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.


66 thoughts on “The State of Rome in the U.S.

  1. I don’t know about “low church evangelical”, but I don’t understand in what sense Wills can claim to be Catholic!

    Also, I think he missed the ball on Hebrews/Melchizedek. The question is, what about priests and popes, and Colbert offers “priest in the line of Melchizedek”, to which the easy response is, “that priest is Jesus”. Wills did kind of get near there in a roundabout way, but Colbert (or the way the interview was edited?) seemed to think that verse applied to Peter.


  2. Wills can claim to be a Catholic on the grounds of both his baptism and confirmation in the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church itself recognizes and counts him as such. Since 2009, it has not been possible to make a formal act of defection from the Catholic Church. In short, there are no conceivable circumstances under which Wills couldn’t be Catholic.


  3. Dan H.,

    Then what do I make of all of the self-proclaimed “Recovering Catholics” I worked with in the service industry? There got to be so many of them I began to wonder if there was a Catholics Anonymous support group out there. Maybe Sean can tell us.


  4. Wills will be on Book TV live at 4:00 p.m. eastern Saturday from the Savannah Book Festival giving a presentation “Why Priests? A Failed Tradition”. It should be on Book TV’s website next week.


  5. Jed, I don’t know about C.A., other than the reformation. I do/did have a shirt from high school that said Catholic School Veteran. But, apparently I’m considered AWOL. Madrid did tell me I’m officially in danger of perdition. Fr. Morrel said not so much. As far as the official RC position; depends. What’s that line from fletch; “Well, I’m not even sure that’s a sin anymore. There’ve been a lot of changes in the church.”


  6. I find it a fascinating exercise in willful blindness that Roman Catholics claim Augustine and yet he, possibly more that any of the church fathers, demolishes the concept of their transubstantiation in a number of places such as this:

    “Now the saying of Christ, ‘Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you shall have no life in you’, seemeth to command an heinous and a wicked thing; therefore it is a figure, commanding us to be partakers of Christ’s passion, keeping in our minds to our great comfort and profit, that his flesh was wounded for us.

    And this-

    “in the sacraments we must not consider what they be, but what they signify. For they be signs of things, being one thing, and signifying another.

    Pre-channeling Calvin as opposed to Trent, anyone?


  7. Recovering Catholics are, as the name implies, still Catholic. The same goes for Liberal Catholics, Lapsed Catholics,and Bad Catholics. The whole thing’s a lot like the Hotel California.


  8. Well, just in keeping with the RC theme of any number of posts; Yahoo is featuring this article from the Daily Beast;–politics.html

    I know Darryl has tried to keep from a tu quoque type of analysis of Rome in this regard, but this is the type of scandal that is particular to the Roman clergy and culture. It’s also a culture I saw up close for a number of years, though nothing on this level. The unnatural life of celibacy, for most, combined with a dramatic drop in vocations, led to quite a bit of compromise within the priesthood as regards openly homosexual clergy, and also, but unrelated, a culture of both secrecy but esteem combined with access(a dangerous trifecta) that attracts not only pedophiles but just deviants. This is a fairly uniquely RC issue, and has just decimated her ranks and credibility.


  9. The other aspect that adds credibility to this report as tied to Ratzinger’s retirement, is for a number of years Ratzinger handled EVERY single sex abuse case that pertained to the clergy. Every case literally came across his desk and he handled so as to keep the “loop” closed.


  10. sean,

    I know Darryl has tried to keep from a tu quoque type of analysis of Rome in this regard, but this is the type of scandal that is particular to the Roman clergy and culture.

    There has to be some analogous degree of reciprocity in tu quoque to make the fallacy stand. To argue that the recent uncovering of a multitude of worldwide sex scandals has damaged the credibility of Rome in terms of perception, and in the scandals’ poor reflection of Rome’s claim to spiritual authority – in some way is fallacious because, well Protestants (or Reformed) have their foibles too. The answer is, well, yes we do – the Eduoard trial is proof positive. However the key difference is in this case the Protestant was tried in the criminal courts – something proportionally rare among RC sex abusers – and so far as we can tell, Eduoard is a rare case in NAPARC churches – something that can’t be said of Rome.

