UPDATE: FATIMA AGAINST VATICAN II
On the day of the elections that seal the demise of the Neocons, Philip Blosser posts an extreme neocath attack on Vatican II. The author, Ervan Park, believes that Vatican II is a punishment for the Church, which failed to listen to the message of Fatima, a message confirmed by amazing prophecies: “the end of World War I [“your soldiers are already returning” said the Virgin, in 1917 – a year too early]; the name of the pope who would be reigning at the beginning of World War II [Lucia only revealed this in 1941; it defies credibility that the Virgin would have communicated to her the name of Pius XI in 1917]; the extraordinary heavenly phenomenon that would be witnessed worldwide foretelling of the beginning of World War II [what phenomenon?]; the ascendance of Russia (a weak and insignificant nation in 1917) to an evil monolithic power that would afflict the world with suffering and death; the arrival of "apostasy" in the Church by her own hierarchy, a work in process in our present day [this is a common topic in the apparitional tradition, as at La Salette – the visionary Melanie because a scourge to the Church, and a laughing-stock, in her long later career of ranting against corruption in the hierarchy.].”
Park harps on “the requirement that the Holy Father consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary” -- a requirement revealed only in 1941. Wikipedia has this: "While the Vatican, and Sister Lucia herself (though this is disputed by the traditionalists), hold that the consecration of the world, including Russia, by Pope John Paul II, in 1984 sufficiently fulfilled the conditions, they argue that the promised 'period of peace' has still not arrived. On the other hand, people who do believe the consecration was fullfilled see the period of peace and conversion of Russia in the collapse of communism and the relative calm of the 1990's, and believe the fact that John Paull II was so involved in those events is no coincidence."
Park says that the "Third Secret" revealed to the seers concerns “the apostatizing of the hierarchy of the Church”; the Vatican’s official interpretation of this Third Secret cynically defused it and his its true content. Now “the diabolic is being allowed to attack the Church's "sound doctrine" from within (as punishment),” which will have "bring the Church to her knees. “Pope John XXIII had read and refused to make public the Third Secret in 1960. Rather, the Third Secret was released publicly in June 2000, and Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger admitted that what was released was an "interpretation" that contained none of the specific words or statements given by Holy Mary to Sr. Lucia. What was released was not what the Blessed Virgin said in Her own words. Mother Angelica of the Eternal Word Television Network said on May 16, 2001: "As for the [Third] Secret [of Fatima], well I happen to be one of those individuals who thinks we didn't get the whole thing."”
All of this sets the stage for a portrayal of Vatican II as the summit of God's punishment of the Church by giving the diabolical free rein in it: “There must be some correlation between the warnings of the Third Secret and the event of Vatican II itself; there must be some component of Vatican II... that is going to trigger -- one way or another -- the "diabolic disorientation" warned of in the Third Secret. As it was, John's calling for the Council was an irregularity to begin with. Normally, a General Council would only be called to address serious subjects such as heresies, teachings, or disciplines that needed to be settled at a dogmatic level. Cardinal Ratzinger said about Vatican II that it "defined no dogma at all, and deliberately chose to remain on a modest level, as a merely pastoral council…" (Address to Chilean Bishops, July 13, 1988). John said that the Church “considers that she meets the needs of the present day by demonstrating the validity of her teaching rather than by condemnations". Thus “John is disregarding the urgent teachings and lamentations of his immediate predecessors -- i.e., Pius XII, Pius XI, Benedict XV, St. Pius X, Leo XIII, and Pius IX -- popes of towering intellect, holiness, and esteem. John put this counsel aside, allowing accommodation to the world, a course of action which proved to be ruinous.” Right from its first writings, Vatican II demonstrated a flaw that dramatically set it apart from all past General Councils. The writing and documents produced by every council prior to Vatican II employed exact diction and syntax directed to conclusive ends, so that there was no mistaking the message conveyed. Vatican II, on the other hand, has become notorious for its considerable production of documents, both conciliar and post-conciliar, fraught with murky terms, ambiguous statements, and circular, non-conclusive logic.”
The nub of the matter, as usual for neocaths, is the “sodomite presence among the ordained, both priests and bishops” leading to “at least ten thousand innocent children raped”. “A homosexual orientation is actually a diabolic disorientation.” It is alarming to hear that the man who writes this “provided documentation to and testimony before the official Vatican Commission that investigated and ruled on the ministry of Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen of the Archdiocese of Seattle.” Philip Blosser concludes: “Can you handle the truth? Subscribe now: www.newoxfordreview.org.”
