Roman Catholic worth their salt needs to see the American documentary called, ‘Silence in the House of God: Mea Maxim Culpa’. In this incisive film, which opens with the sexual abuse of the deaf in the United States by a Catholic priest, you will witness the Curia’s finest hours. This film is an indictment of the Curia’s clericalism, and their appallingly insensitive behaviour. I really loved seeing Cardinal Ratzinger, as head of the CDF; get riled when questioned by a reporter on what he knew about a specific case of sexual abuse, and what he knew in general. It is quite telling and damning. I highly recommend the film to everyone associated with SecondSight.

        2. The CDF is the chief candidate to have its legs chopped off. It has been a serial human rights abuser for centuries, and needs to be brought kicking and screaming into the 21st century. If it is to embody any Christian values at all, it needs is to embody modern standards of jurisprudence (contemporary legal principles) by employing qualified judges who are completely independent of the curia, any head of any Congregation, any other bishop, priest, or official, and the Pope himself.

        Cases are to proceed on the basis that an accuser will be publicly named and known to everybody, that specific charges are levelled at the defendant, the accused is afforded the state of being innocent, until proven guilty in an independent court of law of a specific offence, all offences are to be consolidated into ecclesiastical laws, all cases must proceed via universally understood procedural or administrative laws (court rules), which must include the fair treatment of all witnesses, including rules of evidence that must be adhered to.

        Without these legal principles, the CDF can only be characterised as a running sore on the body of Christ; a kangaroo court disguised as a mediaeval farce.

      • John Candido says:

        I have misspelled the Latin word ‘Maxima’ in the above film title. It should read, ‘Silence in the House of God: Mea Maxima Culpa’.

    • John Candido says:

      There are several matters that need to be looked at in relation to reform of the Curia. Transparency needs to be employed by each Curial department, in order that each congregation can closely examine other congregations, where there are issues of mutual concern. Without inter (and intra?) congregational transparency, issues of mutual and wide-ranging concern, will not be adequately discussed with the due diligence that they deserve.

      Financial matters should be publically viewable by any journalist or interested person. This not only bolsters transparency, but accountability as well. This requirement should be introduced as quickly as possible, and must not be negotiable. In the light of the ‘Vatileaks’ scandal concerning infighting by Curial members, and alleged improprieties concerning the Vatican bank, nothing else will suffice.

      No clerical positions in the Curia are to be permanent or appointed for life, lest they become de facto sinecures. There are suggestions in the media that all appointments should be no longer than six years in length. Once people have done their time, they are either appointed to another position in the Curia, or told to return to their diocese, monastery, former apostolate or teaching post. Care should be taken with reappointments lest they become another form of careerism.

      At a more personal level, it is important that the process of annulment be conducted as quickly as possible, for all persons concerned. It is widely known that annulments can take between three and six years. This should at least be no longer than six months, with a view to it being far quicker in future, if possible. If need be, the diocesan and/or Vatican tribunals involved, either has to work quicker, or hire more staff in order to accelerate the process of obtaining a judgement. It is acknowledged that more complex cases, need more time in order for them to be resolved.

      What can be considered, depending on cost and other factors, is that part of the office of every nuncio could have ecclesiastical tribunals that could handle matters such as annulments, at the same level as a Vatican ecclesiastical tribunal, but located in the same country as the nuncio is posted to. This will be a decentralisation of what normally occurs in ecclesiastical courts in Rome. The worth of doing this will only be apparent if judgements can occur at a much quicker tempo globally, than would ever be the case, if the competent tribunals were solely located in Rome.

      It is interesting to note that Pope Francis has just convoked an international consultative committee of Cardinals, mostly from outside the Vatican, with one adviser from within the Curia, in order to advise him on Curial reform. Members include, U.S. Cardinal Sean O’Malley from Boston, Giuseppe Bertello, president of the Vatican City State governorate; Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa from Chile; Oswald Gracias from India; Reinhard Marx from Germany; Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya from the Democratic Republic of the Congo; George Pell from Australia; and Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga from Honduras. An Italian bishop, Monsignor Marcello Semeraro, will act as secretary for the group. They are to meet in October 2013. Let us pray for reform and progress for the Roman Catholic Church.

      • John Candido says:

        This is a complete list of members of the consultative committee, that has been set up by Pope Francis to assist him with the reform of the Curia, with a brief mention of their city of origin, nation, and their clerical position.

        Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, President of the Governorate of Vatican City State;

        Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, Archbishop emeritus of Santiago de Chile, Chile;

        Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay, India;

        Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Archbishop of Munich and Freising, Germany;

        Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, Archbishop of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo;

        Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley O.F.M., Archbishop of Boston, USA;

        Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, Australia;

        Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, S.D.B., Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, in the role of coordinator; and

        Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano, Italy, in the role of secretary.

        The group’s first meeting has been scheduled for 1-3 October 2013.

        The above list is taken from a recent article from the ‘Catholic Register’,

        http://www.ncregister.com/blog/edward-pentin/pope-appoints-consultative-committee-on-reforming-curia

  9. Iona says:

    St. Joseph – I think Vincent was being ironic with his “fall so low” remark.

    So, reform of the Curia would mean (among other things) that the bishops would have more freedom to implement (or to resist) changes in their own dioceses?

    • St.Joseph says:

      Iona.
      Did they not try to implement changes in their own dioceses, the cause of all the liberalism!

    • Vincent says:

      What it means, Iona, is what it says in the Vatican II decree on the Bishops Pastoral Office. (Christus Dominus). They have been sent out by Christ just as the Apostles were, and, like the Apostles, they recognize their communion with the chief of the Apostles.

  10. John Nolan says:

    When the youngish pro-active Bishop of Portsmouth announced in February he was reforming the bloated and expensive curia left to him by his predecessor, he was vilified by the Tablet. Liberals would like bishops to act independently provided that they stick two fingers up at Rome and allow open dissent from Catholic doctrine. Oh, and refuse to implement Summorum Pontificum. They wouldn’t be seen dead at a Latin Mass themselves, but would deny those who do want it the opportunity of attending it. So it’s three cheers for subsidiarity if it involves Tom Burns or Kieran Conry, but perish the thought if it involves Mark Davies or Philip Egan.

    • Quentin says:

      John, the problem about arguing the merits of subsidiarity in terms of current or potentially current cases is that it involves a culture change. That is, a society based on subsidiarity has an altogether different character from one that is based on top down command. As a result it can take a generation or more to settle in. By the end of that time the ‘seniors’ will have grown up within this type of society, and indeed will have achieved seniority through their embracing of its values. Thus a look at examples occurring in a society which has been ‘top down’ for a long time (in this case, two millennia) is not appropriate. This is such an important issue of Catholic social teaching that I will see if I can find an early opportunity to deal with it is more detail.

  11. John Nolan says:

    John Candido,

    Your rant concerning the CDF shows that you have little understanding of what that dicastery’s function is, and even less understanding of its procedures. Pope Francis recently met the CDF prefect, and urged him to continue the work begun by Pope Benedict. Perhaps you could explain how “independent judges” who can’t be connected to the Church in any way would be qualified to pronounce on doctrinal matters, in which the pope has the final say anyway (otherwise he wouldn’t be pope)?

    The film you recommend is, in the words of one critic, “an anti-Catholic broadside masquerading as a documentary”. It is full of distortions and inaccuracies.The facts concerning the Laurence Murphy case, and the attempt by former Archbishop Rembert Weakland to use the case to smear Benedict XVI, have been in the public domain for years. Why don’t you do a bit of honest research for a change, rather than swallowing hook, line and sinker any and every anti-Catholic diatribe you encounter?

    • John Candido says:

      I think that you are over reacting about the American documentary called, ‘Silence in the House of God: Mea Maxima Culpa’.

      ‘Perhaps you could explain how “independent judges” who can’t be connected to the Church in any way would be qualified to pronounce on doctrinal matters, in which the pope has the final say anyway (otherwise he wouldn’t be pope)?’ (John Nolan)

      Regarding the CDF;

      My preference is to abolish the CDF. If the Church is going to keep it, then independent ecclesiastical courts with independent judges are the order of the day. Secular statutory authorities and secular judges have true independence from the government of the day. The same would apply to these judges of an ecclesiastical court.

  12. Iona says:

    Surely they would have to be Catholics?

    • John Candido says:

      Not necessarily. A double theology law degree would do fine. A Bachelor of Arts in addition to the former, would be the icing on the cake.

      • John Nolan says:

        Credentialism again. Where would JC be if there weren’t any post-nominal letters to bow down to?

