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March 03, 2009


Spirit of Vatican II

I certainly do think that the crusade against Liberation Theology was, at the very least, in accord with right-wing wishes. Certainly Liberation Theology had its weaknesses (corrected by voices from the Indian Christian tradition- Mar Osthathios' Theology of a Classless Society is based on Trinitarion theology and I notice that some Latin American Liberation theologians have adopted similar approaches), but it was addressing a very real crisis that is still present.

Interestingly enough, the attacks on Liberation Theology were occuring at the same time that Michael Novak was attempting to give a theological veneer to what he termed "democratic capitalism". I don't think Novak was ever corrected by the Vatican, despite his feeble Christology and ignoring of basic Catholic social principles, (which formed much of the New Deal).

The alliance between the political right-wing and Catholic conservatives has some interesting effects.

Basically, according to an opinion by Mike Liccione, ( see his Sacramentum Vitae, Feb 21, 2009, remarks in the combox), Church authorities have written off the Baby Boomers and are making their bets on the generations born after Ronald Reagan.

If this is true, then Church authorities have essentially abandoned their vocation.

Posted by: evagrius | March 03, 2009 at 01:53 AM

Joseph, thank you very much for linking to my posting.
I am struck by your last comment, Evagrius. This seems to me to be a point that needs emphasis: in writing off millions of Catholics of the Vatican II generation in Western nations, the pastoral leaders of the Catholic church are fundamentally abandoning their calling to be pastors--good shepherds.

Posted by: William D. Lindsey | March 03, 2009 at 08:23 AM

For those who see a world-wide apostasy, I wonder, if you've been reciting the New Testament at mass all these years, how is it that the vast majority of those who have been listening are now "apostasizing"? I think what people like Biffi are clutching most firmly is a philosophy, not Jesus of the Gospels.

Posted by: Brian | March 03, 2009 at 07:04 PM

What the Cardinal does not see, since he presumably cannot dialogue with gays, is that the call for gay marriage is the result of a huge conversion to the gospel values of love and fidelity among gays, with no help from the hierarchy.

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II | March 03, 2009 at 07:07 PM

Interesting about Biffi. He seems concerned about "Arianism" yet doesn't see how its opposite is just as dangerous.

There's a peculiar angelism in his thought.

I'm always fascinated by the notion of "pansexualism", a notion that I do quite understand. Those denouncing it never seem to realize its presence is due to the consumer culture that must sexualize everything in order to stimulate desire and therefore consuming.

As for homosexuality, I find it interesting that one of the passages he quotes from Paul regarding it also condemns greed (as idolatry), yet he says nothing about this.

Posted by: evagrius | March 03, 2009 at 11:49 PM

Why should we be surprised that about half the leaders in our church and society are unwilling to recognize the writing on the wall - this has always been that way frankly.

Progress has always been a labor of love - perhaps lets look at the ark of history and take joy in the fact that as a free society we are inching towards greater equality and freedom. Gays will be fully integrated -not because of ignorant society and religion but despite.

But yes we all have to work very very hard to make this happen. History is on our side.

Posted by: Grega | March 04, 2009 at 08:07 AM

"Progress has always been a labor of love" says Grega. Yes, and the labors of the obstructionists and reactionaries who have bullied the Church for thirty years are a labor of fear. Allegedly they stood at the head of an armada of ardent youth, and even if that was not so obvious in the developed countries, they assured us that Catholicism was booming in the poorer countries thanks to their firm leadership. What leadership? John Paul II's mass rallies were as ephemeral as a summer storm. The statistics about vocations in Africa or elsewhere are probably cooked. In any case, whatever questions bother western liberals are also bothering the educated in those countries too. There is a smug and patronizing colonialism implicit in the attitude of treating those countries as reservoirs of the "simple faithful" now that Poland and Ireland no longer fit that role.

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II | March 04, 2009 at 05:12 PM

Curiously, the translation website babelfish.yahoo.com translates "la Fraternité sacerdotale Saint Pie X" as "the sacerdotal Fraternity of Saint Magpie X".

Wikipedia notes that the Magpie is the only non-mammal known to be able to recognise itself in a mirror.

Posted by: Brian | March 05, 2009 at 06:26 AM

Interesting essay by Eamon Duffy in the Tablet;


Posted by: evagrius | March 05, 2009 at 12:47 PM

I was struck by this passage in Duffy:

"Six weeks after his election, the greatest of all modern popes (AMEN!), Paul VI, jotted down some notes on the burden he had assumed. The post, he wrote, 'is unique. It brings great solitude. I was solitary before, but now my solitariness becomes complete and awesome. Jesus was alone on the cross... My solitude will grow. I need have no fears; I should not seek outside help to absolve me from my duty. My duty is to plan, decide, assume every responsibility for guiding others, even when it seems illogical and perhaps absurd. And to suffer alone... me and God. The colloquy must be full and endless.'

"That is a noble vision of the papacy, one conceived as service, not as power, but it is emphatically not one conceived as a partnership with others. It would be a crass sensibility which was not moved by the fidelity and courage in Christian discipleship which underlay Pope Paul's vision, but at the risk of crassness one is bound to note that it is, in the long run, derived at least in part from an understanding of the nature and origin of the papacy which is just plain wrong. In the alternative story, papal authority is not the lonely prerogative of an individual, the inevitably singular burden of the apostle, but the focusing in one man of something which inheres in the whole community, and which from the beginning was exercised, and transmitted to the present, collectively or collegially."

As most of my theological studies have been concerned with the first four Christian centuries, I do feel that the titanic mythic proportions the papacy as assumed represent a fundamentally unwholesome development. A real "purification of memory" such as John Paul II called for would entail going back to question the arrogation of power by Gregory VII, Innocent III and many Popes since, or going back even further to query the legacy of Constantine and Theodosius.

Colleen Kochivar- Baker

Joseph, thank you for linking to my blog. I have no doubt that rightwing forces were at play in the Vatican with the repeated attacks on liberation theology and I can't forget that the vision of church as espoused by the Oriental church also came under attack at the same time.

In both cases the Church that was being defined essentially taught that the flow should be from the bottom up, not the top down.

In reality they were describing a circle, with Jesus at the center and everything else flowing from the center outward.

Oh that the Vatican could see any other geometrical shape but the pyramid. :)

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