« The Fall of the Neocaths | Main | The Pope on Progress »

February 09, 2009



Sounds like a vision for the Church that could take place without the Holy Spirit.

If God doesn't exist, it might be a good action plan.


Who says the Holy Spirit isn't being active by NOT being active?

That is, it might be that the present situation is a result of ignoring the Holy Spirit and what's being proposed is actually following the Holy Spirit.

Perhaps the problem is that of functional illiteracy- not being able to read the writing on the wall.

Jimmy Mac

The problem of clericalism is composed of several problems. It is the problem of a caste that arrogates to itself undue authority, that makes unwarranted claims to wisdom, even to having a monopoly on understanding the mind of God. The consequence is the great weakening of the Church by denigrating or excluding the many gifts of the Spirit present in the people who are the Church. The problem of clericalism arises when "the church" acts in indifference, or even contempt, toward the people who are the Church.

Richard J. Neuhaus, June 1989.

By clericalism I mean an elitist mindset, together with structures and patterns of behavior corresponding to it, which takes it for ¬granted that clerics—in the Catholic context, mainly ¬bishops and priests—are intrinsically superior to the other members of the Church and deserve automatic ¬deference. Passivity and dependence are the laity’s lot. By no means is clericalism confined to clerics themselves. The clericalist mindset is widely shared by Catholic lay people.

Russell Shaw, "To Hunt, to Shoot, to Entertain: Clericalism and the Catholic Laity" (1993)


That is, it might be that the present situation is a result of ignoring the Holy Spirit and what's being proposed is actually following the Holy Spirit.

Then why is the whole proposal horizontal in nature, predicated on the willing and deciding of creatures, and the worship of the secular idol of progress?


Is it really "horizontal" and what do you mean by the "worship of the secular idol of progress"?

I'm always curious as to what people mean by the use of such phrases. Generally speaking, such phrases, when continually repeated, generate a "truth value" of their own despite evidence to the contrary.

Either the Church realizes it exists in the "modern" world or it doesn't and becomes an interesting museum of curiously interesting artifacts.


By "the worship of the secular idol of progress," I have in mind the passage in Spe Salvi which discusses the transformation of Christan faith-hope in the modern age (paragraphs 16-23).

Here are a couple of salient passages from the summary:

"A self-critique of modernity is needed in dialogue with Christianity and its concept of hope. In this dialogue Christians too, in the context of their knowledge and experience, must learn anew in what their hope truly consists, what they have to offer to the world and what they cannot offer. Flowing into this self-critique of the modern age there also has to be a self-critique of modern Christianity, which must constantly renew its self-understanding setting out from its roots. On this subject, all we can attempt here are a few brief observations. First we must ask ourselves: what does “progress” really mean; what does it promise and what does it not promise? In the nineteenth century, faith in progress was already subject to critique. In the twentieth century, Theodor W. Adorno formulated the problem of faith in progress quite drastically: he said that progress, seen accurately, is progress from the sling to the atom bomb. Now this is certainly an aspect of progress that must not be concealed. To put it another way: the ambiguity of progress becomes evident. Without doubt, it offers new possibilities for good, but it also opens up appalling possibilities for evil—possibilities that formerly did not exist. We have all witnessed the way in which progress, in the wrong hands, can become and has indeed become a terrifying progress in evil. If technical progress is not matched by corresponding progress in man's ethical formation, in man's inner growth (cf. Eph 3:16; 2 Cor 4:16), then it is not progress at all, but a threat for man and for the world."

"There is no doubt, therefore, that a “Kingdom of God” accomplished without God—a kingdom therefore of man alon —inevitably ends up as the “perverse end” of all things as described by Kant: we have seen it, and we see it over and over again. Yet neither is there any doubt that God truly enters into human affairs only when, rather than being present merely in our thinking, he himself comes towards us and speaks to us. Reason therefore needs faith if it is to be completely itself: reason and faith need one another in order to fulfill their true nature and their mission."


The quote doesn't define "progress" very well.

Obviously, there's "material progress". "scientific progress", "social progress", "ethical/ moral progress", "political progress", etc;etc;.

All of these are not one phenomenon. Each advances retreats at its own pace.

It seems obvious to me that we have progressed quite far from when human beings blithely accepted slavery as God's will. But, it also seems to me that we haven't progressed much in abandoning fear of the Other, ( racism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia, viewing other religions as Satanic etc;).

The Pope's remarks are wonderfully trite.

The Pope just repeats insights that others have stated far more clearly and cogently.

It seems to me that what the Pope needs to do is actually go into the marketplace and talk to some ordinary people. He might, just then, have a better insight.


The point is that people equivocate the different forms of progress. They are not all unmitigated goods.

Who is the 'we' you refer to? If you're referring to the Church's teaching, then I'd have to say you've set up a pretty disfigured straw man to tear down.


