The State of Rome in the U.S.

John Fea thinks this exchange between Stephen Coulbert Colbert and Garry Wills exhibits on Wills’ side a low church evangelical outlook. When I watched it, it sounded more like Luther. When do evangelicals ever invoke Augustine against transubstantiation — “to think we consume and eliminate the body of Christ”? No mention here of a conversion experience or sola Scriptura (though Wills does seem to know the Bible better than Coulbert Colbert who opened a can of worms when invoking Hebrews on Melchizedek).

What is worth noting is that both of these men grew up in the Roman Catholic church, still identify with Rome, and could not be more at odds on the very matters of faith that make Roman Catholicism Roman Catholic.

Update: and here is a Lutheran video, approved, recommended, and circulated by Fr. Z, that supports what the interview with Wills reveals.

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  1. sean
    Posted February 28, 2013 at 6:42 pm | Permalink


    No question. If they could return to a conciliar type of construction sans the theological liberalism of someone like Kung, not that Ratzinger is a theological conservative by our judgement, you might actually get some honest brokering and Rome could really benefit. There’s also the catch 22 of the gay clergy for Ratzinger and the CTC type traditionalists, who are honestly appalled by the homosexuality and the sexual deviants, but without those guys administering the faith and filling the pulpit you can’t have a Tridentine type RC. Irony of Ironies, without the influx of gay clergy and religious it’s quite possible Ratzinger and his ilk might already be a dinosaur. That’s why for all of Ratzinger’s hard-line stance, he never actually put into action any reforms against it. He just told them to stop it. It’s not a solution they can solve apart from permitting the clergy to marry and even then, this generation will have to be weeded out and the religious orders will have to no longer be inviting opportunities for people who want to live alternative lifestyles and don the collar or habit.

  2. Posted February 28, 2013 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

    Sean, but doesn’t Kung’s reading produce folks like Bryan Cross. See how conservative the papacy is? See how they’ve put Vatican 2 behind?

  3. sean
    Posted February 28, 2013 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

    Darryl, of course it does. That’s why it can’t come from a liberal like Kung. But, if what Kung is saying about the historic nature of Gregorian reform is accurate and since both Ratzinger and Kung are imbibing a liberal theology but with different points of departure, people like Cross would no longer have a “principled” objection if the tradition “recovered” a more primitive understanding of church heirarchy. Plus what is Bryan gonna do, if it’s a conservative pope like Ratzinger, who concedes the reforms like Kung has championed? If the historical perspective, which is what Kung is hanging his hat on, is that medieval rome is the anomaly, the departure, then his liberal theology never comes into play. Plus, what’s liberal in RC about arguing for an openness of practice and a listening to the movement of God amongst the laity as the people of God, to include those not in perfect communion. That’s not liberal in RC theology. That’s VAT II. Ratzinger says the VAT II of JPII’s reign was a myth, Ratzinger is wrong, the documents favor Kung.

  4. sean
    Posted March 2, 2013 at 11:21 am | Permalink


    Here’s an article that ties together, the Soviet Union comparison, the Too Long to Tweet post, and what will be the ultimate failure of the CTC brand of RC.

    …………To find a deeper reading of Benedict’s motivation for leaving the office he seemed to seek with a Teutonic lack of subtlety eight years ago, look no further than the Vatileaks scandal that symbolized the changing age, whose premonitory tremors then-theologian Joseph Ratzinger first felt a few years after the Second Vatican Council came to a close.

    He thought, according to the London Tablet Rome correspondent Robert Mickens, that the often chaotic student protests that swept across Western Europe in the spring of 1968 mirrored the adjustment, undisciplined as he viewed it, that swept across the church immediately after the council. Ratzinger stopped speaking with his colleague Hans Kung and moved away from the progressive positions he had espoused enthusiastically as an expert at the council to criticize that gathering — as he has to this day — as a “rupture” with tradition that needed a new interpretation of “continuity” with the past.

    ……Within a few years John Paul II persuaded Ratzinger to join him in Rome, making him the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and working with him to begin the gradual repeal of Vatican II’s reforms that Benedict has continued through what has come to be known as the “reform of the reform,” whose main goal of restoring the church to earlier practices and discipline is also a principal objective of the Year of Faith he recently initiated.

    The butler did it; that is, served as an emblem of the crumbling of the hierarchical structures that Benedict has insisted on, so that, along with what Saul Bellow once called the “first frosts of old age,” he has sensed deep within himself the irrevocable process of change that he may delay but cannot, in the long run, reverse.”

    …………We must recall that Benedict is a sensitive man, a lover of Mozart, a pianist of accomplishment, a man given to meditation, and, as such, attuned more finely than the average bishop to the changes that other artists (such as Picasso and Matisse) had heralded in the early 20th century in their rejection of old forms as unable to express the meaning of new times. World War I dealt a death blow to the hierarchical forms of European monarchies, and the 20th century will one day be understood as a long battle about how and whether humans stand on the same plain of humanity with each other or not.