Ervan Park cannot understand modernity and can see it only as chaos. When modernity comes within the enclaves of his Church he can only see it as diabolical disorientation, permitted by God for inscrutable reasons. He is loud in declaring that the gates of Hell will never prevail against the rock of Peter, but he sees Vatican II as infected with diabolical deception, so that the ultimate triumph of the Church over Satan will involve purging Vatican II of all that contradicts previous church teaching.
Neocaths look more like old-style reactionaries every day. As they morph into the Blue Army of Fatima their passage to the dustbin of history, to which they have consigned the generation of Vatican II theologians, seems assured.
Pipelinenews.org, March 2, 2004, has a piece by William A. Mayer, "On Burying Vatican II’s Heterodoxy." Mayer claims that the Church of Vatican II "elevated the flawed judgment of a small group of men above that common body of wisdom that had been revealed by the Holy Spirit over the previous millennia." "The Eucharist is no longer worshiped; it is routinely and daily touched by unclean, unconsecrated hands... One must wonder if the transubstantiation - the beautiful and mystical changing of bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ [which has been official Catholic Dogma since the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215] – even takes place during these ceremonies any longer."" The Church has, to put it charitably, looked the other way while its priestly ranks have been infiltrated by an organized and activist homosexual lobby. It is now estimated that between 30 and 60% of Catholic male clergy is gay. Catholic teaching institutions, the seminaries, now serve as judgment-free zones of an openly gay subculture. In these institutions, it is the straight – heterosexual – males who are persecuted. This deviant infiltration is the sole reason for the huge increase in criminal sexual activity committed by the Catholic clergy. Let’s be clear about this, what is facing the Church right now are thousands of cases of homosexual predation on male children. These are gay crimes, plain and simple." "It may indeed be time to start the process of rolling back the manifest evils that imperfect vessels have visited upon the Church and finally bury Vatican II - not in some dank corner by cover of darkness, but in the light of day and in a place which will forever serve as a warning to future generations that God is not mocked with impunity."
Clearly scandals of clerical sex with male adolescents (ephebes rather than children) are being exploited maximally by the critics of Vatican II. The homosexual complexion of the clergy is further blamed on the Council. But the causal lines here are by no means easy to decipher. The Church has set itself up for the scandal and ensuing rage by its angelistic sexual ethic and its retention of mandatory celibacy, neither of which have won the convinced assent of those who supposed to strive to live them. Vatican II should have led to a public reflection on Catholic attitudes to sexuality, but instead was followed by a bureaucratic clampdown -- supremely in "Humanae Vitae" and more recently in the ludicrous gay seminarians document, whose official apologist is now himself accused of sexual misbehavior with his male patients -- and this closing off of open discussion, not Vatican II, could be a leading cause of the mishandling of the sexual scandals. The promotion of Fr Anatrella to a position of supreme authority by both the French Episcopate and the Vatican struck me as foolish in the extreme, when I first discovered his writings in 2003. Apart altogether from the present allegations, his quite unbalanced homophobia, in a person claiming to be a qualified psychoanalyst (though regarded as a disaster by Parisian psychoanalysts), should have been a clear warning signal to the bishops. The basilisk fascination of so-called "orthodoxy" has a softening effect on episcopal brains, causing them again and again to strain out gnats and swallow camels.
The scandals have surely been exacerbated not only by the media, ambulance-chasing lawyers and a victim culture, but by the erasure of any distinction between pedophilia and ephebophilia and by a bedrock homophobia. Anti-clericalism, favored by the unrealistic image of the priest, is another factor: ephebophile and even pedophile teachers do not draw half as much ire and horror on their heads as priests, nor is the entire teaching profession tarnished by the wrongdoing of a minority. Authentic concern for victims of abuse plays very little role in the foamings of those who are anxious above all to punish gays and church liberals. (One nasty tactic of some groups is to bribe the younger partner in a gay relationship to denounce the elder one for seducing him while still a minor.)