    What I find even more disturbing is the RC appeal to the Motives of Credibility, presenting the church in all her glory, against the backdrop of such massive failure. Are the triumphs of the church really what establishes credibility for the assent of faith? It’s as if RC’s in this respect simply sweep all of their dirty secrets under the proverbial rug – sex scandals? violent crusades? inquisitions? political intrigue? Nah, just look at how glorious our history is – how could God not be at work in our midst?


  11. Jed,

    Comparing Catholic pastoral failures with Protestant pastoral failures is comparing apples and oranges due to the differing “paradigms” on exactly what the visible church is. Protestants have no Magisterium and no Pope that need to remain credible.


  12. Jed and Erik,

    It certainly is a real problem from the perspecitve of MoC. I’m not sure it’s more damaging than the inquisition but it’s certainly a more salacious stain. The RC church has always struggled with sexual scandal amongst the clergy. Even in medieval times you had large swaths of monastery populations, filled with priest’s bastard children. The church has swept it’s dirty secrets under the carpet for centuries now. It’s somewhat disheartening as a cradle, I know some priests who are good men, even some of the ones who couldn’t maintain their chastity, you felt for them, while also deciding; “I’m not doing that to myself”. The priesthood and religious are the glue of the RCC but they’re also their biggest dilemma. I had a conversation with a seminary buddy who’d gone on to novitiate and taken vows. He was straight, but was arguing for the inclusion of homosexual clergy as permissible per a deconstructionist view of scripture and that their chastity was of a different sort than his because of the behavior’s lack of opportunity for offspring and the need to embrace homosexuality as ‘just another natural’ manifestion of sexual predilection. Now, this worked differently on the political end, they officially denounced it, but allowed it as long as it didn’t become public knowledge and scandalize the church. The guys who maintained their vows often gave way to alcohol and other vices to cope. But, there was still a good 1/3rd to 1/2 who were just sincere and guys you’d be happy to call friends. But, i’d say it’s an even 50/50 split in the clergy between straight and chaste and hetero/homo not chaste. And even the 50 % straight and chaste, as I was reminded on more than one occasion; “don’t get it twisted, we know what it means to have a ‘warm night’ ” and they were no naive ninny’s to the ways of the world.


  13. Todd,

    If memory serves, Walt does eventually meet with the priest.


    I like how his excuse was that he was doing “research”. I should have used that one in junior high when my mom caught me with that magazine…


  14. That’s why CTC is more like a call to Narnia (and even there we have more realism).

    Would that make Cross analogous to the pedantic Eustace in Voyage of the Dawn Treader, with his imperious insistence on logic in common sense arguments? Still not sure the comparison with Hal isn’t the most appropriate though.


  15. In his review of Archbishop Whately’s “Essays on the Errors of Romanism having their Origin in Human Nature” (1837), Wm. Cunningham essentially remarks, that there is the exception and the rule concerning the Roman system as opposed to the Protestant. IOW big performative difference to those uninitiated into CtC Romanspeak/jargon:

    The special and peculiar guilt of Popery in this matter, as distinguished from Protestantism, lies in this, that, as a system, in place of being fitted and designed to eradicate or correct the depraved tendencies of human nature towards superstition, vicarious religion, pious frauds, undue reliance on human authority, persecution, etc. [trust in outward names and privileges], it consecrates, confirms and perpetuates them; whereas the general object and result of Protestantism , as a system, are directly the reverse. The exhibition of these qualities in Protestantism is in spite of the system they profess.; in Papists it is because of it. (“Errors of Romanism”, 1852 from Discussion on Church Principles,1863, rpt. 1991, p.6.)

    Likewise the question is whether the current homosexual – not pedophile – scandal in Popery is endemic and systematic or occasional and limited. Yet not only is the Roman vow of celibacy for clergy unbiblical, the scandal was widespread and the coverup reached to the top officer/infallible Magisterium.

    But what else is new? The immorality of the Roman clergy was well known at the time of the Reformation and helped provoked it, though the Reformation was much more than a moral reform. FTM Marriage is not a Roman sacrament, but is common to mankind, in part to resolve the kind of problems that the Roman system leads to.

    On the other hand, was the Edouard case one of a kind, and was there a systematic coverup at the general assembly level of the church, much more is there anything similar in protestantism and special pleading of immunity for the clergy from civil law to speak of 2 kingdoms?