      • John Candido says:

        I will make my confession. I worship anyone with post-nominal letters after their surname. The more letters that they have; the more excited I become. And if they have more than three degrees, I simply collapse in awe to worship them, and froth at the mouth.

        Then there is royalty. I go silly in front of them as they are so high and mighty. The same goes for anyone with considerable wealth. I simply cannot hold a proper conversation with them, as I become an instant yes-man who fervently hopes that they will befriend me, and make me instantly wealthy.

  13. John Nolan says:

    Once again, JC, you have quoted my question but have made no attempt to answer it. The CDF is no mere “ecclesiastical court”; to be sure it has juridical functions, although its decisions must be approved by the pope, but it is not a court of jurisprudence like the Old Bailey. Its main function is to ensure that those who act in the Church’s name do not teach manifest error. When Cardinal Ratzinger was prefect (1981 – 2005) it had to deal with the question of so-called liberation theology. It found that most aspects were doctrinally sound, but there were some aspects that weren’t. Jorge Bergoglio seems to have come to the same conclusion.

    You seem to have an idea in your head of a sinister and secretive tribunal of red-robed Inquisitors hurling anathemas and silencing theologians who dare to deviate by a millimetre from a rigid and unchanging orthodoxy. To the best of my knowledge Hans Kung is still speaking and writing what he likes, and is still a priest in good standing, although his missio canonica was withdrawn 34 years ago.

    Reading your comment at 11:36 today, the simile ‘as proud as Lucifer’ came to mind. Since you obviously won’t be returning to Mass, I only hope you will not refuse the sacraments on your deathbed. It’s not good to leave this world with ‘non serviam’ on your lips.

    • John Candido says:

      ‘The CDF is no mere “ecclesiastical court”’ (John Nolan).

      My point is that it should be an ecclesiastical court with complete independence and authority to make judgments.

      ‘Its main function is to ensure that those who act in the Church’s name do not teach manifest error’ (John Nolan).

      If the CDF were abolished, the universe will not implode. Academics who have total freedom to exercise their scholarship, are perfectly placed, alongside the rest of the Church, both clerical and lay, to exercise peer review.

      ‘…silencing theologians who dare to deviate by a millimetre from a rigid and unchanging orthodoxy’ (John Nolan).

      This is broadly correct.

      ‘To the best of my knowledge Hans Kung is still speaking and writing what he likes, and is still a priest in good standing, although his missio canonica was withdrawn 34 years ago’ (John Nolan).

      Gosh! He was fired from his academic post 34 years ago, and we should thank the CDF for doing ‘their job’!!!

      • John Nolan says:

        JC, what the CDF does or does not do is as relevant to you as it is to the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, since on your own admission you are neither a practising nor a believing Catholic. By the way, have you told the pope about your conditions for rejoining the Church? He’d better get a move on with your agenda, since you’re hardly a young man and time is running out for the retrieval of his lost sheep!

      • John Candido says:

        ‘JC, what the CDF does or does not do is as relevant to you as it is to the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem,’ (John Nolan)

        Since when do I have to listen to your gratuitous pronouncements? I can make up my own mind concerning what is relevant or irrelevant to me, thank you anyway.

        ‘…since on your own admission you are neither a practising nor a believing Catholic.’ (John Nolan)

        Another gratuitous pronouncement; how does being a practicing Catholic qualify one to have an opinion on a theological or canonical matter? Is an active or practicing Roman Catholic a prerequisite to having a thinking, independent mind? Catholicism interests me deeply. Anything the Roman Catholic Church does or thinks is interesting and relevant to me, as it is relevant to the hordes of journalists covering the arcane politics and pronouncements of the Church. Of whom, not all are Roman Catholics; practicing or not.

  14. St.Joseph says:

    Thank the Lord for John Nolan, the Holy Spirit is definitely working.

    • St.Joseph says:

      John Candido,
      I would be interested to know how many blogs you go on and express your opinion.,as that is all it is.
      Jewish, Muslim Hindu, Anglican, Methodist, Pentecostal Buddhist Mormons,Jehovah Witnesses .Orthodox? You probably would have a death threat….
      Of course you are always welcome here-but you must expect to be challenged..