UPDATE: TORTURE AND THE NEOCATHS
1. A Sinister Hermeneutics
Critics of Cardinal Ratzinger have done him much less damage than his fans. The debates currently chronicled at http://www.ratzingerfanclub.com/blog use the technique of reading Vatican II's condemnation of torture in "continuity" with the different attitude of medieval Catholicism. This is part of a general reactionary hermeneutics that is widely practiced by the neocaths. For instance, they override Vatican II's ecumenical outreach by reading it in "continuity" with such anti-ecumenical documents as "Mortalium Animos" (1928). Romano Amerio's 700 page book, Iota Unum, is praised as "a brilliant expose of problematic texts in the conciliar documents" (Philip Blosser). The Council is blamed for allowing a "new theology" based on modern notions that had been consistently condemned by the Church since the time of the French Revolution, etc. The necessity of aggiornamento in response to the signs of the times is in practice denied by neocaths, who speak of ressourcement and continuity to the exclusion of aggiornamento, whereas in authentic Vatican II thinking the two things are inseparable.
The red herring of conflicting authoritative statements on torture is designed to rehabilitate the older attitude of the Church to torture, at least to the extent required by the Bush administration. The fact is that the Church, like the civilized world, now cherishes human rights in a way it did not during the middle ages, and it uses concepts like human and political freedom and human dignity in a way it did not in the middle ages. If we want to force Islamicists into the modern age we had best cling on to our hard-won insights ourselves.
Discussion about whether the Church has "definitively" branded slavery and torture as "intrinsically evil" become a lawyer's hunt for loopholes. The Church condoned or practiced or urged secular powers to introduce torture in the past. The Church today unequivocally condemns this, and apologizes for it.
Tom McKenna on his website http://confoundingthewicked.blogspot.com/2006/09/pounding-table.html tries to have his cake and eat it too:
"As for the Catechism, by its plain language, it is directed at the motivation of the conduct, not the content of the conduct. Hence it rejects torture intended to produce confessions, punish the guilty, etc. But the methods we use against our enemies (which again, are not "torture" under civil law) are not engaged in to induce confessions. We use these methods to secure actionable intelligence about our enemies. What Lyndie England did might arguably fall under this definition, since she was motivated by hatred or some other illegitimate motive. What a trained interrogator might uncover through controlled, judicious use of such methods is clearly not encompassed by this definition."
So you can torture all you like as long as your motivation is pure! No doubt Tom would approve the torture of US personnel by enemies into whose hands they fall -- nay, why not approve ALL terrorist acts, since their motivation is notoriously pure. He would do well to recall what St Thomas More said: "I would uphold the law if for no other reason than to protect myself".
Are Neocaths poisoning our religion at its source and turning it into a form of Talibanism -- torture and all?
Fr Brian Harrison has emerged as the most sophisticated moralist offering a liberal view on torture.
Referring to Gaudium et Spes, he writes:
"It also seems important to remember the pastoral character of the council in general, and of this "Pastoral Constitution" in particular. The text makes no attempt to give a precise definition of what is meant by such tormenta, or to distinguish (as the CCC subsequently does) between the different purposes for which torture might be inflicted. The very title of the document, specifying that it intends to speak to the "contemporary" or "modern" world (in mundo huius temporis), invites a hermeneutic that limits the Council’s condemnation to those kinds of torture which have actually been going on in the 20th century – prescinding, that is, from more theoretical, less pastorally urgent, questions... Now, if we adopt a ‘pastoral’ hermeneutic of this sort, a new and important factor enters into the equation for purposes of moral evaluation – that of the (human) legality or illegality of torture. A common factor in the kinds of torture we have considered so far in this paper is that they were all at least in conformity with established legal procedures in force at different times and places in history. But what are we to say of tortures that had to be judged abusive even according to existing legal norms, because they were disproportionately cruel, or inflicted by unauthorized persons, or without due process, or inflicted on the innocent, or from sadistic motivations? If legally controlled torture is inhumane enough, then surely torture uncontrolled by any legal norms, and so left up to the clandestine, arbitrary and tyrannical whims of criminals, dictators and frequently sadistic secret police agents, is far worse! But this, of course, is precisely the kind of torture that Vatican Council II was facing as a contemporary blight on humanity, and which we are still facing today in the new millennium. By the 1960s probably not a single country was left on earth whose penal code still openly and shamelessly provided for torture, with corresponding legislation regulating its application. At the same time, however, 20th-century Communist and Nazi regimes, along with many other petty dictatorships, especially in Latin America, Asia and Africa – not to mention any number of proscribed terrorist and criminal organizations – had been clandestinely refining, and ruthlessly applying, any number of new and horrendous torture techniques.
