When Is Orthodoxy Dead?

If someone believes in the virgin birth of Christ, what’s the chance she (see what I did there?) will promote same-sex marriage? Or if someone insists on singing psalms only in worship, will he support women’s ordination? Or what if a pastor believes the Bible to be the infallible word of God, do you think he would be inclined to overlook divorce as a disqualification for holding church office?

The reason for asking isn’t to argue that orthodox doctrine produces good morals or holiness. But it is to suggest that certain doctrinal convictions become self-selecting mechanisms for affirming and defending Christian morality. For instance, it would be hard to imagine that as the PCUSA legalized women’s ordination, waffled on adultery among clergy, or ordained homosexual persons, presbyters were also examining ministerial candidates about the virgin birth of Christ, the vicarious atonement, or biblical inerrancy and rejecting candidates who would not affirm those beliefs.

So why is it that some are worried about the next archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels on the following grounds?

Since Belgium gained its independence (1830), the Archbishopric of Mechelen-Brussels has alternated between Francophone and Flemish holders. This has placed the spotlight on Belgium’s four Flemish Ordinaries: Bishops Jozef De Kesel of Brugge / Bruges (68 years old this June), Lucas Van Looy SDB of Ghent (74 years old in September), Patrick Hoogmartens of Hasselt (63 years old), and the man now said to be the front-runner for the Primatial See of Belgium: Johan Jozef Bonny of Antwerp (60 years old in July). Van Looy is too old, so this narrows down the “choice” to three: De Kesel, Hoogmartens and Bonny. Unfortunately, all three are unambiguously liberal. All three have publicly come out in favor of abolishing mandatory celibacy for priests of the Latin Rite, De Kesel is known to be open to women’s ordination, and Bonny, most infamously, advocates that the Church bless “gay relationships” and “gay couples” among other radical reforms that he would like to see.

Some might claim that all the bishops are orthodox. Nothing changes. The magisterium defends the truth. Everything is still intact. The bishops, accordingly, believe all the doctrines taught by the church. But if they do believe in the bodily assumption of Mary, justification by baptism, the condemnation that attends mortal sin, papal infallibility, or transubstantiation, would these bishops have trouble maintaining church teaching about marriage, homosexuality, and divorce? You would think they would affirm Roman Catholic morality if they also maintained and defended Roman Catholic theology.

So why don’t Roman Catholic conservatives ask questions about the theological views of bishops, or use doctrine to evaluate the health of the church? You would think that Protestants who used to be in doctrinally conservative churches would use theology to urge for the appointment of orthodox Roman Catholic bishops.