    Consequently any cry of tu quoque would seem to be about on par with playing croquet with the Red Queen using pink flamingos for clubs. It didn’t stop her and it won’t stop the Romanists.
    So what.


  16. Who’d a thunk a conclave might resemble a smoke filled back room at a political convention? Well, I did actually, but if you ever thought this was going to be about the seeking the leading of the holy spirit and submitting to that leading, you might want to remember the holy spirit apparently has political operatives; yahoo article on another scandal stained cardinal skipping the conclave;

    …………. “And in another development Monday, Benedict decided that the contents of a secret investigation into the 2012 leaks of Vatican documents won’t be shared with the cardinals ahead of the conclave. Benedict met Monday with the three elderly cardinals who conducted the probe and decided that “the acts of the investigation, KNOWN ONLY TO HIMSELF, remain solely at the disposition of the new pope,” a Vatican statement said.
    Speculation has been rife in the Italian media that the three cardinals — Julian Herranz, Jozef Tomko and Salvatore De Giorgi — would be authorized to share the information with fellow cardinals before the conclave. That assumed the cardinal electors would want to know details about the state of dysfunction in the Vatican bureaucracy and on any potentially compromised colleagues before possibly voting one into office.
    Benedict appointed the three men last year to investigate the origins of leaks of the pope’s documents, and they had wide-ranging powers to question cardinals. The leaked documents revealed petty wrangling, corruption, cronyism and even allegations of a gay plot at the highest levels of the Catholic Church. The pope’s butler was convicted of aggravated theft in October for having stolen the papers and given them to a journalist who then published them in a blockbuster book.
    While the three cardinals cannot share the full contents of their investigation, it’s unclear if they could give subtle hints about potential papal candidates.”


  17. You know it’s been a growing concern, of what to do with Ratzinger? Will he end up being the power behind the new pope? It’s likely he’ll have a heavy hand in deciding who it is. When you know where all the bodies are buried and are going to participate in the process, well, there’s likely to be everyone kissing the new pope’s ring while that pope continues to kiss Ratzinger’s. It’s watergate all over again; who’s got the tapes?! Ratzinger has the tapes and he’s keeping a copy of ’em in the abbey with him, just in case the new guy forgets what’s what.


  18. Sean, makes concliarism, mixed with a concession that churches err, look pretty good, not perfect, of course. But Bryan Cross’ insistence on the sanctity of the old shibboleths about Rome not only look hollow but hypocritical (or a remarkable case of drinking the kool aid).


  19. Darryl, there’s a reason the RC laity and large segments of the clergy and theologians were terribly happy about the reliefs and decentralization in Vat II, I did mention Ratzinger was one of those when he was council to the German cardinals and helped formulate the documents he later would frown upon once he became pope?! Cross is no insider, there’s damn good reason a lot of us cradles grew up cynical and those still around are pushing back hard against Ratzinger. Throwing JP II under the bus doesn’t help your popularity with the JFK crowd either. Cross and the Jim Jones punch drinker’s don’t get to chalk this one up to egalitarianism. We may not have been catechized worth a darn, but we knew the mistress we were keeping company with.


  20. Dan Brown missed on all the intrigue

    ………………….”Benedict changed parts of a 1996 constitution issued by his predecessor John Paul so that cardinals could begin a secret conclave to choose a successor earlier than the 15 days after the papacy becomes vacant, as prescribed by the previous law.
    The change means that in pre-conclave meetings starting on March 1, a day after Benedict leaves on Thursday, they can themselves decide when to start.
    Some cardinals believe a conclave, held in secret in the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel, should start sooner than March 15 in order to reduce the time in which the Church will be without a leader at a time of crisis.
    But some in the Church believe that an early conclave WOULD GIVE AN ADVANTAGE TO CARDINALS ALREADY IN ROME AND WORKING IN THE CURIA, the Vatican’s central administration and the focus of accusations of ineptitude and alleged sexual scandals that some Italian newspapers speculate in unsourced reports led Benedict to step down. The Vatican says the reports are false.”

    Now for a catholic insider report:

    …………………………”As a rule of thumb, one should usually take unsourced speculation with a grain of salt, especially in the Italian papers. As I’m fond of saying, God love ’em, Italians have never seen a conspiracy theory they’re not prepared to believe.