"That, I suggest, is essentially the kind of torture contemplated and condemned by Vatican II [I interpose to note that that is the kind of torture patronized by the USA in Latin America and it is not very different from what the USA appears to be doing in its own archipelago of prisons at the present time], and then subsequently branded by John Paul II, as one example of "intrinsically evil" practices among others, when he quotes the Council word for word in Veritatis Splendor #80. I do not think we can conclude much more than this about the morality of pain infliction from these two magisterial texts alone. For that would be trying to make them provide answers to questions they did not set out to address....
"There remains the question – nowadays a very practical and much-discussed one – of torture inflicted not for any of the above purposes, but for extracting life-saving information from, say, a captured terrorist known to be participating in an attack that may take thousands of lives (the now-famous ‘ticking bomb’ scenario). As we have noted above, this possible use of torture is not mentioned in the Catechism. If, as I have argued, the infliction of severe pain is not intrinsically evil, its use in that type of scenario would not seem to be excluded by the arguments and authorities we have considered so far. (John Paul II’s statement about the "intrinsic evil" of a list of ugly things including torture in VS #80 does not seem to me decisive, even at the level of authentic, non-infallible, magisterium, for the reasons I have already given in commenting above on that text.) My understanding would be that, given the present status questionis, the moral legitimacy of torture under the aforesaid desperate circumstances, while certainly not affirmed by the magisterium, remains open at present to legitimate discussion by Catholic theologians."
More unguardedly the same author writes in Crisis Magazine, Sept. 2005: "It certainly won't do for us Christians merely to cite at this point Vatican II's Dei Verbum, which acknowledges that the Old Testament contains “matters imperfect and provisional.” Divine authorship and divine justice do not seem incompatible with temporarily mandating something imperfect. But something “intrinsically evil” [scil. the torture allegedly permitted by God in the OT]? Also, if we are going to quote one ecumenical council (Vatican II) against torture, we cannot overlook the fact that another ecumenical council (Vienne, 1311-12) legitimized it. As did Pope Leo X, in condemning Luther's claim that “burning heretics is contrary to the will of the Spirit” (DS 1483)."
Harrison argues that a silence of the Catechism about torture for "ticking bomb" type reasons is a tacit criticism of the UN Convention Against Torture, an absurd argument, since the Vatican signed this Convention in 2002.
Americans are hungry to torture Islamic bodies, though each tortured body causes a thousand new "terrorists" to spring up. A majority of US Catholics believe that torture is justified in some circumstances. Neocath thinkers seem to be pandering to this bloodlust, instead of challenging it at its roots, thus putting themselves on the same level Taliban mullahs who would whitewash the tactics of terrorism.
David Armstrong, a prolific Catholic apologist (in the spirit of Vatican II's encouragement of lay catechesis and Paul VI's call for a new apologetics) wrote: "The Church has clearly allowed something not unlike torture in the past, at the highest levels. If it is intrinsically immoral, then the Church would not have been properly protected by the Holy Spirit and would have defected in a serious way. [That] would raise huge issues about the infallibility of the historic Church."
He has modified this statement in response to my objection that by this reasoning, any evils the Church has blessed -- for instance the massacre of Protestants in 1572 (celebrated in a papal medal and a commissioned picture of the massacre by Vasari) and the judicial murder of natives in India, the Philippines and Latin America under the Inquisition -- would be rendered innocent and we would be free to commit them ourselves. Confinement of Jews to ghettos, forcing them to hear sermons on their blindness, and to wear a distinctive costume, would be a moral practice according to such a hermeneutics. Dave agrees that torture is always wrong and not to be confused with legitimate state coercion. Like Mark Shea he has been saved by true Catholic orthodoxy from the worst excesses of neocathism.
2. Sinister Timing
What is most disturbing about these byzantine discussions is their timing: the US has patronized and practiced torture for a long time, as Paul Surlis powerfully documents in his essay, "Torture: Integral to U.S. Foreign Policy or Aberration in Iraq?" (The Japan Mission Journal 60 , 123-44). Now when video cameras and the internet have made the clandestinity of the past impossible, the US has conferred on itself legal warrant to practice torture.