      • John Nolan says:

        St Joseph, the world (and indeed this blog) would be a dull place without people who provide comic relief, especially if they are innocently unaware that this is what they are doing. No prizes for correctly identifying the Charles Pooter of Secondsight.

      • John Candido says:

        The only other blog that I regularly read is by Sydney journalist Antony Lowenstein at http://antonyloewenstein.com/

      • John Candido says:

        What! You don’t express opinions? You might think that you don’t express opinions but rather ‘orthodox’ pronouncements. Well I have some unwelcome news for you. Your orthodox pronouncements are opinions as well. Welcome to the real world St.Joseph.

  15. Singalong says:

    I would be very interested to know what power the Pope has to influence the teaching of children and young people, so that they have full access to the wonderful truths of our faith, and opportunity and encouragement to participate fully in the life of the Church.

    • John Nolan says:

      Singalong, again this is the bishops’ responsibility, and for too long they have shirked it. However, since the enforced departure of Oona Stannard, there is evidence that the Catholic Education Service may at last be becoming fit for purpose.

      The key to progress can be summed up in two words – better bishops. This also means decreasing the importance of national bishops’ conferences. Pope Francis, unlike Benedict, will not know much about the situation in western Europe. If Mennini remains as nuncio, this will be a good omen. It will be interesting to see who will be appointed to the vacant sees.

      • Singalong says:

        John Nolan, thank you.
        However, with more “better bishops”, national bishops` conferences would eventually become more useful than they seem to be now, so perhaps they will be retained?
        It looks as if a general improvement in Catholic school education is going to take a very long time, and might be overtaken by government changes to the whole system, which would mean much more to be done in parishes, with comprehensive programmes, and many dedicated teachers.

  16. St.Joseph says:

    Iona.
    If we are to believe what Jesus taught in Scripture.He gave the power to St Peter, ‘not to all the Apostles. Jesus knew there would be controversies ,so He left the power with St Peter.The Chair.
    Upon this Rock I will build my Church and I will give to you the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven.
    Jesus said He would not leave us He would send another Paraclete , The Holy Spirit to guide the Church.
    We as parents have this power through the Sacraments in Grace to continue the wonderfil truths of our faith, and the opportunity.
    There will always be doubters, but we must stand firm and not be tempted to go along with every whim that the wind blows in.

  17. Mike Horsnall says:

    Here’s a few words from Donald Coggan which might be pertinent for our squabble…
    “…For just as there is a “scandal of the cross” so there is also a scandal of the Church. The cross is”a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Greeks”, and this must be faced frankly and the cost of it assessed and accepted realistically. So also the scandal of the Church. The body of Jesus, as it hung on the cross , was dirty and bloody and full of pain. It is not for the followers of the Crucified to avoid the shame of the Church, any more than it is for them to avoid the the shame of the cross. To shrink from identification with it, to seek to found a perfect Church and so to increase the Church’s divisions, or to denigrate before the world the Church of which we are members, is to avoid the scandal of the Church….”
    Paul: Portrait of a Revolutionary Hodder &Stoughton p177

    • John Candido says:

      ‘It is not for the followers of the Crucified to avoid the shame of the Church, any more than it is for them to avoid the shame of the cross.’ (Donald Coggan, former Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury).

      I fully agree with Archbishop Coggan and Mike Horsnall. It is not for the followers of the Crucified to avoid the shame of the Church. If that is the case, we should make it a duty to keep an open mind about, ‘Silence in the House of God: Mea Maxima Culpa’, and go and see it.

  18. Iona says:

    John Nolan (April 10th at 1.10 p.m.) – this then implies more centralisation rather than less? More power to the Curia, less to the bishops? Or, if “better bishops”, how are we to get them?

    • John Nolan says:

      That, Iona is the 64 thousand dollar question. Quentin was hinting earlier that he might post again on this topic, which is an important one. The procedure for appointing bishops is a fairly complex one with opinion being sought from various sources before the terna is submitted to the relevant Congregation (usually the Congregation for Bishops). The national Episcopal Conference maintains a list of names, updated every two years, of those priests it considers generically suitable; critics argue that if the nuncio is too close to the Conference appointments are made from a closed circle and the Conference in effect clones itself.

  19. St.Joseph says:

    Iona
    I misunderstood your comment at 10 10.
    Daphne McLeod from Pro Ecclesia Et Pontiface has been fighting the Bishops for years regarding the neglect of proper Catholic Education in our schools.and written books on the subject.

