Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Flashback: More About Fr. Godfrey’s Quiet Insurrection that Turned the Church Militant to Politically Liberal Militant--Influencing Gene McCarthy and Many Others.

[More from fifty years of politics written for my kids and grandchildren].

Its Deceptive “Theology” as Return to Antiquity.

The purpose of this exercise in theology as propounded…sometimes “reported” as theological history, sometimes “explained,” sometimes shrugged off as actual occurrence with no contradiction…by Godfrey Diekmann OSB…is to emphasize the thinking of Gene McCarthy who was far from a passive auditor of lectures but a decided force of his own in the liberal Church. We have seen that Fr. Godfrey’s theology was, if not anti-hierarchal, very liberating for individual action. He was one of a group of progressive theologians who opposed Paul VI’s “Humanae Vitae”. If Godfrey agreed with his Church on abortion, his views were not forcefully presented. See how doubt is sown subtly.

Notice there is no real dogmatic insistence, just the recitation of what “modern scholarship tells us.” Read and pretend it’s the lecture.

1. “You will see, gentlemen, that far from the hierarchical rigidity we have today, the idea of a laity that we have today, a laity distinct from the clergy is foreign to the New Testament. Now was ordination a specifically hierarchical process. Latest scholarship shows that rather than the Apostles formally ordaining priests and deacons, priests and deacons were probably ordained by the entire congregation rather by the laying on of hands by the Twelve. Result: at one happy time for all, the ancient Church was a fervent democracy.”

2. “Now about so-called apostolic succession…you see this is often
misunderstood. What does it mean, exactly, gentlemen? Now there is no mention of the laying on of hands by Christ when the apostles were chosen, but it is a fact that the laying on of hands was a gesture used for many purposes in Judeo and Christian scriptures— and they include healing, blessing, baptizing. There is no mention in Scripture of Jesus laying his hands on the apostles when they were chosen.”

3. “It may interest you to know, gentlemen, that since Paul and Barnabas were not members of the Twelve, as you know, neither does it appear that they were appointed by the Twelve. Why as Professor Raymond Brown in your text points out, Paul may have appointed presbyter-bishops but there is no evidence the Twelve did.”

4. “Now you have heard that Peter founded the Church in Rome—but modern scholarship makes that extremely doubtful or that he even served as its first bishop as we use the term today. We know this because the liturgical celebration which marks the ascent of Peter to the Roman church as its head did not make its appearance until the 4th century at the earliest.”

Thus the impression was given that the bishops were not chosen by the apostles to preside over the community. They were elected by the community in the community’s role as Christ—and then honored as Christ honored the Father. “It is important to consider, gentlemen, that just as Jesus followed the Father’s will and was not subordinate to him, neither is the community subordinate to the bishop.

“Thus the way to virtue is through the grace you receive and your willingness to lay before the altar of the electorate your wish to serve.”

The Deceptive Theology for Women Priests:

“Why He Made No Men Priests!”

By this time we have pretty well determined ecclesiastical authority in favor of a community…and a community which is nebulous…so that the individual undertakes to impress his will on the community.

Doubt reigns—and where doubt reigns, it is up to the individual to undertake to be the Church. Now let us consider the role of women in the Church.

Gentlemen, we know that Christ healed the woman who suffered from a discharge of blood (Mk 5;25-34). We learn from Leviticus 15:24-30 that the woman approached Jesus and touched his garments before she could be restrained. There were no hierarchical officials around to prevent the woman from touching him any more than there were to oppose his dealing with outcasts. Why Matthew tells us there were four women approaching him all of whom had some hint of scandal in their lives. So there is nothing in the gospels to imply that Chrisgt held any of the vile attitudes current today about female inferiority. These views, it is clear, came from others—bishops, theologians and even saints who thought they knew better than the gospels. He left it there but would return: the rationale for women priests.

Aha! Perhaps a kid would ask: Father, if Christ loved women so much why didn’t he make one of them priests?

The answer: why, as theologian Raymond Brown reminds us, he did not make any man a priest either! Why should he do for Mary Magdalen what he didn’t do for Peter? We do not hear of individual priests but only the priesthood of the whole Christian community (I Peter 2:5).

The Final Challenge to Authority: Humanae Vitae.

Later…when Gene McCarthy and others have left St. John’s for the world…came “Humane Vitae” the declaration from Paul VI against artificial contraception. Here Godfrey was consulted long before the issuance of the document and like many others, Godfrey thought sure the ruling would come down in favor of contraception. And it very nearly did. A good many Catholic liberals…the Crowleys of Chicago, founders of the Christian Family Movement (parents of many)…all pressed for Paul to change. When he backed up and didn’t, there was great bitterness. Godfrey would come out against the encyclical letter but this is how he believed.

“You see, gentlemen, Paul was trapped by his and his predecessors’ earlier statements. The issue is not sexuality; the issue is the church’s authority in the modern world. Pius XI had issued `Casti Connubii’ which tied everything in one big ball of wax—church, hierarchal authority to birth control. Everything was riding on it. Then came Pius XII with his incessant condemnation of birth control. Thus Paul VI could not go back without harming, in his view, the moral authority of the Church. We have seen how papal infallibility came about—from Vatican I which adjourned in a haste before it could be amended. Now armed with this…this…doctrine, Paul, garbed in his robe of “infallibility” had to plunge forward.”

Notice not a word from this theologian about the moral underpinnings of opposition to artificial contraception. Not a mention that the Church has always taught…always…that all forms of contraception—including contraceptive sterilization…are objectively wrong by the natural law that Godfrey was supposed to invoke and which he doubted, evidently.

The natural law that teaches contraception is separation of love from life, the willful separation of the unitive and procreative aspects of the sexual act where God ordained they be intrinsically united. Nowhere is the point better made than in “Humanae Vitae”—which Godfrey wouldn’t teach, that to quote the encyclical—

“each and every marriage act must remain open to the transmission of life. That teaching often set forth by the Magisterium, is founded upon the inseparable connection, willed by God and unable to be broken by man on his own initiative, between the two meanings of the conjugal act: the unitive meaning and the procreative meaning. Indeed, by its intimate structure, the conjugal act while most closely uniting husband and wife, capacitates them for the generation of new lives, according to laws inscribed in the very being of man and woman.”

The contraceptive ethic that denies life is always good, prepared the ground for legalized abortion—and beyond. Since once abortion had accustomed people to the idea that burdensome lives are not worth living the way was cleared for euthanasia as a cure for the aged and “useless.”

By the dynamic 1950s and `60s with the undertow from Vatican II, he

taught that Church theology depended on three legs…the Papacy…the consortium of bishops…and theologians.

That, with luck, could give Godfrey’s liberals two votes out of three. And even if they lost, the challenge to hierarchy was a great boon. Dissent could make all the difference…on abortion…on a “just war”…on the necessity to harness the state to fighting poverty…on the just policy of requiring the rich to forfeit their gains to help the government help the poor. And he did it not as the official apostate priest Luther did—hammering out theses on a church door. Godfrey did it in the classroom and by the magical gift of charming personality that he had…which influenced men the nation over.

All the while, unenlightened by practical, hard-working, secularly scheming Hubert was trying to attain all that he could be, these thoughts were shaping the ineffably intellectual musings of Eugene McCarthy.

Next: McCarthy is promoted to Ways and Means—a big step forward to prestige.

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