A. Yes but as with everything else in the Vatican I feel there’s a great gap between the Pope’s brilliant analysis of the problem and the Italianate comme si, comme sa dilatoriness to get things done. Eternity means nothing to a Roman. If we don’t get to it in the 21st century, it may be accomplished in the 22nd.Q. Why do you say that?
A. All you have to know about the Vatican’s tending to detailed matters is the almost daily embarrassment ofL’Osservatore Romano. It is either the official newspaper of the Vatican or it isn’t. . It gets first dibs on all the official news which other papers don’t, which tells you it’s the official paper; but it has a variant theology of its own in contradiction to the Church’s as to the pesky details as to when to pull the plug on life… as well as a predilection for listing the Top 10 rock and roll albums of all time which tells you it isn’t.Q. …which means?
A. Which means if the Pope as Bishop of Rome, the Vicar of Christ on earth and the Visible Head of the Church can’t get the issue of the Vatican newspaper clarified can we imagine the Church will get to seminarian formation? Let us pray he will. Anyhow I started thinking about this in a strikingly unusual way.Q. How do?
A. With the very revelatory article written by John Allen in of all things The National Catholic Reporter. I admit it’s strange for an authenticist Catholic to begin there.Q. Good grief man, are you mad?
A. Not that I am aware. Allen contrasts two views—Benedict’s and that of Dominican priest Thomas Doyle who has been studying the crisis for years. Benedict is indubitably right. He goes straight to the heart of the problem—in “priestly formation” i.e. the theology taught in seminaries and lays the blame where it belongs on the heretical dogma of relativism which by downplaying good and evil and in Allen’s words “treating morality as a matter of weighing consequences” the door was opened to “justifying gravely immoral behavior including the sexual exploitation of minors.” Allen you see ran a seminar on the issue with George Weigel.Q. Of the two I take it you favor Weigel.
A. Wrong. Weigel is a brilliant writer but far too much a Company Man. His biography of John Paul is well-written but at the same time is evasive.Q. Evasive? How so?
A. In that Weigel never examined thoroughly the anomaly of John Paul’s appointment of so many substandard bishops. Weigel is a very good writer of an authorized biography. I’ve had some experience with him in at least one address where both Henry Hyde and I felt he was too much a shill for the bishops. Of the two I’d rather believe Allen. Weigel has a better spiritual formation but he’s still a Company Man.Q. And what is Doyle’s approach?
A. It’s procedural which is correct as far as it goes but is unsatisfactory since it doesn’t pinpoint the root cause: the faulty theology beginning in the `60s that permeated the seminaries. He complains that Benedict hasn’t met with a sufficient number of victims, that the Church accuses the media too much, seems to shift uneasily, assailing Jeff Anderson the personal injury lawyer for allegedly seeking to prosper with the lawsuits, blaming the duplicitousness and manipulativeness of Church legal counsels. As a Chicagoan who has seen professional parsing carried to its highest pinnacle, I have no doubt he’s right but it doesn’t begin to rectify the situation as the Pope’s analysis has. But while I think the Pope’s analysis is the right one, no one has come out with the brutal facts.Q. …which are?
A. The lavender seminaries which is the root of the problem. The Pope has identified it somewhat when he talks about spiritual formation that has been lacking. While not all homosexuals are same-sex pedophiles, all same-sex pedophiles are homosexuals. Thus the job is to fight this trend in the seminaries even though the fashion in this country is to regard all criticism of homosexuality as homophobic.
Q. How can this reform be accomplished without being assailed in this world of cultural ferment?
A. It can’t. That’s why the reform is not for bishops who wish to be loved by all. When you get a bishop who wishes to establish the reform and is willing to be assailed in the secular media he will recognize It can be fought in two ways—first , forthright denial of the heretical Fundamental Option theory that unless one totally rejects God no mortal sin can be committed. On this premise no sexual immoralist can commit grave sin unless he abjures God. Second the reaffirmation that any misuse of the sexual function outside the marriage bond is a mortal sin. That goes for sin committed in private—masturbation. Human sexuality pertains to marriage in the context of procreation and mutual love in the physical relationship.Q. So in summary you say the Pope has identified the solution.
A. He has indeed. Fr. Doyle runs away from it. I don’t think Allen faces up to it and Weigel doesn’t really want to tread in this deep water. But Benedict has the vision if he will only carry it out. Pronouncements aren’t enough. I am confident this can be done but then I look at L’Osservatore Romano, remember the Italianate and Roman procrastination and maneuvering (perhaps some Cardinal’s nephew is involved) and grow despondent.