    In terms of the story’s specifics, I don’t know whether it’s accurate that a commission of three cardinals created by Benedict XVI to investigate the Vatican leaks affair, composed of Cardinals Julian Herranz Casado, Jozef Tomko and Salvatore De Giorgi, actually considered possible networks inside the Vatican based on sexual preference, but frankly, it would be a little surprising if they hadn’t.

    Here’s why. In 2007, Msgr. Thomas Stenico in the Congregation for Clergy was suspended after being caught on hidden camera making contact with a young man posing as a potential “date” in gay-oriented chat rooms, then taking him back to his Vatican apartment. In 2010, a “Gentlemen of the Pope” named Angelo Balducci was caught in a wiretap trying to arrange sexual hookups through a Nigerian member of a Vatican choir. Both episodes were highly public and caused massive embarrassment.

    In that context, it would seem odd if the cardinals didn’t at least consider the possibility that somebody with a big secret to hide might be vulnerable to pressure to leak documents or spill the beans in other ways.

    It also doesn’t stretch credulity to believe there are still people in the system leading a double life, not just in terms of their sexual preference and activities, but possibly in other ways as well — in terms of their financial interests, for example. Whether they form self-conscious cabals is open to question, but they may well naturally identify with each other, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that trying to chart such networks was part of what the three cardinals tried to do.

    Among many cardinals, it’s become a fixed point of faith that the Vatican is long overdue for a serious housecleaning, and certainly the furor unleashed by the La Repubblica piece is likely to strengthen that conviction.”


  21. This guy is a piece of work. Doesn’t like the scrutiny or the travel or work, but likes the privilege and power. A true man behind the throne. It’s like when Jerry Jones hires a football coach. Let’s see how many people want this job.

    “In the two weeks since Benedict’s resignation announcement, Vatican officials had suggested that Benedict would likely resume wearing the traditional black garb of a cleric and would use the title “emeritus bishop of Rome” so as to not create confusion with the future pope.
    Benedict’s decision to call himself emeritus pope and to keep wearing white is sure to fan concern voiced privately by some cardinals about the awkward reality of having two popes, both living within the Vatican walls.”

    “Lombardi also further described Benedict’s final 48 hours as pope: On Tuesday, he was packing, arranging for documents to be sent to the various archives at the Vatican and separating out the personal papers he will take with him into retirement.”

    “Adding to the concern is that Benedict’s trusted secretary, Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, will be serving both pontiffs — living with Benedict at the monastery inside the Vatican and keeping his day job as prefect of the new pope’s household.
    Asked about the potential conflicts, Lombardi was defensive, saying the decisions had been clearly reasoned and were likely chosen for the sake of simplicity.
    “I believe it was well thought out,” he said.


  22. So, the pope’s most trusted aide will continue live in the monastery with Ratzinger but keep his day job with the new pope. You think they’ll bother to photoshop the pics of the new pope with puppet strings attached, or just assume there’s no need.


  23. All this hedging being done by Ratzinger is either the aniticipated choosing of someone with close ties to Ratzinger who can be trusted to be of the same persuasion theologically and traditionally, or someone who Ratzinger has the ‘goods’ on who he can keep in line, or it’s an African or latin or developing country who Ratzinger is going to have to season and be the backstop for. BTW, none of this is all that suspenseful. Conclave’s are fairly scripted and have about as much suspense as regards choice, at least to those in power, as a democratic convention in Chicago.


  24. Sean, if conciliarism had ever blossomed, wouldn’t a council be able to clarify the situation? But as it stands, all those old papal claims of supremacy and monarchy need to be respected unless the church finally says the papacy thing was flawed.


  25. Oh, the whole “office” theology is just red meat for the faithful. Rome is 99% political, and with the financial stresses they are under, the pending litigation and multi-million even billion dollar settlements coming down the pike, not to mention fraud and securities investigations of the bank, Ratzinger is holding ALL the cards. That’s why everyone is “surprised” by every decision he’s making. This guy is feathering his bed and there isn’t anything anyone can do about it, because he was in fact the head of the “gestapo” and nobody wants to buck him.

    The Curia; “How about emeritus bishop of rome”? Ratz: “Nope I’m emeritus pope and I’m keeping the white cossack and living in the vatican” The Curia: sh!#$.