    When Vatileaks, with its embarrassing tales of ecclesiastical political intrigue and financial misdeeds, was identified as the work of a member of the papal household, it was clear that, as the Soviet Union learned after the Chernobyl disaster, the Vatican could no longer control information.

    As the crack in Soviet management of information was a measure of its collapsing hierarchical structures, so, too, Vatileaks signaled that the hierarchical form was dysfunctional, that the framework Benedict was so determined to restore was coming apart in slow motion deep within the Vatican itself. “

  5. sean
    Posted March 2, 2013 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    The article also sheds light on the nature of JPII and Ratzinger’s relationship, that once was embodied by a kindred spirit, but as JPII’s rein carried on and JPII became more accomodating of the reforms and modernity, upon his death, Ratzinger actually lobbied for the job with the intent of “turning the ship around.”

  6. Posted March 2, 2013 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    Sean, wow.

  7. Posted March 2, 2013 at 8:29 pm | Permalink


    The first comment on the article you linked to was priceless:

    Benedict/Ratzinger loved/loves the church, no doubt. But it is the church as his construct that he loves. Like the platonist that he is he attempted to recreate like a sculptor, like the artists Mr Kennedy refers to, what he envisaged. It is the model of Dostoyevsky’s “Grand Inquisitor”, not the returning Jesus; it is a church of order, control and invulnerability, one of empire that would sacriface women, children, us for the sake of the construction of what he and his Augustine, called, mistakenly, the city of God. It became “smaller”, “leaner”, more exclusive, strident as it became to be untenable, less relevant. Instead of acknowledging their wrongness, they established a tighter coterie of princely fanatics and an imaginary enemy – the world. Instead of being a “field” for sowing and nurturing, it became a field of battle he and they denied and cursed, rather than engaged. It is ironic that he will “retreat” into a “castle”, the “donjon” of the vatican, surrounded by a final vestage, not of noble knights but fragile, submissive, traditional women – who know thier place in his church, his world.
    It is too soon to be kind to Ratzinger/Benedict. His contribution – positive and negative must be dispassionately drawn out and challenged before the gloss completely hides the harm he and his coterie have caused to the work of Jesus in the world. Before the value of the tradition which he attempted to “recreate” as if it were church can be appreciated, its incongruity and wrongness must be acknowledged.

  8. sean
    Posted March 4, 2013 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    Somebody correct me If I’m wrong, but I believe this is the highest ranking RC clergy to ever admit to homosexual behavior(he’s not the only guilty one that’s for sure). I could be wrong, but I think the others have only been implicated in cover up of pedophillic behavior and not actual participation of unchaste and/or homosexual behavior. The RC church in Britain and Ireland have really been having a rough year. Also interesting to note that before Ratzinger promoted him, he had to change his tune on celibacy of the priesthood and the propriety of homosexual relationships. As I’d noted, counter JPII’s declarations on sexuality, most of the novitiate and seminarians were being indoctrinated in a view of the viability of homosexual relations amongst the clergy as being of a different and allowable scruple to their vows of chastity, which is why Ratzinger had to actually issue a decree repealing such an understanding and insist that all clergy affirm both the impropriety of homosexual activity-homosexuality is a sin and that gay marriage was a sin. It’s a real life La Cage aux Folles

  9. sean
    Posted March 4, 2013 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    BTW, now we are locating knowledge within the Vatican. The four victimized priests, one of which by the way wasn’t offended so much by the homosexual nature of the activity but that it was unwanted, unsolicited and being committed by a superior, all reported the cardinal’s behavior to the Vatican’s ambassador to Great Britain. The next step, I’m sure, will be; what did Antonio Mennini do with the information…………………………………. Ratzinger may want to leave Vatican city after all.

  10. sean
    Posted March 8, 2013 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    Good overview article. Including the clerical crisis, the issue of women’s roles, the troublesome Italian curia and the financial concerns.

  11. Posted March 8, 2013 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    “The RC church in Britain and Ireland have really been having a rough year.”

    Make that a rough 500 years…

  12. Posted March 8, 2013 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    It’s interesting to watch the media speculate on the big changes that may be coming to Catholicism while at the same time hearing from Bryan Cross & the CTC crew that Rome does not change and does not need to change.

  13. Posted March 8, 2013 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    Maybe they should just close down the Vatican and make the CTC website the new infallible protector of the Catholic faith. Problems solved.

  14. Posted March 8, 2013 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    Speaking of websites, I read this nugget in issue 2.1 of the NTJ last night:

    “In case you were wondering Old Life Theological Society t-shirts are still available for $10, while a year’s subscription and one t-shirt costs $15. (At least we don’t have a home page.)”

  15. Matt Gaetano
    Posted April 2, 2013 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    I’m not sure how anyone who has read anything that Ratzinger has written–or heard almost anything that he has said–could buy the narrative being painted by “sean” in this combox.

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