To spend so much mental energy on this arcane issue at the very moment when the United States is defying the moral consensus of both society and the churches on the question of torture is clearly a ploy that subserves, whether intentionally or not, the blurring of basic moral clarity, and seduces people into complacent collusion with evil. It is a bit like as if there were an outcry against Hitler's treatment of Jews and someone started an arcane discussion of the theological status of Jewry -- just the sort of obfuscatory debate that probably did go on in the Nazi period. If the authors of these arcane debates do not make quite clear that they are protesting against torture and its legalization -- and against the concrete acts of cruelty committed in Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and the other largely undisclosed locations of the new Gulag -- then their alleged objectivity and serenity are deeply suspect.
3. Sauce for the Gander
"None of the provisions of Geneva apply to our conflict with al-Qaeda" said George Bush on February 7, 2002. He did not absolve the enemies of the United States of their obligations to Geneva. Should the USA tell all its potential enemies that it freely allows them to use water-boarding (or the forms of cruelty allegedly practiced on Jose Padilla, US citizen, during three years detention without trial) on any American soldiers they capture?
One discussant recalls that "a number of these techniques were used by the British in their counter terrorism efforts with the IRA." failing to mention that they were condemned for this by the European Court of Human Rights. Must we now say, sorry chaps, that torture you practiced at Long Kesh was just good sport! And should we give the same blessing to IRA terrorists who routinely torture "informers" before murdering them (as happened a few months ago) -- NOT to extract information but out of sheer vindictiveness and in order to inspire terror. Must we apologize to all the torturers of human history for our unkindness in judging them harshly? Next time a US citizen is tortured, will you guys say, "sure, we see the rightness and necessity of what you are doing!"
UPDATE: SOME POSITIVE SUGGESTIONS FOR THE REVITALIZATION OF THE RCC
1. Study, discussion and meditation of SCRIPTURE, as a library of texts concerned with peace, reconciliation, forgiveness, justice, liberation and human flourishing. This is the wholesome context within which the spiritual and divine significance of scriptural tradition can begin to come to light.
2. SOCIAL ACTION, on the part of every worshipping community, on behalf of those perceived to be in need, whether due to material necessity, social exclusion or psychological burdens. Without such engagement the Eucharist cannot be a full-blooded expression of Christian agape.
3. ECUMENICAL OUTREACH to fellow-Christians outside the RCC, something specified as a duty for every Catholic by Vatican II. The conscious overcoming of sectarianism is a mental liberation and blesses church life with an enriching experience of friendship.
4. INTERRELIGIOUS HOSPITALITY adds a further dimension to this culture of friendship. At a time when Christians, Jews, and Muslims are at one another's throats such activity is not just cultural fun, it is positive contribution to world peace. Jews, who wrote Scripture, can also teach Christians to renew their perceptions of the scriptural world. Dialogue with Buddhism, a religion that shares many of the moral and spiritual values of Christianity, brings Christian practices into a new and lucid perspective.
5. PROVIDING OUTLETS FOR CREATIVITY in line with Vatican II's call that the art of our times be given free rein in the Church. The talents of young people in particular should have a platform in Church, in music, acting, speech.
6. A CULTURE OF DISCUSSION should be built up so that the sacramental activities of the Church do not proceed in a vacuum. The voices of all need to have a space where they can be heard. Groups meeting for prayer and Scripture study or to reflect on some outstanding social or political challenge would build up a community of shared thought and mutual instruction, and this would give a new maturity and vibrancy to the eucharistic community.
7. LAY EMPOWERMENT is perhaps the principal structural change that will enable all the above recommendations to be put into practice. Parish councils are supposed to ensure this at the grass roots level, but at every level the laity should be palpably present, keeping the clergy in touch.
8. Provide the faithful with a PRAYERBOOK, containing psalms, traditional prayers, and newly composed prayers for contemporary personal and societal situatioins. Provide as well a usable and portable BREVIARY for the clergy.
9. Invite OCCASIONAL SPEAKERS to lecture in every parish, not necessarily on strictly theological subjects.
10. Encourage EVENTS at parish level that allow the full expression of local talents, as well as charitable ACTIVITIES directed to specific local needs -- events and activities that will give more substance to the local community and make their eucharistic celebration more meaningful.
11. Invent new TRANSPAROCHIAL COMMUNITIES or movements suited to contemporary conditions, in the lineage of older ones such as the Legio Mariae or the Vincent de Paul Society, drawing as well on the dynamism of the "new movements" but in a more open and socially engaged style.
12. INCULTURATE THE LITURGY. Take the emphasis away from the dominance of the Word and ground the liturgical experience in music and gestures and symbols drawn from local culture, which will provide a medium wherein the Word can resound far more eloquently. Of course the language of the liturgy should itself reflect in a warm and vital way the speech-world of the faithful and the literary traditions of their country.