The point is that the Pope has equivicated the various forms of progress.
They are not all unmitigated disasters.

The "we" is not the Church but humanity as a whole.

Don't forget that the Church was not sympathetic to democracy until fairly recently. It still isn't in its own governance. Also, while it did not specifically state that slavery or serfdom were ordained by God, it did not exactly condemn them either.

I would really like to see the theological reasoning behind upholding hiearchy.

( Dionysius doesn't count. His hiearchy is a contemplative one not a political one).

Spirit of Vatican II

I thought the quote from the Pope was very sad. Christianity in the early centuries distinguished itself from the Greco-Roman world by its vivid view of history as a progress. Only with the heavier emphasis on Original Sin brought in by Augustine did this view become compromised by a narrative of decline even post Christum adventum.

Benedict's doctorate and Habilitationsschrift deal with Augustine's and Bonaventure's outlooks on history, and in the latter his own thought has already entered a medieval twilight zone. The 13th century (meaning Bonaventure, not Joachim of Flora!) hardly offers a model of thinking about history and progress, since it was a century whose dominant intellectuals settled into a sort of ahistorical bliss.

If Benedict wants to talk from a 21st century vantage point, he should be aware that most progressive people are well aware that technological progress without ethical progress can lead to great evil. Talking down to progressive thinkers as if they were fools suggests that he has access to a source of insight beyond their ken. This is not Scripture, since Scripture has nourished many progressive ideologies; it is rather the mentality of the 13th century as revived by 19th century reactionaries.

A Christian who pooh-poohs progress is undercutting the Bible and the Jewish and Christian tradition of hope. Nothing could be further from the spirit of Vatican II.

"In the nineteenth century, faith in progress was already subject to critique." He is talking here about Catholic restorationism and reaction as represented by Joseph De Maistre.

"In the twentieth century, Theodor W. Adorno formulated the problem of faith in progress quite drastically: he said that progress, seen accurately, is progress from the sling to the atom bomb."

I always thought there was an affinity between Ratzinger and Adorno -- both write in the key of snooty knowing-better. Adorno is brilliant and always thought-provoking, but it is irresponsible of the Pope to give his wilful obiter dicta such exalted status -- in an Encyclical no less!

"a “Kingdom of God” accomplished without God—a kingdom therefore of man alone —inevitably ends up as the “perverse end” of all things as described by Kant: we have seen it, and we see it over and over again."

This is from someone who believes Liberation Theology has fallen for such man-alone views of the Kingdom. He fails to recognize the evangelical aspect of the labors for peace and justice carried out by people of good will everywhere.

Spirit of Vatican II

Earlier posts:

von Gemmingen talks (as he does often) complete nonsense.
Posted by: Stefan | February 06, 2009 at 10:08 PM
Joseph, thanks for linking to my Bilgrimage blog. I'm just now discovering your blog, through a comment on Bilgrimage.
I'm following the Commonweal to which you link with great interest. If you've followed my blog, you'll know I have been raising critical questions about the centrism of Commonweal and other leading American Catholic publications.
As I noted in another posting about this today, I find that centrism generally impervious to some of the voices I think the center most needs to hear, if the church is to be what it claims to be: catholic.
My initial impression as I scanned the discussion to which you link is surprise at the surprise expressed by some bloggers, re: the possibility that a pope could resign. My surprise at their surprise underscores for me the sense that some of these conversations are not ones in which some voices have a hearing.
Posted by: William D. Lindsey | February 07, 2009 at 03:11 AM
This blog brings new relevance to Matthew 24:28.
Posted by: Clayton | February 07, 2009 at 12:23 PM
Clayton, beware of the temptation to use biblical texts for the purpose of name-calling -- not the first time you have done it.
Stefan, von Gemmingen works for Vatican Radio. I would not be surprised if his musings turned out to reflect what some curial cardinals are muttering. It is widely reported that the Curia is very divided, especially in its rapports with the Pope.
Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II | February 07, 2009 at 01:21 PM
But who's the carcass?
Posted by: Brian | February 07, 2009 at 01:24 PM
It is amazing that the idea of papal resignation is taboo for so many. It shows how the centering of power in the Pope has obnubilated many Catholics. We see nothing unthinkable in MANDATORY retirement of bishops at 75, and we have forgotten that the Pope is a bishop, first among equals, ruling the Church in collegial solidarity with his fellow-bishops. The ultramontane concentration of power in the hands of the Pope has burdened the Pope with responsibilities he is not able to handle alone. Since episcopal appointments under John Paul II and Benedict have produced so many passive yes-men, and since the triennial Synods have been made into non-events, Benedict has no body of competent colleagues to consult even if he believed in consultation. The very bizarre figures who now prance around the Vatican in cappa magnas are burying confidence in Rome, and are a laughing stock throughout the Catholic world. But Benedict counts these flamboyant non-entities as his closest and most trusted confidants.
Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II | February 07, 2009 at 03:29 PM
For me it isnt taboo and I prefer especially Benedict to resign if he gets seriously ill or not anymore capable of doing his work.
But i dont think the idea would ever cross his mind esp. as reaction on a media campaign.
Posted by: Stefan | February 07, 2009 at 05:32 PM
Vatican II:
You're right. I should have made my point directly, rather than referencing a scripture.
I notice that rather than mentioning the request for prayer for the man occupying the see of Peter (in the clarification re: Williamson that was released by the Vatican) or encouraging such, you are engaging in political speculations/hopes for a change in leadership.
I know such a resignation would be allowed, but it seems to me that such a rumor is fostering further divisions in the Church. A change in leadership solely on the basis of the present difficulties would hardly guarantee an improved climate in the Curia. It seems to me that it would be, in present circumstances, demoralizing and might set back efforts of reform of the Curia.
Posted by: Clayton | February 07, 2009 at 06:47 PM
It seems to me that this episode is very illustrative of the crisis of authority in the Church.
Authority, ( backed by power), has been reduced to obedience.
That's a very weak form of authority.
True authority comes from service originating from humility resulting from an Encounter with the Sacred.
I think the last Pope who had this type of authority was John XXIII.
Posted by: evagrius | February 07, 2009 at 10:28 PM
Spirit of Vatican II, what a wonderful comment. You're right, the fact that some of us find unthinkable the thought of a pope resigning is a testament to what several generations of autocratic leadership in the church have accomplished.
If one considers that the papal ministry is primarily one of service--service to the unity of the church in particular--there is, on the face of it, no reason at all that resignations of popes couldn't be considered.
Particularly if, in the judgment of many, what a particular pope is accomplishing is not serving the unity of the church, or serving the church, at all . . . .
Posted by: William D. Lindsey | February 08, 2009 at 02:21 AM
You're assuming what Weakland assumed in his Common Ground initiative -- that the least common denominator of belief for all Catholics has anything in it of substance.
The question becomes: whose concept of unity is served? And to what end? Hope, unity, etc. are fine platitudes, but it would be helpful to attach some content to them.
Not everyone agrees that resignation would be a positive option. So is the unity to be served simply the unity of those who agree with the concept of resignation? Just asking the question...
Posted by: Clayton | February 08, 2009 at 02:39 AM
Papal authority also thrives on the exercise of solidarity and collegiality with one's fellow bishops. Benedict is the one who more than anyone else has undercut episcopal authority. His is book called Theologische Grundprinzipien, 1982 is a charter for the systematic hacking of the theological status and teaching capacity of bishops by the Vatican in a long string of interventions since then. Add to that the lameness of the Synods and the systematic appointment of weak yesmen as bishops worldwide, and it is no wonder that Benedict's own authority is depleted, since he has no episcopal college to consult, to interact with, and to be sustained by.
Clayton, I should attach hope to a concept of unity voiced by Vatican II when it promoted -- and enacted -- episcopal collegiality. Just return to the policies of Vatican II on that matter and the Church will know quite a lot of hope.
Why should Benedict resign? Because of his decades-long record of obstructing Vatican II and because of the impossibility of his now changing.
"I notice that rather than mentioning the request for prayer for the man occupying the see of Peter (in the clarification re: Williamson that was released by the Vatican) or encouraging such, you are engaging in political speculations/hopes for a change in leadership."
But we are already praying for B16 all the time -- at least in the Morning Offering and the Eucharistic Prayer. Maybe it is prayer that inspires the gentle suggestion that he resign, for his own good and the Church's?
Yes, it may be true that vultures are gathering around the carcass of the restorationist regime; but many of the so-called vultures are in near-despair over a Church that the regime is doing much to destroy. Confidence in the Church has fallen in Italy from 58% to 36% in the last two years. In the USA one third of Catholics are ex-Catholics (despite replenishment of their numbers by immigrants) according to a Pew poll. Go figure! Enough is enough.
Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II | February 09, 2009 at 01:19 AM
It is rather morose of me to devote a post to the miserable neocaths, ever more confined to their bunkers marked ENTRY BANNED. Can one know hope as well as Schadenfreude? Is a Kairos truly upon us?
One of the talking points of the neocaths is that they represent ardent youth whereas the Vatican II generation are graying, disillusioned, washed-out reliquia from an epoch rightly dumped in the rubbish-bin of history.
But, lo!, while the neocaths retire ever deeper into their twilight zone, hugging their Cheney teddy bears, a new generation of bloggers has arisen! Like the Democrat Party they have been slow in getting on their feet, and too often it has seemed that "the best lack all conviction". But now the momentum seems to be on their side at last. And, lo!, the theme of their discourse is: SAVE VATICAN II!
Here is the petition from theologians and Christians in Germany, Austria and Switzerland for the full implementation of Vatican II.
"The papal cancellation of the excommunication of bishops from The Society of St. Pius X signifies the reception into full communion with the See of Rome those who have consistently opposed the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.
"Regarding the anti-Semitic remarks and the denial of the German national-socialist persecution of the Jews by Bishop Richard Williamson and his followers, we share the indignation of our Jewish sisters and brothers. Moreover, we state that the SSPX’s attitude towards Judaism does not correspond to the Council’s understanding of and commitment to Jewish-Christian dialogue. We support the recent statements of Bishops’ Conferences, and others, all over the world, on this issue. We also welcome the recent statements made on these matters by Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican’s Secretariate of State.
"We believe that the close correlation between the excommunication's cancellation and the 50th anniversary of the calling of a General Council of the Church by Blessed Pope John XXIII gives a clear indication of the direction which the present Papacy wishes to take. We sense a desire to return to a pre Vatican II Church with its fear of openness to the breath of the Holy Spirit, a positive appreciation of 'the signs of the times', and the values of democratic institutions.
"We are very concerned that this act of rehabilitation heralds a turn-around on important documents of Vatican II, for example, the decree on ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio, the declaration on non-Christian religions, Nostra Aetate, the declaration on religious liberty, Dignitatis Humanae, and the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes. Such an act will have a disastrous effect on the credibility of the Roman-Catholic Church. For Catholics who love their Church, the price is too high!
"The Pope hopes this act will help unify the Church. However we think it is particularly outrageous that the Vatican's renewed overtures to a schismatic traditionalist movement have been undertaken without the imposition of any conditions whatsoever. In June 2008, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Lefebvre’s excommunication, the SSPX rejected the invitation of the Holy See towards theological reconciliation. Likewise, the fraternity rejected the invitation to sign a five-topic declaration containing conditions for its re-integration in the Roman Church.
"A return to full communion with the Catholic Church can only be made possible if the documents and teachings of the Second Vatican Council are fully accepted without any reservations, as requested by the motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum, on the topic of the Tridentine rite. It is also imperative that the papal ministries of Blessed Pope John XXIII, Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul I, Pope John Paul II, and Pope Benedict XVI are recognised and accepted.
"The Church of Rome, perceived as the Barque of St Peter, lists heavily as long as the Vatican:
-- only rehabilitates the ‘lost sheep’ at the traditionalist edge of the Church, and makes no similar offer to other excommunicated or marginalised Catholics
-- persists in preventing progressive theologians from teaching
-- refuses dialogue with all movements in the Church"
We Are Church UK 5 February 2009
Admittedly, the petitioners may be pensioners for all I know, but the memory of Vatican II seems to be reviving like an accusing ghost at the very moment when restorationism is in its last shameful throes. Young people cannot fully appreciate what the betrayal of Vatican II by a restorationist clique has done to the Catholic Church, but even their -- excuse me -- gullibility is given pause when they see the ultramontanists lining up to pooh-pooh criticism of the red carpet for negationists.
Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II | February 09, 2009 at 02:08 AM


