Monday, January 9, 2006

Pope Says It’s Time to Correct the Excesses of Vatican II—but You Haven’t Heard it from Either Establishment Church or Secular Media

The reason I am pleased to serve as Chicago correspondent for The Wanderer, the oldest Catholic newspaper in the U. S. is that this is one of very few authentically Catholic publications that doesn’t act like a house organ. It was the only American publication, incidentally, that went directly to John Paul II’s office (another copy going to the nearby room of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger) so that when you wrote for it, you had a fairly good chance that somebody with the power to change would get an eyeful. There are noticeable events when the delineation of a particular abuse in The Wanderer served as prelude to crackdown from Rome. For that reason, a number of my priest friends who want to stay on good terms with the bishopric hierarchy say they smuggle contraband copies or receive it in the mail in a plain brown wrapper.

This week The Wanderer reports exclusively, I am delighted to say, on Benedict’s third major address to the Curia (the Vatican bureaucracy). The Pope says frankly that, in the words of Paul Likoudis’ news story, “erroneous interpretations of Vatican II that have divided and weakened the Church must be corrected.” Likoudis, the news editor of The Wanderer, writes that “in particular he took aim at the so-called `spirit’ that has led to numerous novelties not authorized by the documents of Vatican II and the jettisoning of traditions, particularly in the liturgy, not anticipated by the Council Fathers.” I’m really quite surprised that the National Catholic Reporter who, for all its liberalism, has the services of an outstanding Vatican reporter, John Allen, hasn’t commented on this. As a friend points out, it is of less importance that the media gets it than the bishops do. Perhaps but The Wanderer appears to be the only definitive source of the Pope’s lesson on this point. It appears the lesson from Benedict differs from the lessons provided by John Paul.

To those who believe that the late John Paul II should be called “the Great” in line with Leo and Gregory, I have no objection but am no strenuous advocate because both the naming of a number of insouciant bishops and toleration of some spectacular weaknesses of the liturgy came on his watch. That his public persona, eloquent advocacy of pro-life and his stunning exemplar that helped overthrow communism, cannot be underestimated: I am merely citing the record. Liturgy seemed not to be his thing. Not so with Benedict, evidently—more with the liturgy than the appointment of bishops, particularly the one he named as his successor on enforcing observance of Catholic doctrine (but we’ll wait). Benedict has been making a particular issue of the misinterpretations of Vatican II beginning with his address to the College of Cardinals after his election, then in his homily December 8 and now, on December 22. We’ll have to see where this leads but it is remarkable, is it not, that the U.S. media, both religious and secular, haven’t picked this up. The forces of quiet, Italianiate rebellion against Rome came to a head here a number of years ago with Joseph Cardinal Bernardin who constructed his own variant of church dogma, endorsing the linkage of nuclear freeze, anti-death penalty and pro-life to become a trinity of doctrines under the rubric “Seamless Garment” which gave a pass to liberal Democrats who could subscribe to at least two out of three. After I wrote about this in the Tribune many years ago with some criticism I received a strictly-worded admonition from His Eminence whose underlings verbally tossed around the word “anathema”—a technical term just short of excommunication. We exchanged letters on this and another item: his speech in Jerusalem in which he declared that the Apostle John, who had recorded an interaction between Jesus and a subset of Jewish critics, could have been an anti-Semite. In my response (with which I had scholarly help) I pointed out that this was frankly outrageous since the gospel appears to have been written by a Jew, by one who knew the Jews and the Palestine of Jesus’ day well, knew Jewish messianic expectations, the importance to religious schools, the way the Sabbath was observed, aware, for example that the obligation to circumcise on the eighth day overrode Sabbath regulations. A letter came promptly to me avoiding much comment on my view concerning John but on my criticism of his seamless garment theory conveying severe criticism.

(Interesting thing about that letter: it came to me in a huge manila envelope but the letter was only one and a half pages single-spaced. When I dumped the contents of the manila envelope, it turned out that some clerk had lumped the entire file used to prepare his answer, which produced superb reading. It turns out the archdiocesan ranking theologian had done the draft of the letter scoring me for theological near heresy which language Bernardin had adopted into his own letter. I had the pleasure of returning the contents to His Eminence with the notation that for the most part I write my own stuff. It was followed up by a handwritten apology signifying that the disagreement was over and a suggestion that as soon as he got out of the hospital where he was going for a checkup we would get together at his insistence to make peace. The verdict from his doctors, however, was that he had terminal cancer which, understandably, captured his full attention. He was an archbishop who had attracted wide celebrity and following beyond Catholic membership: May he rest in peace).

Meanwhile thus far—and I’ve been at this two years—The Wanderer shows a superb tolerance for my dissection of the Daley organization headed by a mayor who wears his Irish Catholicism on his sleeve, garnering what votes come from it, but who has no compunction about supporting the most egregiously anti-Catholic, if I may say so, destructive cultural elements in society. But perhaps I am becoming combative in my old age. If any of our Catholic readers want to subscribe to The Wanderer, let me know and I will be happy to arrange it.

1 comment:

  1. Thaks for the blog on the Pope's comments. You are right. I have not seen this featured in the media.