UPDATE: Neocaths and paleocaths.
There are stirrings of the Holy Spirit here and there in the contemporary church -- for instance at Glenstal Abbey in Co. Limerick, Ireland. But in very many places, probably in the vast majority of places, THE CHURCH HAS NOT CHANGED. You enter a Catholic church in France or Japan or England or Ireland and you meet the same barrage of religious images as before Vatican II, and in the bookstalls find the same pamphlets rehearsing the same characteristically Catholic concerns. Now this old, unchanged Church is the Church of my childhood, with which I am perfectly comfortable. But who can fail to see that it is dwindling and wilting? Is it on the way to the kind of fossilization that one sees in the Coptic Church or some oriental monophysite communions -- preserved forever as an unchanging ritual-bound sect, but completely lacking in any power to engage the real world?
Vatican II gave indications of the paths to be followed form renewal, and they have not been followed. Ecumenical and interreligious dialogue is at a low ebb as is the engagement of the Church in justice and peace. The unchanged church does not even give the same spiritual nourishment to its loyal adherents as it did in the past. Paleocaths are those who remain faithful to the unchanged church at a time when so many have fallen away. Neocaths are those who glorify the unchanged church and would even like to reverse any indications of change that they have noticed -- not realizing that their vote against change is in the long run a vote for decay and death (see Brendan Hoban's book, Change or Decay).
The way forward is clear: it is the way of growth, through engagement with the signs of the times and through a culture of dialogue and debate. This is something uncomfortable, challenging, painful, but necessary. The Vatican's current investment in a diet of orthodoxy, orthodoxy, orthodoxy, much as it reassures the paleocaths and provides the neocaths with a perverse crusading and inquisitorial delight, is ultimately an evasion of responsibility. We need to hear afresh the Word of God if we are to move forward. It seems that inertia and ennui are the menu for the next few years, again with the exception of a few places where the Word can still galvanize people and the Spirit can still move them.
THE DECLINE OF THE NEOCATHS
Last year I posted a piece here called “The Rise of the Neocaths”. It was widely reproduced, with outraged commentary, on various neocath websites. The aggrieved, narcissistic tone of these responses showed me that I had overestimated the strength of the neocaths; in reality they were a vulnerable, noisy minority, already showing signs of decline.
Here is a sampling of the responses:
There were favorable comments too: “It's basically what I deal with every day. But still a noteworthy, substantive synthesis.” ( http://whispersintheloggia.blogspot.com/2005_08_01_whispersintheloggia_archive.html )
What are the signs of the decline of neocathism that have emerged over the past year?
First of all is their change of attitude toward Benedict XVI. They did not greet his Encyclical with any real enthusiasm and they have been complaining that he is not “nasty” enough (Michael Liccione), that his pontificate is shaping up as just a lull before the next storm, that he is not following through on the needed abolition of the “Novus Ordo” – the current liturgy of the Church, which many neocaths tend to see as heresy-ridden.
Benedict’s gentle diplomacy in Spain, where he did not once attack gay marriage or criticize the Government, was the kind of let-down his fans are now used to. The rather cranky Cardinal of the early 1990s seems to have disappeared into a blander, kinder figure. Some neocaths tried to make much of the Pope’s sartorial elegance, but there is only so much excitement to be got out of fashionable slippers.
Benedict XVI has indeed fulfilled the neocath dream in one respect: it now looks as if the entire Curia has devoted itself to the “inquisitorial” task of ensuring orthodoxy. The Pope and his Secretary of State are the former Prefect and Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The CDF continues, under Cardinal Levada, to investigate and threaten theologians (Diarmuid O’Murchu is a current case), but the Pontifical Council for the Family and the Congregation for Catholic Education are involved in the same activities. They have even produced doctrinal utterances – an incredibly inept document on gay seminarians from Cardinal Grocholewski (Catholic Education) and a much-touted fifty-five page document from Cardinal Trujillo, which was made available only in the form of an Italian pamphlet that virtually no one has seen.
This massive investment in orthodoxy has had no effect whatever. It was once said that “the Kantian philosophy has pure hands – but it doesn’t have hands!” The pastoral inefficacy of the Vatican is only highlighted by these bureaucratic distractions.