If Obama were Pope, first, he would no longer use our money on economic issues but to promote abortions throughout the whole Christian world. He would proclaim himself as the new messiah (as many people called him); and from this authority he would change some parts of Bible which do not fit with the current society, like the right of life, homosexualism and profit. So, we would no longer feel ashamed of our sins; Actually, he would explain that religion is not that important anyway, so everyone is allowed to choose by themselves from an early age, so in the end Catholicism would become just a distraction for weekends, for some ignorant people who cannot see the marvelousness of our economic-moral society.


A very peculiar view but not uncommon.


"It all came to a head because one of these bishops had the audacity to virtually deny the Holocaust."

## How is that any different from denying the orthodoxies of of RCism ? Certain features of the Shoah have become orthodoxies as binding, and as punishable, as any Papal or Conciliar definition. I have little respect for the Pope we have - I have none for the self-appointed popelets who pontificate in his stead.

This new, secular, orthodoxy is fiercer than the one it replaces - for even the expression of opinions is forbidden. And that is all the bishop was uttering: his opinions. They do not even have anything to do with the reasons that caused the rupture between Rome & the SSPX.

Bishop Williamson was restored to communion with the CC. The CC does not make anything relating to the Shoah a test of faith. So where the Catholic Faith is concerned, the bishop's opinions on the Shoah are therefore totally irrelevant; they could not be of less importance. If the world cannot tell the difference between restoring a bishop to communion with the CC - something that has often happened - and giving comfort to Shoah-deniers, that is no fault of the Pope's. At least in this matter, the Pope has done nothing to apologise for; but has acted with the pastoral solicitude his position requires of him; Popes are meant to end schisms.

The comments to this entry are closed.


Blog powered by Typepad