    The Curia: “how about archiving everything?” Ratz: “Nope I’m keeping my own personal records and btw(he is a twitter guy now) my personal secretary who’ll be living with me in the nunnery/palace will be the new pope’s new secretary” The Curia; “double sh!#$”

    Nobody wants him to be doing what he’s doing but they can’t do a thing about it. It’s kinda funny and kinda scary and then funny again and a little mafioso and a LOT German.

    The only way to not make this look like a total sham and at the same time avoid blood on the walls, is to go non european and have Ratzinger’s presence look mentorial. Either way, Ratzinger is gonna be in power until he’s incompetent or dead.


  26. Darryl, exactly. It’s like the college football coach leaving for the NFL right before the NCAA sanctions hit, but in this case the college admin. will be paying his pro salary as well as a “full boat” retirement annuity that Ratzinger himself will administrate.


  27. Ratzinger, is going to keep himself from being implicated AND they’re going to use Sovereign state rights to blunt both the investigations of the bank and force settlement out of court on all the sex abuse cases that are trying to tie it all the way back to Vatican knowledge. They’ll make the individual diocese take the hit. That’s why you see all the archbishops getting thrown under the bus, including most all the bishops of Ireland, rather than let the Vatican get implicated. Ratzinger is there to keep the wolf off the door and he’s a tough S.O.B. who’ll keep the Curia from breaking rank, because ONLY Ratzinger knows where all the bodies are. The Curia is afraid of him.


  28. Ratzinger, himself, handled EVERY SINGLE sex abuse case that came across his desk until at least 2005, I believe. Then after he became pope maintained that oversight either personally or through his hand picked people, just like he did with the butler investigation, and has now dispatched his political henchman to “guide” the conclave in their decision including amending the “constitution” to speed up the process and shorten down the time frame for “outside” influence. He wasn’t called “God’s rotweiller” for nothing.


  29. Ratzinger, himself, is rewriting the conclave rules, as well as instituting ‘omerta’

    “The other major change to the rules is that the pope defined the exact penalty incurred by support staff assisting the cardinal-electors during a conclave if they break the oath of secrecy about the proceedings.

    The aides must swear to never lend support to or favor any outside interference in the election process. Under the old rules, the penalty for breaking the vow was to be determined by the future pope.

    Instead, Pope Benedict has rewritten the oath that staff will take, stating that they are “aware that an infraction will incur the penalty of automatic excommunication.”


  30. A charitable reading requires rejoicing with our Catholic brethren in their rare manifestation of the third mark of a true church, speaking as a man or Protestant or whatever. Few sins have ravaged the bride of Christ since the Apostolic era as the violation of secrecy by support staff during the papal elections. Praise God and the Blessed Virgin that St. Anthony helped the Holy Father find the Order of Excommunication beneath the Sofa Cushions! Alas, “the penalty for cardinals who break the oath of secrecy, however, remains unspecified.” But should the Holy Spirit’s priorities in ordering the Church that Christ founded appear suspicious, it is only a sign of an incompatible paradigm.


  31. Not so much. I think it’s great. All these cardinals already have their own trusted staffs and support people. But Ratzinger is going to put his own guy in, right next to the pope, in the day to day operations, as secretary to deliver “considered prayerful advice” I’m sure, and report back to him at the end of the day when he comes home, which is next door. In the meantime he’ll be walking around in his white cossack in the garden in full view of the pope’s window. I wonder if he’ll walk around with the red dossier his handpicked investigative team handed to him, and only him, with reports on the butler scandal and the gay vatican priests. It would should up well against the white silk.


  32. Erik,

    It’s not that active, this stuff writes itself. The vatican is providing lots of low hanging fruit these days, and Ratzinger’s “real self” is re-emerging.


  33. Erik,

    I also think it’s worthwhile to show not only how mainstream media view the Vatican, Rome and the pope, but how other american RC’s, american catholic reporting services, Italian RC’s and even Italian newspapers, reputable ones, with beat reporters committed to just Vatican ongoings, many who are practicing RC’s, portray, report and editorialize the RCC. Contrast that, with what the CTC is selling.


  34. Hans and Ratzinger aren’t great friends.

    “It was not until the 11th century that a “revolution from above,” the “Gregorian Reform” started by Pope Gregory VII, left us with the three enduring features of the Roman system: a centralist-absolutist papacy, compulsory clericalism and the obligation of celibacy for priests and other secular clergy.”