    My children did not go to catholic schools, Parents have the responsibility to know what their children are being taught,,
    If parents do nothing, nothing will be changed.

    • John Nolan says:

      The fact that Daphne McLeod and PEEP, however correct their analysis might be, are “fighting the Bishops” can be counter-productive. Their confrontational stance (admittedly distorted and exaggerated by their opponents) led to Cardinal Burke pulling out of a speaking engagement a year or so ago. Mgr Marcus Stock is doing a good job as acting director of CESEW and deserves our encouragement.

      • St.Joseph says:

        John Nolan,
        That was a conspiracy that never should have been allowed..
        I have lost all faith in the Bishops over the last 40 years.
        We had one Bishop O’Donague who wrote some material for schools,Fit for Mission Fit for Marriage, Fit for sex Education.,which did not go anywhere.
        I introduced them to schools ,and that was the end of it.
        We would not have needed it if the CCC had have implemented as it was supposed to be.Instead of the Here I am- Weaving of the Web, and Clare Richards book which was removed.
        We reap what we sow. Its time now to sow the Faith again.I believe it is slowly coming back.

  20. claret says:

    I am arriving late to the question posed by St Joseph to me regarding evidence of where Bishops ( Dioceses, ) will not have Permanent Deacons. I cannot research every Diocese but the below quotes from Lincoln Diocese BUT to be clear this is Lincoln USA. Nevertheless it is still evidence that Bishops worldwide have the right to exclude the Diaconate in their Diocese.
    Nearer to home it is only in the last couple of years that Ireland has ‘allowed’ a Permanent Diaconate. I think the current number stands at two. (Incidentally the Diaconate was re-instituted in its current from in 1967.)
    Quote:
    “The question of whether or not to ordain permanent deacons has been discussed on multiple occasions by the presbyteral council of the diocese, and the presbyteral council has not recommended that we ordain permanent deacons,” says Father Daniel Rayer, chancellor of the Diocese of Lincoln. (Quoted in 2011.)

    • St.Joseph says:

      Claret’
      Thank you.I have see a yearly Mass at the Vatican with the Holy Father, on EWTN so it seems to me that the bishops who deny it is going against the mans conscience, so this is why it ought to be taken to a higher authority..I would..
      .

    • milliganp says:

      I say this for consideration rather than to be contentious. The role of the Bishop is to rule and guide, if he allows his presbyterial council to decide the matter he is abrogating his responsibility in this matter. The Diaconate was not restored to keep priests happy but so that the hierarchical structure of the sacrament of orders would be more visible and that the specfic vocation of service could be clearly seen.

      • St.Joseph says:

        milligamp.
        A vocation is not to fulfill happiness, but to serve the Church,or it should be..
        Some are always complaining about authority coming down from the top.,so when it

        comes from the bottom up there is still discrepinceys .
        We can please half the people all the time ,all the people half the time, but not all the people all the time.
        One can not stem the Spirit when it is within the teachings of the Church,.
        Even Bishops

  21. John Candido says:

    An article written by Father Roger Landry, on the conservative ‘National Catholic Register’ (not to be confused with the liberal ‘National Catholic Reporter’) has made some interesting comments and observations about what Cardinal Bergoglio (Pope Francis) has placed on the record concerning clericalism, before his election to the papacy.

    Some choice quotes from Cardinal Bergoglio,

    ‘When the Church does not come out of itself to evangelize,’ he said, ‘it becomes self-referential and then gets sick.’

    ‘That inward looking Church, which doesn’t look sufficiently to Christ and doesn’t reflect him, his light and his love for those walking in darkness, quickly succumbs to what he called the worst evil of all, a ‘spiritual worldliness … living in itself, of itself, for itself.’

    Bergoglio was interviewed in 2011 by an Argentinian Catholic news agency. He said that clericalism can pass from clergy to laypeople.

    ‘We priests tend to clericalize the laity. We do not realize it, but it is as if we infect them with our own disease. And the laity — not all, but many — ask us on their knees to clericalize them, because it is more comfortable to be an altar server than the protagonist of a lay path. We cannot fall into that trap — it is a sinful complicity.’