The receding memory of John Paul II is a second factor in the decline of the neocaths. It already feels more old-fashioned to call oneself a “John Paul II youth” (Apolonio Latar) and to go on about “John Paul the Great” than to adopt the sobriquet “Spirit of Vatican II”. This is a delicious irony, given the way neocaths go on about the graying liberals of the 1960s and how the forces of youth are on their side.
Next is the discomfiting of many neocath icons, contemporaneous with the discrediting of neocons in the wider public sphere. Richard Neuhaus, for example, was demolished in a "Commonweal" editorial and has certainly lost some of his smarty-pants luster (http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/article.php3?id_article=1509). His support of the Iraq war had already dinted his image: http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/article.php?id_article=1032
Above all what marks decline is the increasing shrillness and extremism of the neocath voices, and their failure to attract any interest unless they indulge in such rhetoric. Along with this goes a failure to develop their thinking, which remains caught in the rut of their favorite obsessions.
They have taken on a distinctly sectarian cast, regularly calling into question the legitimacy of Vatican II, and pouring scorn on other Christian denominations and other religions in a manner not only incompatible with Vatican II but with the entire ecumenical labor of the Church over the last eighty years or so. The luniacies of Sedevacantism -- the theory that the Throne of Peter is currently vacant (along with the sees of the bishops appointed by recent popes) is taken very seriously as a "challenge" by Neocaths, who constantly attempt to undermine the authority of Vatican II.
There was always a sympathy between the young neocath fogeys and the older traditionalists in the spirit of Evelyn Waugh, Dietrich von Hildebrand, the older Jacques Maritain. But now we increasingly see the neocaths reaching out to the lunatic fringe, finding their best friends in the Lefebvrite movement and other such disgruntled groups. See for example: http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com. They are currently indignant that the Lefebvrites may be refused the "right to dissent" from Vatican II on ecumenism and religious freedom that they specify as a condition of their reconciliation with Rome ( http://www.newoxfordreview.org/note.jsp?did=0706-notes-intolerant; lauded at http://pblosser.blogspot.com, July 20, 2006); perhaps they do not realize that one of the motives of asking for that right to dissent is a visceral anti-Semitism (http://whispersintheloggia.blogspot.com/2005/08/guess-anti-semite.html)..
The sterility of the neocath mindset is seen in the prodigious labors they devote to showing that official Catholic doctrine has never contradicted itself. See especially: http://mliccione.blogspot.com/. These extraordinary exercises, predicated on the alleged infallibility of “Humanae Vitae”, stand refuted by the clear facts of history, as found for instance in Charles Curran, ed. “Changes in Official Catholic Moral Teachings”, Paulist Press, 2003. Cardinal Dulles, favorite neocath theologian, carries this Parmenideanism so far as to maintain that the Church today, as in 1866, upholds the compatibility of slavery with divine and natural law.
The neocaths used to present themselves as responsible thinkers on sexual ethics. But increasingly it has become apparent that the most primitive homophobia, based far more on Sodom’n’Gomorrah biblical fundamentalism than on any responsible consideration of Catholic tradition, is the bottom line in their sexual thinking.
One aspect of current neocath thinking that we can be grateful for is its silence on George Bush and the Iraq War. There are exceptions, of course – but they seem to be aware themselves that they are the last defenders of a lost cause: http://catholicjustwar.blogspot.com.
The leading neocath thinkers are converts from Anglicanism or Protestantism, who speak of their former denomination in tones borrowed, at their most charitable, from the quite out-dated polemic of Newman against Anglicanism; see especially http://catholica.pontifications.net. They bring to Roman Catholicism a testy, superior attitude, reminding me of an Anglo-Catholic preacher in Oxford whom I heard declare: “We need a Roman mission to Rome itself”. They really feel it is their mission to save the Roman Church from the evil “Protestantizing” influence of Vatican II.
Perhaps the strongest card of the neocaths in recent days has been the alleged collapse of the ECUSA. But to many Roman Catholics the debates of the General Convention and the election of Bishop Schori were a wake-up moment. Here we see a Church that is allowed to have open debates, and that, though relatively tiny, steals the world’s attention from the silenced, paralyzed behemoth of Rome. A Church that recognizes the charisms of women and of gays is surely one that points to the future.
In contrast, the neocaths cling desperately to fetid relics of a half-imaginary past. Hence their decline in energy and lucidity as they stumble toward phase three of their unhappy existence --- the Fall of the Neocaths.