    ….”Under the two most recent popes, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, there has been a fatal return to the church’s old monarchical habits.

    In 2005, in one of Benedict’s few bold actions, he held an amicable four-hour conversation with me at his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo in Rome. I had been his colleague at the University of Tübingen and also his harshest critic. For 22 years, thanks to the revocation of my ecclesiastical teaching license for having criticized papal infallibility, we hadn’t had the slightest private contact.
    …”As the last active theologian to have participated in the Second Vatican Council (along with Benedict), I wonder whether there might not be, at the beginning of the conclave, as there was at the beginning of the council, a group of brave cardinals who could tackle the Roman Catholic hard-liners head-on and demand a candidate who is ready to venture in new directions. Might this be brought about by a new reforming council or, better yet, a representative assembly of bishops, priests and lay people?”

    If the next conclave were to elect a pope who goes down the same old road, the church will never experience a new spring, but fall into a new ice age and run the danger of shrinking into an increasingly irrelevant sect.”

    …..”There’s no way to ignore the church’s desperate needs. There is a catastrophic shortage of priests, in Europe and in Latin America and Africa. Huge numbers of people have left the church or gone into “internal emigration,” especially in the industrialized countries. There has been an unmistakable loss of respect for bishops and priests, alienation, particularly on the part of younger women, and a failure to integrate young people into the church.

    One shouldn’t be misled by the media hype of grandly staged papal mass events or by the wild applause of conservative Catholic youth groups. Behind the facade, the whole house is crumbling.

    In this dramatic situation the church needs a pope who’s not living intellectually in the Middle Ages, who doesn’t champion any kind of medieval theology, liturgy or church constitution. It needs a pope who is open to the concerns of the Reformation, to modernity. A pope who stands up for the freedom of the church in the world not just by giving sermons but by fighting with words and deeds for freedom and human rights within the church, for theologians, for women, for all Catholics who want to speak the truth openly. A pope who no longer forces the bishops to toe a reactionary party line, who puts into practice an appropriate democracy in the church, one shaped on the model of primitive Christianity. A pope who doesn’t let himself be influenced by a Vatican-based “shadow pope” like Benedict and his loyal followers.”

    ….”There was the widespread sexual abuse of children and youths by clergymen, which the pope was largely responsible for covering up when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. And there was the “Vatileaks” affair, which revealed a horrendous amount of intrigue, power struggles, corruption and sexual lapses in the Curia, and which seems to be a main reason Benedict has decided to resign.”


  35. Hans, also dispels the myth that Ratzinger wanted to construct, that Vatican II over the past 50 years was a media creation. It also shows how most post Vat II theologians regarded the “historicity” of Tridentine RC.


  36. Sean,

    That was an interesting read. I think what Kung is proposing here is a longshot, but it would be an interesting turn of events to see Rome divest some of the power held in the papacy. I think he sees the problems facing Rome with incredible clarity (which our CtC interlocutors would do well to imitate), but for Rome to engage the sort of sweeping reforms he alludes to would mean Rome ceasing to exist in its current form.

    In this dramatic situation the church needs a pope who’s not living intellectually in the Middle Ages, who doesn’t champion any kind of medieval theology, liturgy or church constitution. It needs a pope who is open to the concerns of the Reformation, to modernity. A pope who stands up for the freedom of the church in the world not just by giving sermons but by fighting with words and deeds for freedom and human rights within the church, for theologians, for women, for all Catholics who want to speak the truth openly. A pope who no longer forces the bishops to toe a reactionary party line, who puts into practice an appropriate democracy in the church, one shaped on the model of primitive Christianity. A pope who doesn’t let himself be influenced by a Vatican-based “shadow pope” like Benedict and his loyal followers.

    No wonder why Ratzinger ran him out, that kind of thinking is poison to post-Tridentine Rome. But, in a sense, whether or not it is even possible, such reforms would actually open Rome to positive change. It could possibly help Rome’s relations with other communions that stands in tatters due to the unconscionable arrogance of the Vatican – maybe allowing themselves to be content to return to small “c” catholicism.


  37. Jed,

    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.


  38. 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.


  39. Darryl,

    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. “


  40. 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.”


  41. Sean,

    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.


  42. 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


  43. 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.


  44. 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.


  45. 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.)”


  46. 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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