    ‘Clericalism ails the clergy when they become too self-referential rather than missionary. But it afflicts laypeople worse, when they begin to believe that the fundamental service God is asking of them is to become greeters, lectors or extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion at Church rather than to live and spread the faith in their families, workplaces, schools neighbourhoods and beyond.’

    In an address to Cardinals, Bergoglio identified what he believes is at the root cause of clericalism. It is ‘theological narcissism’. According to Bergoglio, this is the fundamental corruption of the Church that needs to be reformed.

    In the article, Landry uses ‘ecclesiastical narcissism’ instead of ‘theological narcissism’. This is an error of translation from Spanish to English according to Fr. Geoff Rose, OSFS. Read his explanation below.

    ‘…according to what I have read, then-Cardinal Bergoglio did not say ‘ecclesiastical narcissism’ but ‘theological narcissism’, (in Spanish, “narcisismo teológico”). To some this may seem like splitting hairs, but the consequence is significant. Ecclesiastical relates to the Church, whereas theological relates to our study of God. The former can be a bit limiting and allow some to feel it doesn’t apply to them; the latter refers to something we all have and offers a much broader challenge. I see Pope Francis challenging not just the structures but how we all think about God, and then ultimately how we act. I am so grateful for his witness and challenge!’

    The above comment was posted by Fr. Geoff Rose, OSFS on Friday, Apr 12, 2013 9:59 AM (EDT – USA), in reply to Fr. Roger Landry’s article in the ‘Catholic Register’.

    We are most certainly living in very interesting times.

    http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/pope-francis-and-the-reform-of-the-laity

    • John Nolan says:

      JC, reference your earlier comment to St. Joseph, do you really regard orthodoxy as merely an opinion? I thought Pontius Pilate was the high priest of relativism, asking “quid est veritas?” Is there anything in revealed religion that you actually believe? I only ask because I genuinely want to know; it would enable me to make better sense of your comments.

      • John Candido says:

        Anything that I will say about the obvious and perennial differences between conservatives, moderates, and liberals, will not be a help to you. You have refused to accede to my points on this issue previously, which is your right of course. However, a right to an opinion is not the same as having a correct opinion or judgement on an issue, which is an unavoidable part of life, and is something that we all do every now and then, including me. As I have said previously, there is nothing that I can say or do to convince you, of the errors of your judgement, on the natural divide between conservatives, moderates and liberals.

  22. John Candido says:

    A trailer for, ‘Silence in the House of God, Mea Maxima Culpa’,

    An internet interview with the Director of ‘Mea Maxima Culpa’, Alex Gibney, who is also a producer and writer,

    A Wikipedia article about Alex Gibney, who has also directed, amongst many other documentary films, ‘Taxi to the Dark Side’(2007); ‘Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room’(2005); Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson’(2008); and ‘Freakonomics’ (2010),

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alex_Gibney

    Alex Gibney’s complete list of cinematic works can be gleaned from the ‘Internet Movie Database’ (IMDb),

    http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0316795/

    • John Nolan says:

      JC, you are still evading the question. The thrust of your argument would appear to be that there is no objective truth, no revelation, what the Church teaches is a fiction designed to preserve its position and stifle intellectual argument, faith is not a supernatural gift of God but simply a private judgement arrived at depending on whether you describe yourself as a conservative or a liberal, and if modern lifestyle choices appear to contradict Scripture then Scripture must be either wrong in itself or wrongly interpreted. You’re always banging on about debate, so how about debating this, rather than plugging the latest anti-Catholic “documentary”?

  23. John Candido says:

    I am going to indulge you with an extended reply, knowing full well that it will probably be a complete waste of time.

    With respect, I am not evading the question at all. You are simply not able to understand that theology comes in three basic sizes. Conservatism, liberalism and that which is in between these two positions, usually called moderatism. These three positions are contradictory in places. However, the trick is to be tolerant enough to see that all three positions are theologically legitimate. Why? I will try to explain this for you a little later.

    Because you are a conservative, you, like everybody else, will hold to your own position as the only version of the truth. I am as guilty as the rest of them in this department with my liberalism. You even have an advantage that I don’t have. In what I would surmise as a shallow or very limiting way, you can always point to the fact that what you believe, is entirely consistent with what the Church’s magisterium teaches today. By logical extrapolation, you can also say that because what I believe is not consistent with the present day teaching of the Church’s magisterium, is proof enough of the error of my position. A cursory glance at the contents of the CCC will quickly establish this fact.

