Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
January 27, 2003
WCR Letters to the Editor
Obedience should replace Church back seat driving
As I read Wayne Holst's review of Power and Peril: The Church at the Crossroads (WCR Jan. 13) it, sadly, is becoming more and more obvious how few "committed and accountable Catholics" understand the article of our faith - recited every Sunday in the Apostles' Creed - "I believe in the holy catholic Church."
For what seems to be the umpteenth time, our pope, John Paul II, is under attack from within. And once again that attack comes not from the ignorant but theologians and scholars who show a frightening inability to grasp the necessity for the reasons why the Church and holy father teach and say what they do.
In the book, the authors take the pope to task for his view of truth. Yet, John Paul has always maintained that our faith and morality is and needs to be based on an objective, immovable, unchangeable truth - God. It is a truth that does not change to suit the time or the opinion of creatures no matter how many titles or letters they have behind their names.
While the authors take issue with our holy father's seeming "textual exegesis" and not lived sexual and marital experience, they as laymen, with no priestly, much less papal, experience, have no problem pronouncing failing marks for the pontiff for the job he is doing.
Criticism is leveled at Rome for its dealings with dissent. Open dissent is not discussion or debate. While it is a positive aspect of the faith journey to question points of that faith as a means of understanding, dissent breeds confusion and division and ultimately destruction. To propagate erroneous views weakens the foundation of the Church. As Jesus says, "A house divided cannot stand."
If the authors, as the reformers and dissenters of the past feel the hierarchy of the Church is such a curse, how do they propose to stop the Catholic Church from fragmenting into the thousands of sects that the Protestant religions have become without a centralized authority to authentically interpret and protect the faith?
A grave responsibility falls on those who are entrusted with the sacred deposit of the faith. Seems a lot less back seat driving and a whole lot more obedience and prayer are in order.
Authors trying to reconstruct Church
Concerning the book review "Change confounds our Church" by Wayne Holst (WCR, Jan. 13).
Authors Michael Higgins and Douglas Letson (Power and Peril: The Catholic Church at the Crossroads) are simply misguided in attempting to repudiate the pope's "approach to sexuality" based on the fact that he has no "lived experience" as a married person.
On these grounds one would have to also renounce the views of Christ who, in condemning fornication and divorce, approached sexuality in the same objective manner as Pope John Paul. Often those who are married, like Higgins and Letson, are too subjectively close to the situation to speak with integrity.
The article by Holst also claims incorrectly that "the current pope has little patience with dissent and erroneously assumes that declaring a debate closed actually stops discussion."
On the contrary, of the many dissenters in the Church today it is only the high profile cases, mentioned by Higgins and Letson, that are called to the carpet for their errors. Nonetheless, while the pope is not naive, he always holds out hope that once he declares a debate closed - like that of women's ordination - others will follow.
Finally, the authors attempt, by their adherence to Martin Luther's idea of a "meaningful priesthood of all believers," to obfuscate the distinction between the ministerial priesthood and the priesthood of the faithful.
It appears obvious then that, contrary to Holst's summation, authors Higgins and Letson are in fact trying to reconstruct the Church both sacramentally and hierarchically. To this effect, Pope John Paul has stated in an audience of Oct. 22, 1993 that "Christ wanted his Church to be sacramentally and hierarchically structured and for this reason no one has the right to change what the divine Founder has established."
Seeds of moral dissent yield a bitter harvest
On July 25, 1968, Pope Paul VI released the encyclical Humanae Vitae in which the Church's ban on artificial birth control was upheld. Vatican II had recently ended and many theologians and religious were confident that the ban would soon be lifted. With the release of HV they went ballistic.
Shortly after, a group of American theologians took out a full-page ad in the New York Times that said you could just ignore the pope and remain a good Catholic. Then on Sept. 27, 1968 the Canadian bishops released the "Winnipeg Statement" which told Canadian Catholics to just follow their consciences in this matter. Similar events occurred in other western countries. In effect, princes of the Church were challenging the teaching of Peter.
Soon many bishops, priests, and theologians were defying the magisterium on a wide range of issues. Some even went as far as to deviate from the Church's teachings concerning the divinity of Jesus Christ.
Liturgical abuses became widespread. Mass attendance, vocations and overall Church participation went into a tailspin. From the church pews, many laity began to think that if our priests and leaders openly did not believe in the Church's teaching then they could just sleep in on Sunday mornings.
For the first time Catholics began to think they could pick and choose doctrines as if in a cafeteria. Many Catholics joined the sexual revolution.
Many Catholics don't seem to be knowledgeable regarding the teachings about human life. One Church member told me she did not have to be worried about more kids because she got "fixed." Another tried to conceive using in vitro fertilization. Catholic Church teaching forbids these acts.
With the current biotech revolution the stakes have been raised even higher. The frontier of human cloning is now here. Embryonic stem cell research is well under way. Artificial wombs are being worked on.
It is a great tragedy that the Western Church did not put any effort in bringing the teachings of Humanae Vitae to the laity. I can only count on one finger the times I've heard a priest discuss sexual morality in Mass. It is from the pulpit that the message should be delivered.
The laity are looking for more then safe politically-correct sermons. In this confused age people are looking for answers to complex problems. There is nothing more exciting, challenging, and intellectually stimulating than the call to the high adventure of Catholic orthodoxy and radical devotion.
There is still hope. The influence of the generation of failed theories is starting to weaken and over the last 10 years a new generation of priests has been ordained committed to the theology of Pope John Paul. One could not help but notice the enthusiasm of the multitude at World Youth Day.
Inter-Church, not inter-faith
I opened your Jan. 13 paper and found the caption "Prayer unifies different faith paths." Since I am the coordinator of the Edmonton Interfaith Centre, this article drew my attention. However, I was disappointed by the caption. This article was about Christian Unity Week and hence inter-Church or, as Vatican II defined it, ecumenical relations.
Christians have the same path through Jesus Christ but Christian traditions practise their common faith differently. To me, different faiths implies what it says: different faiths such as Christian, Hindus, Muslim, etc. I might add this is a very brief thought - over my many years of working in this area, I have discovered the importance of good terminology in establishing relationships.
This week, Christian Unity Week, is a wonderful opportunity for Christians to embrace one another.