    Herein lays the difficulty for you and other people who think in a similar manner to you. To use the metaphor of politics; there is a Labor party, a Liberal Democratic party, and a Conservative party. Parliamentary politics is also known as an expression of representative democracy. Anyone with any sense will support democracy, even if it has its problems at times.

    Party politics can be a sordid affair at times. Party members have to choose whether they will be in solidarity with the cabinet or their shadow cabinet, or to be a more independent member who will risk their career on a matter of principle. The truth can suffer at times, both inside a party and between parties, due to the competitive nature of winning office. The funny thing is despite these limitations; representative politics cannot exist, and social progress cannot be achieved, without the machinations of political parties, and their idiosyncratic philosophies.

    In a similar way, our Church cannot develop, change, mature, or progress doctrinally and theologically, without the inputs from its three basic positions. Why? There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, it is an axiomatic truth that the church, its ritual, its doctrine, and its culture, has, and will change through time. Secondly, that everybody should have an understanding that ‘Ecclesia semper reformanda est’, or ‘the Church is always to be reformed’. Thirdly, the Church’s position has changed dramatically through time for what specific elements constitute ‘salus extra ecclesiam non est’ or ‘there is no salvation outside the Church’.

    These changing positions did not happen by themselves, but were the result of the people of God, i.e. the Church, coming together and debating, writing, thinking, and speaking to one another. Like the metaphor of social progress through the vagaries of democratic politics; changes to any doctrine or theological position of the magisterium of the Church, are the result of argument and debate between conservatives, moderates, and liberals, just like our parliamentarians. This is why you, and everybody else, should be more accommodating and tolerant of those you do not agree with theologically. Without people with a range of sincerely held views, coming together through discussion, reading, writing and debate, little progress can be anticipated. This is the genius of SecondSight.

    Have I wasted my time?

    • John Nolan says:

      If your theory is correct, then the history of the early Church would have seen a synthesis between the many conflicting doctrinal and theological viewpoints which were current at the time. But those who championed othodoxy did so because they held it to be the truth; they did not compromise with heresy, they combated it and eventually prevailed (in the case of Arianism this took a long time). What the Church teaches through her universal and ordinary magisterium requires of us (as Vatican II put it) “religious submission of intellect and will”. The idea that radical dissent is in some way beneficial to the Church is perverse, and has never been countenanced in any period of history, including the present day – I read yesterday, for instance, that Pope Francis has approved the CDF report on the LCWR.

      • John Candido says:

        I knew I was wasting my time. My advice to you, if you are interested, is to go away and think about the issues raised by my previous reply.

  24. John Nolan says:

    What’s the point? The Church has never arrived at a doctrinal position as a result of the dialectic you describe. There were those who argued in the 16th century that the Church had to compromise with Protestantism (even the Emperor Charles V was of this opinion). Instead she reiterated her teachings with a new clarity (removing some dubious late medieval accretions in the process), reformed her structures comprehensively, and went on the offensive. Result? By 1600 she had not only halted Protestantism but was rolling it back, and even non-Catholic historians admit she had won the intellectual argument – Catholic universities were streets ahead of their Protestant equivalents. And as Macaulay shrewdly pointed out, losses in the Old World were more than compensated for by gains in the New.

    Even if you don’t believe, as Catholics do, that the Roman Church is guided by the Holy Ghost and so cannot fall into serious doctrinal error (although men can and do make mistakes, and this applies in the Church as in any other institution), you can’t argue with the facts. Your argument, despite earnest attempts at correlation with secular politics (which you in any case view with rose-coloured spectacles; I suggest you re-read Machiavelli) simply doesn’t hold up. Sorry.

  25. John Candido says:

    Yes; this is what I thought would happen. It is probably incorrect to categorise you and St.Joseph as conservatives. Both of you are more accurately categorised as fundamentalists. Sorry to use the ‘f’ word, but I think it fits.

    • John Nolan says:

      Easier to hurl epithets than to admit that your arguments don’t add up. A standard left-wing tactic, I’m afraid. The term ‘fundamentalist’ means nothing in a Catholic context – I’m not even devout in the way that I’m sure St.Joseph is. As for you, I’m sorry to use the ‘h’ word, but I think it fits. How do you like your stake?

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